Let's talk: Is this taking baby naming too far?


Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet says, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Well, turns out in this day of internet and social media presence, the name you give your children is very important.

Choosing your baby’s name is often said to be one of the hardest decisions in life. Many mums- and dads-to-be spend all nine months of pregnancy flipping through baby name books and finally choosing a name, only to lay their eyes on their child for the first time and realise they suite a different name altogether. Others are fortunate enough to know from the get-go exactly what to name their child.

If you spent months trying to decide on an appropriate and fitting name for your baby this new service may have been handy. In the U.S. and Europe, name-selecting services are helping parents decide what to call their children, and helping them avoid mishaps. These ‘mishaps’ include inappropriate initials or having their new bundle of joy sharing their name with a serial killer.

Albert Mehrabian, UCLA psychology professor told Bloomberg that naming a child poorly can have lasting consequences, “Believe me, you don’t want to name a child with an unattractive name and have them go through life and suffer the consequences.”

In order to help parents chose the ‘right’ name and set their child up for future success, professional baby naming services have appeared which offer to name your child, for a fee. Marc Hauser runs the Switzerland-based naming agency Erfolgswelle. They charge over $29,000 for every baby they name and it takes around two to three weeks, or 100 hours of work to pick out the perfect name.

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Hauser says the price is justified as they run checks on whether the name has been trademarked, “Even when it’s a little close to an existing brand name, it will not survive” he said. They also have historians check the names to ensure they don’t have “an aggravating past”.

My Name for Life in New York is run by Sherri Suzanne, they charge significantly less but still several hundreds of dollars. She spends 30 hours trying to pick one name,“While some criteria, like name popularity, can be measured and ranked objectively, I find that other qualities, like morality of a name or likelihood for success, are very subjective and vary from person to person, community to community and particularly generation to generation,” she said.

Professor Mehrabian’s research shows that names can easily create positive or negative impressions which can affect any social and professional goals he or she may have for the future. “Polly is not a heavyweight name,” Professor Mehrabian said as an example. “Polly gets a very high score, 98 per cent, on ‘ethical-caring,’ 87 per cent for ‘popular-fun’, which makes sense, it’s a joyful name. But it gets a 12 percent in success.”

Mehrabian wrote The Baby Name Report Card: Beneficial and Harmful Baby Names, which is based on a system that judges names according to four categories: ethical-caring, popular-fun, success and masculine or feminine. Names like Elizabeth, Katherine, Susan and Kate for girls and James, Steven, Ross, Robert, Kenneth and Thomas for boys all achieve a perfect score on this ‘report card’ and are likely to have far more success than others. Whereas names like Trixie, Wilma, Tina, Rufus, Alfie and Gary will not be as successful, according to Mehrabian’s study.

Would you pay someone to name your child? How did you pick the names of your children? Do you know how your own name was chosen?