Americans Like "Weird" and Brits Like "Traditional": A Baby Naming Experience
When my British husband and I were thinking of a name for our baby, most of my "American" name ideas were met with a stiff upper lip...
I recently read a post on another baby website about how when looking at their site’s annual list of most popular baby names in the US and comparing it to their sister site’s in the UK, it seems that American parents tend to choose much “weirder” or unusual names for their babies. This observation was made by looking at the outlier names on both lists that were given to only one or two babies in their data. In the UK, the “weirdest” names on the list were names such as Ace, Ziggy, Gunner and Royce. However, in the US, the “weird” names got much more original with names like Cheese, Yoda, Unique, Tuesday and Espn—as in ESPN, the network. Yeah, looks like we win the weird contest here.
Even aside from these lists, the notion that Americans give their kids weirder names than the British is one with which I’m well familiar. Why? Because I’m married to a Brit. And when I was pregnant with my now 16-month-old daughter, I learned very quickly that any non-traditional or original name was never going to be considered. Luckily, for the health of our marriage, I am not into the super unusual or quirky baby names. I do prefer the less common ones, but tend to favor the more timeless names. But even with my more conservative taste in baby monikers, I got a surprising number of eye rolls from my husband.
Me: “How about Griffin?”
Husband: “Oh God.” (eye roll)
Me: “What’s wrong with Griffin? It’s nice! And conservative. And it sounds soooo British! It says, ‘I’m on the debate team, and I’m captain of the rowing team, but I can always make time for a pint! (and then I pop the collar of my pretend tweed, boarding school jacket).”
Husband: “That name is pretentious, and silly and soooo not British. I would be embarrassed.” (said with British accent which, ironically, made his statement sound pretentious.)
Me: “Whatever, weirdo. Ok, then what about girl names? How about Harper? Posh and Becks know what’s up.”
Husband: (eye roll) “please!”
Husband: “Americans love to give their kids last names for first names, don’t they? Peyton, Hudson, Logan, Reagan… I love the name Eleanor.”
Me: “How about Roosevelt?
Husband: “And Americans are also bigger smart asses…Victoria?”
That was just a little snapshot of what a daily name brainstorming session was like at our house. I can’t speak for the whole of either the UK or for the US, but I can say that my husband, who is British, along with his British family and many of his British friends, tend to be much more conservative, more traditional with their choice of baby names. To sum up their baby name preferences:
Last names: No.
Two different names combined (Cayden, Ashlyn): No.
Names that are also names of spices or herbs (Cayenne, Cinnamon, Sage): Hell no.
Any name that sounds “too American” (Scott, Brett, Kendra): No way.
Names that Americans think sound “British” (Griffin): Uh uh.
Names of British Royalty: Definitely!
Names good enough for Shakespeare: Are to be, rather than not to be!
Names that our grandparents may have had (Eleanor, Agnes, Mabel): Absolutely!
In the end, we left the final baby name decision up to my 10-year-old son, Evan. He came into our room one night, when I was about 8 months pregnant, and confidently said, “Stella. We should name my little sister, Stella.” My husband and I looked at each other impressed by my son’s wisdom and moved by his certainty about his choice. We didn’t realize until that moment how perfect that name was. Stella. Our little star. A universal name, timeless as it was fairly uncommon. I, the American, loved it. And, thankfully, so did the Brit. Of course, when Stella was born, and we phoned my in-laws and told them what we’d named her, there was a slight pause, and then—“Oh yes, yes. After Sir Paul McCartney’s daughter.”
All hail the Queen! And the Beatles, apparently…
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