Baby Names

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Top 10 Baby Names of 2011

US SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION RELEASES DATA
ON MOST POPULAR BABY NAMES OF LAST YEAR

by: Candace Alper

May marks the release of the Top Baby Names, according to the data collected by US Social Security Administration. There is not a Canadian equivalent available of this data, but given the close relation of our culture, I'm quite confident that the results would be similar.

I see baby names every day and some days, weeks, and months, I note that some are more popular than others, and the popularity of some names grow while others fade. The Top 10 Baby Names, according to the US Social Security Administration, held few surprises for me.

TOP 10 BOYS

Jacob
Mason
William
Jayden
Noah
Michael
Ethan
Alexander
Aiden
Daniel

TOP 10 GIRLS

Sophia
Isabella
Emma
Olivia
Ava
Emily
Abigail
Madison
Mia
Chloe

So, like I said, there were few surprises, but that's not to say that there were none. Mason broke into the Top 10 this year (last year it was at #12). There might be some weight given to the popularity of the name owed to the Kardashians. Kourtney Kardashian named her son Mason at the end of 2009 and since we hear so much about the Kardashians, the name Mason might have just squeezed its way into the subconscious of new parents. Chloe has been in Top 10 since 2008 and it might interest you to note that Chloe with a K cracked the Top 50 in 2010. Keeping Up With The Kardashians premiered in 2007.

  • I wanted to take a closer look at a few of the Top 10 Baby Names and found some interesting statistics:
  • Michael debuted on the Top 10 in 1943 and has not left the list since then. From 1954 through 2010, Michael has been in the Top 3. This year it fell to 6th place.
  • Jacob first appeared in the Top 10 in 1993 and has been in the Top 3 since 1996.
  • The boy names seem to have a longer staying power on these Top 10 lists than the girl names do. Sophia debuted in the Top 10 in 2006 and cracked the Top 3 in 2009. Isabella first appeared on the Top 10 in 2004 and has been in the Top 3 since 2007.

I wanted to note that there are a few names that through my business - Name Your Tune, where we make personalized CDs for children - I have seen gaining popularity. While they might not be on the Top 10 lists, some of the names that we are seeing a lot of lately include:

Boys:
Isaac, Kayden, Austin, Gabriel, Benjamin.

Girls:
Isla, Charlotte, Maya, Hannah, Evelyn, Addison.

The Gender Bender

BENDING THE 'RULES' AND NAMING YOUR BABY

by: Candace Alper

If you received the above-pictured birth announcement, would you call your friend to congratulated them on the birth of the son? Their daughter? Or would you remain neutral and say baby?

Gender Bender
(image provided by Lindsay Brewda
of Grace Announcements)

When I was writing the lyrics for Name Your Tune I took special care that every song, every mention, was gender neutral so that little boys and little girls named Jordan could have the same set of personalized songs. You see, we don't have a box to check off that asks if Skylar is a boy or a girl, we knew the trends were moving in that direction and they have been for some time. It didn't occur to me until last month when Jessica Simpson named her daughter, that I would ever question whether to use my "boy" or "girl" giftwrap for Maxwell Drew.

I watched as my Twitter stream exploded with the news that this much-anticipated baby girl had been born...and then, given a boy's name. Interesting, I thought. It's not the usual gender-mixing of names that I see often. Then it occurred to me that my daughter's middle name is James, to honour my grandfather, just like my brother's son. Following the breaking news a little further and deeper revealed the meaning behind her choice: Maxwell is her husband's middle name and Drew is her mother's maiden name. So it has meaning for the new parents and their families and this little girl named Maxwell will grow up knowing that she was named after people that she loves and that love her. I'm going to predict that Maxwell Drew will go through her life encountering looks and comments of surprise when she arrives at an appointment or a meeting and they were expecting a boy or a man. She'll get used to it or it will frustrate her. That will be up to her. You see, that is always the burden and the gift of our name.

Sometimes the spelling of a name will give clues to the gender of the bearer such as spelling Sidney (boy) or Sydney (girl), Cameron (boy) or Camryn (girl), Charlie (boy) and Charlee (girl). But those sneaky and once-thought clever y's, double e's and silent h's don't always give it away. Sometimes they make it even more blurry.

While Maxwell Drew assuredly is the most uncommon gender-bender I've come across, I've put together a list of other names that assure me I made the right decision to go gender-neutral for Name Your Tune and that make me go to my box of giftwrap with multi-coloured polkadots instead of flowers:

Jordan
Quinn
Ryan
Taylor
Riley
Rowan
Morgan
Payton
Jamie
Emery
Teagan
Avery
Logan
Sydney
Finley
Jayden
Emerson
Charlie
Mackenzie
Devon
Casey
Harley
Dylan
Corey

There are two things that always come to mind when I think about these gender-benders.

