We’ve all been there. You’re chatting with others at a children’s play date, noshing on grapes and muffins, when a mom introduces herself and says brightly, “I’m Armani’s mom.”
What? Is she talking about a handbag, or a child?
Or how about that kid on the block named Oakley, or Lennon, or Zeppelin? Forty-two boys and 11 girls were named Zeppelin in 2014, according to Today.com. (Presumably they were named after the rock band and not a giant floating blimp, but it’s anyone’s guess.)
What is going on with all the crazy names?
Wealthy celebrities, certainly, have had a hand in this trend. Some have chosen truly off-the-wall baby names. They’ve saddled their kids — who have no guarantee of the success their parents have enjoyed — with names like Apple (daughter of actress Gwyneth Paltrow), Audio Science (son of actress Shannyn Sossamon), Buddy Bear (son of chef Jamie Oliver), Sage Moonblood (son of actor Sly Stallone), Bluebell Madonna (daughter of Spice Girl Geri Halliwell), and Pilot Inspecktor (son of actor Jason Lee).
Jason Lee says he chose the name Pilot Inspecktor because he heard a song once called “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot,” according to birth.com.au.
Uh, thanks, Dad.
“You feel bad for a child with a name that is really out there,” said a Boston mom of four, Mary Donaghey. “Life is hard enough without that kind of monkey on your back — a name you are constantly explaining or being teased and bullied for.”
Consider these top male names of the 1960s: David, John, James, Robert and Mark. For girls, the names chosen most often were Mary, Susan, Karen, Kimberly, and Patricia.
Today, many Americans are giving a nod to the classics, to the names that have stood the test of time. In 2015, the top names for boys were Jackson, Aiden, Liam, Lucas, and Noah, and for girls, Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, and Mia, according to babycenter.com. Girls names that end in ‘a’ are very popular today, as are biblical names. (Case in point: Gwyneth Paltrow’s son’s name is Moses.)
Think about it. What, really, is in a name?
In the past, a name has honored an ancestor, father or grandfather, but that tradition has faded, alas.
“The percentage of ‘juniors’ has been going down in American culture in general over the last 40 years at least,” Cleveland Evans, a psychology professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska who specializes in omnastics (the study of names) told nbcnews.com. In the Hispanic community, he added, it remains a popular naming trend.
These days, parents want their child differentiated from all others.
“Today’s parents are eager for their kids to stand out, rather than fit in,” said Laura Wattenberg, author of “The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby,” on education.com. “That’s part of a general elevation of individuality as a prized virtue in our society.”
Gender-neutral names are on the rise in America. What nursery school class does not seem to be chock-full of Tylers, Emorys, and Devons, Devans, or Devins?
But names that reference geography or cinematic characters may lean more toward annoying than charming.
“Seriously, I am all set with all the kids named Brooklyn and Atticus,” laughed one Washington state father of two. “These names that imply history or greatness of character in a 3-year-old are exasperating!”
And what will people surmise about your child upon introduction, not so much now but later in life?
"People draw subconscious cues all the time about people. You meet a person for the first time and without thinking about it on an explicit level, you're looking at the way they're walking, what their accent sounds like, how they're dressed, whether they smell … and you're developing immediate reactions," David Figlio of Northwestern University in Illinois told livescience.com.
Beware of girly-sounding name for boys — it could spell trouble for your young man.
"Once these kids hit sixth grade, all of a sudden the rates of disciplinary problems skyrocket (for those boys with girlish names), and it's much more the case if there happened to be a girl in the grade with that same name," Figlio said.
Think twice, three times (and four), about the name you give your child. Consider the route taken by New York University sociologist Dalton Conley. He named his two children E Harper Nora Jeremijenko-Conley and Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles Jeremijenko-Conley. Why? To teach them impulse control, as he knew they would be teased for their names.
You can't go wrong with tried-and-true names like Mary or James. It would give your offspring one less thing to worry about as he or she navigates the sometimes unforgiving waters of childhood.
“I have always been proud of my very average, very pronounceable name," said Diana Barrett, 53, of New York. “I have always tried to stand out for my character and accomplishments, not my moniker.”