My favourite gender-bender story is that of the (male) English writer, Evelyn Waugh. He married Eveyln Garder and when she took his surname, they were both Evelyn Waugh. Their friends called them "He-velyn" and "She-velyn".

Then there's this, "A Boy Named Sue", by Johnny Cash. A little known fact about this song: It was written by Shel Silverstein, author of my favourite children's book, The Giving Tree. Here are some of the lyrics.

My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn't leave much to ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me "Sue."

Well, he must o' thought that is quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named "Sue.

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean,
My fist got hard and my wits got keen,
I'd roam from town to town to hide my shame.

The story of "A Boy Named Sue" and the follow up from the father's perspective that Shel Silverstien wrote years later, "The Father of A Boy Named Sue", illustrates that the name was given in hopes that Sue would grow up to be strong and tough - the antithesis of the feminine name.

Baby-Name Remorse

SOME STRATEGIES TO USE BEFORE
YOU TRADE IT IN FOR A NEW ONE

by: Candace Alper

When we are faced with deciding what to eat from a restaurant menu that offers everything from all-day breakfast to chicken fingers and fries to filet mignon, some of us become virtually paralyzed. You're at a table of 4 and your meal comes, the one that you put so much thought and consideration into and of course, you want what your friend is having instead. There is so much too choose from. I think that the same can be said for baby names, but you can't always send it back or come back next week and try something different.

Today is one of those 'holidays' like "National Donut Day," "National Bubblebath Day," or "National Handwriting Day." There's a 'holiday' for everything. Today's 'holiday' caught my attention though. Today, March 27th, is "National Joe Day" - a day for those of you out there that don't like your name.

When looking to choose the perfect name, the resources are endless. Baby name books and online baby-naming tools and resources are plentiful (a search for baby name books at Indigo.com yielded 478 choices and at 995 amazon.com). Then there is the desire to be different. Babies are also being given names that might have come from browsing a dictionary or map. I see names come across my desk that sometimes have me thinking "is that a person, place, or thing?" As I said, the resources, the choices are endless.

With choice, however, can also come regret.

"I love the name I chose and so did the parents of the five other Sophies or Sophias in my daughter's class."

"My son's name is always mispronounced. So frustrating. I like the way it sounds when we say it."

"In an effort to give our son a traditional name with a twist, we changed the spelling and added a (silent) H. I'm tired of spelling it for people and I think he will be too. This is the one time in my life that I'm wishing I had listened to my mother."

Got regret? Here are some things that you can do without going on the record:

Use the middle name. You chose the middle name for a reason. Try it out.

How about initials? If I went with my initials, I'd be CJ. I kinda like that.

Choose a nickname that fits. Miley Cyrus was born "Destiny Hope" and was always called "Smiley" because she smiled so much. She shortened it to Miley. Voila.

How about a variation on the name? Alexandra, for example, could be Allie, Lexie, Alexa, Lex, Zandra. Jacob could be Coby, Jake or Jay.

Go with it. Remember why you chose it in the first place. Decorate your baby's room with a few special pieces that are personalized.

A Name Story

WHEN EVERYTHING FALLS INTO PLACE

by: Candace Alper

I met Chrystina and her son Lev at The Babytime Show last spring. We had a long talk about his name and the meaning behind it. I have held on to this special name story to share at just the right moment. I am so honoured to share the story about how little Lev was given his name, as told by his Mom:

Baby Lev
Baby Lev

Here's the story behind our son, Lev's, name. I must admit, it's a good one :)??

A little background on my husband and I. My husband Aaron is Canadian with German and Irish blood (mixed with some Native American and Canadian Indian on both sides), although his family has been here since the 1700's. I was born in Canada, but blood-wise, I am 100% Ukrainian. My father is from Lviv, the Western, patriotic capital of Ukraine and all my grandparents are also from Western Ukraine.

Several of Aaron's male relatives bear the name Richard, so we knew from the start that our baby boy's middle name would be Richard. We wanted a Ukrainian first name for our son. We wanted to honour my heritage and it would allow for a traditional name that - in Canada - would be unique. We didn't want something different just for the sake of being different. Our top four choices were: Nykolai, Roman, Theodore (pronounced TEH-OH-DOOR) and Lev. We couldn't decide on one name because we loved them all, so I proceeded to research each name, starting with Lev.

I speak Ukrainian, so I already knew that Lev means 'lion' in Ukrainian. This is partly why Lev was on our list: our son is a Leo and my husband and I LOVE animals, especially cats. I also knew that the city that my father's from - Lviv - is named after the founder's son, Lev Halytsky. A quick online search revealed that Lev means 'heart' in Hebrew, an undisputedly beautiful word, which appeals to the yogi side of my character. My spiritual and yogi friends also adore how Lev also sounds a lot like 'love'. My online search also revealed that Lev is short for Leviticus (as in the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament) and the Leviticus priesthood is descended from none other than Moses's brother, Aaron. This fact took my breath away: 'This is unbelievable' I thought to myself, 'Lev is descended from Aaron and Aaron's my husband's name!'

I called my husband immediately and shared with him this amazing information. It's at this point that we decided we'd name our son Lev. "If we don't", we thought to ourselves, "surely we'd get struck down by lightening." It was a nice touch that naming our son Lev Richard (in other words, the 'lion-hearted' Richard) would also reflect my husband's love of Medieval history. Fast-forward to three-and-a-half-months after my son's birth. I was reading Eat, Pray, Love and Elizabeth Gilbert was explaining how in the Balinese culture it is not the your birth date that's important, rather it's the day of the week that you are born that bears significance. She used Thursday as an example. This piqued my interest because Lev was born on a Thursday. Gilbert explains a bit about Thursday's child and she goes on to say that he has two guiding animal spirits - the lion and the tiger. This floored me! Not only is Lev a Leo, but - according to the Chinese calendar - he's a tiger! What's more, he was born in 2010 and this was an auspicious year in that it was the year of the white tiger, which happens only ever 60 years.

So that's my humble story of my Little Lev's not-so-humble name. I don't think I have to tell you that we're stumped for names should there be a baby number two!?

Top 10 Celebrity Name Changes

...FEATURING ALBERT EINSTEIN (NOT THAT ONE)

by: Candace Alper

There are 100s of celebrities who have changed their names because they needed something easier, shorter, more exotic, less ethnic. These are the ones whose stories I love:

Miley Cyrus - born Destiny Hope Cyrus

A happy kid, she was given the nickname "Smiley Miley." It stuck. She officially changed her name in 2008.

Geddy Lee - born Gary Lee Weinrib

Gary had a friend who - upon hearing his mother calling his name with her heavy Polish accent - thought she was saying Geddy. His friends all started calling him Geddy, and eventually, even his mother called him Geddy on purpose. That is how the leader of Rush got his name.

Albert Brooks - born Albert Einstein

When asked about why he changed his name, his answer is simply "Do I even have to answer that?" In January 2011 he told Esquire magazine, "I was on the defensive as soon as I got to the first class where they took roll. 'Albert Einstein?' All the kids would be snickering. It's one of the three most famous names on the planet. You might as well be called Jesus Christ. Or Moses. The thing is, I liked the name Albert. I just couldn't use it with Einstein. So I changed the last name when I thought I could really accomplish something, and I didn't need that name to be funny."

Ann Rice - born Howard Allen

In a question and answer session with fans on her website, the author answered the question about her name, "My birth name is Howard Allen because apparently my mother thought it was a good idea to name me Howard. My father's name was Howard, she wanted to name me after Howard, and she thought it was a very interesting thing to do. She was a bit of a Bohemian, a bit of mad woman, a bit of a genius, and a great deal of a great teacher. And she had the idea that naming a woman Howard was going to give that woman an unusual advantage in the world." She became Ann when asked by a nun on the first day of school what her name was and first the first thing that came to her was Ann.

Cary Grant - born Archibald Leach

When he arrived in Hollywood from England in 1931, he changed his name to Cary Lockwood based on a character he had played on stage. Upon signing with Paramount Pictures he was told that his chosen name was too close to another actor. They gave him a list of surnames to choose from. Legend has it that he chose Grant based on what his initials would be - C.G. He thought them to be lucky given the success of Clark Gable and Gary Cooper.

Michael Caine - born Maurice Micklewhite

When choosing his stage-name he first settled on Michael because he liked the way it sounded. Rumour has it that he settled on Caine when he saw a cinema marquee for "The Caine Mutiny" and he liked the way it sounded. He has joked that had he looked in the other direction, his name might have been Michael 101 Dalmations.

Judy Garland - born Frances Ethel Gumm

She and her two sisters used to perform vaudeville shows at which they received muffled laughter from audience when their names were announced. Judy chose her name based on a song that she favoured at the time. There are several stories about how Garland came to be: the trio were hailed as being more beautiful than a "garland of flowers" or that it was chosen to flatter a drama critic, Robert Garland, hoping to receive good reviews.

Elvis Costello - born Declan Patrick MacManus

Costello was his great-grandmother's maiden name that his father adopted as a stage name for himself. In his early career, he went by DP Costello. Upon signing his first record contract, his management team decided to drop the "DP" in favour of rock 'n' roll's most famous icon. For a newly signed artist, no matter how talented, that is a lot to live up to.

Elton John - born Reginald Kenneth Dwight

Early in his music career he chose his new name by combining the names of two bandmates of first group - Bluesology - sax player Elton Dean and frontman Long John Baldry. Really, not the most dramatic story for one of the most dramatic and colourful performers in music history. It does, however, say a lot about honouring relationships that are meaningful to him.

Alicia Keyes - born Alicia Augello Cook

Undoubtedly one of the most talented R&B performers of her generation, she started piano lessons at the age 7, was accepted at the Professional Performing Arts School at 12 and graduated as valedictorian at 16. Her chosen surname, is a tribute to her passion and first love - her piano.

What Your Baby's Name Says About You

ARE YOU TRADITIONAL, SENTIMENTAL, OR GREEN

by: Candace Alper

Many different things go into the mix when parents set out to choose a name for their baby. You want it to fit you, your family, your brand. Our loves, our past, our hopes, our philosophies are deeply tied not to the names that we have ourselves, but to the names that we give our children.

Names are often the first thing that people learn about us because our name is on a list of appointments, attendees or members. It is likely that some conclusions will be drawn, based on a name on a piece of paper, before you even walk into the room. Because you are the one who gave this name, it is a reflection of you and those preconceptions will often be about you. As your baby grows and is out there, independent in the world, those preconceptions will become about them.

Here's a rundown of what your baby's name might tell the world about you:

You are TRADITIONAL

These are the names that are most traditional - they have a long tradition in a family, religion or culture. These names are often chosen out of honour - a family member or tradition. They are also 'can't go wrong' names.

Jack, James, Emma, Hannah, Matthew, David, Joshua, Sophia, Jacob

You DARE TO BE DIFFERENT

This one is about the name itself but it can also be about unique spellings of more common names. At the top of the list of names that are famous for being different include Gwyneth Paltrow's Apple and Moses, Jason Lee's Pilot Inspektor and Casper. It's not just celebrities though - we have seen our fair share too, including Pirate, Byrd and Cinnamon.

Poet, Pippa, Rhapsody, Django, Morgandy, Lyric, Maverick, Dukalyn, Brick

Modifying the spelling of what might otherwise be considered a traditional name lets it be known that you have a flair for the unique. Twists on conventional spellings include exchanging an I or an E for a Y, using an IE instead of a Y, exchanging a K for a C, adding an extra A or using a silent H.

Lucie, Aaden, Khate, Khloe, Justyn. Baylie, Abigayle, Liya, Cayla

You are "GREEN"

These names are some of my favourites when imagining what the parents are like. I imagine that they are vegetarian or vegan, they love to hike and do yoga, they have been using reusable shopping bags for their groceries before it was fashionable and they would probably rather go camping than to Disney World.

Cedar, Oak, Ocean, Zen, Lotus, Maple, Leaf, Lake, River, Harvest

You are SENTIMENTAL

These are names that might be handed down through family history or surnames being given as first names. These names might also come from a special time or place, such as the little boy named Rigley, "yes, for Wrigley Field," explains a new father, "My dad were big Cubs fans and some of my greatest memories of childhood are there, with him." These are also names of special places.

Hudson, Anderson, McGregor, Sheridan, Smith, Dublin, Bauer, Maclean

You are a POP CULTURE ENTHUSIAST

These names tend to reflect current trends in pop culture and entertainment. An increase in the names Bella and Edward of Twilight fame, are an example. Also in this category are names influenced by celebrities, music and literature, such as the little boy named Hendrix, "yes, as in JIMI," his Dad smiles. Another strong example here would include Mariah Carey naming her daughter Monroe, after Marilyn Monroe, one of her greatest inspirations.

Lennon, Lennox, Costello, Coltrane, Farley, Huckleberry, Moby

You have STRONG TIES TO YOUR HERITAGE

When a name is from your families ties to their culture, heritage, religion or 'home' it shows a strong connection to where you come from. These names might be popular cultural names or spellings or they might be names that are rich with meaning. These names might say something to people about your family history.

Mohammed, Hadassah, Ceildh, Bjorn, Dimitri, Mordechai, Prianka

With all of this in mind, preconceptions are just that. They are an idea or an opinion formed before acquiring adequate information or experience. You might not fit into any of these categories, or you might fit in to more than one. What is clear about all of them is that much time, thought, consideration and love went into choosing them. Each and every one.

Help! People are Mispronouncing My Baby's Name

TOMAYTO-TOMAHTO, POTAYTO-POTAHTO

by: Candace Alper

Your children's names are really the first thing that you give them that they will have for the rest of their lives. There are those mothers among us who have known what names they would give to their children since they were young, while others only start the selection process once they find out that that they are pregnant.

It will be the one word that you will speak more than any other in your house (well, except for "no" during those toddler years).

You choose the name and you love it. You love what it means to you, the story behind it, the feelings or memories it evokes. You're confident that this is a name that your child will feel good about seeing one day on a diploma, business card, novel, marquee or album cover. You love the way it sounds when you say it out loud. You say it over and over and over again.

Then you step out into the world and you introduce your baby to people and this happens:

My daughter's name is Danya (Dan ya). She always gets called Donya - it SO annoys me!

We named our oldest Lilianna, hubs & I pronounce it Lily-onna, but most people pronounce it Lily-anna.

Kallum always gets Kaaaallum and Gracyn gets Gracey!!! drives me nutty!!!

Mine is a language issue, the Spanish way is the way we say it and spell it, Adriana like apple, not Adrianna like able. Her dad has the same issue - people here in Canada say George, not Jorge. Bet they would say it right if he played for the Blue Jays!

Everywhere. When they call her name at the doctor's office. When they sing her name in circle time in your playgroup. The first day of school and summer camp. Even your parents do it. A sign of things to come for you both.

The name that sounded so lovely in your house makes you cringe and scream inside a little bit when you hear someone mispronounce it. Tomayto - Tomahto, Potayto- Potahto. Tam-air-ah Tam-ah-rah, Lily-anna Lily-onna. But you can't call the whole thing off. You don't have to.

But you do need to know how to deal with it and so will your child.

  • If you can, spell the name as it sounds to you. Madalyn will never get mispronunced that way that Madeline does.
  • When in a new setting, use your child's name often so that the people around you hear it. Hopefully they're paying attention and they'll catch on. "Maygan was up all night again. Maygan will need a good nap this afternoon."
  • Take a breath before you respond to correct someone. An introduction is a first impression and you don't want to start off making someone feel bad or awkward.
  • Ignore it. You saw it coming. You're ready for it. Help your child learn that his or her name might be said in different ways and help recognize it.
  • Be okay with a short form of the name that you know won't be mispronounced. This might not work for everyone but it works for an Alexandria or Alexandra who also goes by Alex.

If you haven't yet settled on the perfect name for your baby, here are some things to consider:

  • The sound that is obvious to you may not be obvious to everyone (Of course her name is pronounced Key-air-ah). Not so if you grew up with a neighbour called "Key-ah-rah."
  • Letters, and combinations of letters, can have multiple pronunciations. Take the name Thea for example, it can be Thee-ah, but also Thay-ah, and also Tay-ah or Tee-ah.
  • Names, like all words, sound different in someone else's city, country or accent. The name Lara sounds a lot different when someone from New York or Boston says it compared to someone from Toronto.
  • Names that are culturally or geographically common are not common everywhere. If you are not familiar with common Gaelic names, you won't know that Niamh is Neeve and Ceilidh is Kayley.
  • Test-drive the name with friends, family and colleagues to hear how they say it. If it gets mispronounced more often than not either go back to your list or decide that you're going to be ready to deal with it.

If there is one area of baby names that I am an extreme expert in, it's pronunciation. It's what we do at Name Your Tune. For us it's always about how a name sounds. We have implemented as many checkpoints as we can to ensure that every child hears their name in our songs in exactly the right way to them. We require phonetic spelling on our order form, we have hints throughout our list of names like this:

Spell it your way!
Aidan and Ayden look different but sound the same.

It's all in the way your hear it!
Annika and Aneeka and Onnika don't sound the same.
Ava and Eva start with a long A, a long E, or a short E sound.

With all of these measures in place, there are still names that send out red flags. Here are names with varied and multiple pronunciations. In our experience, these are the names that most people will correct mispronunciation with the highest frequency:

Arielle
Arianna
Adrianna
Kyra
Kiera
Madeline
Kara
Kian
Mattias
Megan