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From ‘Jennifer’ To ‘Jennafur’ – The Search For A Unique Baby Name

How many times have you heard an expectant Mom or Dad say something like “we’re trying to come up with a unique baby name – you know, something a little different…”

Many expectant parents, when they’re trying to choose a baby name, start at that very point. But where does “a little different” end, and disaster begin? With Abbygale? Cayllinn? Machenzie? Kal-El? Pilot Inspektor? Little Bigfoot?

You get the picture. Taken to its extreme, which it often is, the search for a “unique baby name” is a slippery road that can end with a name that the teacher can’t spell, friends can’t pronounce, and no-one can understand. When baby gets bigger, he or she is not going to be pleased, being the only kid in the class named after a remote Siberian village, or a brand of shaving cream, or whatever Mom and Dad seized on in desperation some five or six years previously.

What exactly do parents mean by “a unique baby name?” The dictionary defines “unique” as: “the only one, or the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics.” In order to be truly unique, a name would have to be the only one of its kind, which leads you to the Moxie Crimefighters (Penn Jillette’s daughter’s name) and the ‘Jennafurs’ of the world. But what most people probably mean, when they say “unique,” is that they’re actually looking for a baby name that is individualistic, a bit different, somewhat unusual, and memorable.

If you really want to make up a baby name, thereby ensuring its uniqueness, there are a number of simple strategies. The most popular method is to use alternative spelling, turning ‘Kaylee’ into ‘Kayleigh’ for example. But in your search for the truly unique, don’t fall into the trap of turning ‘Jennifer’ into ‘Jennafur,’ or some such abomination. A recent news story noted that in 2006, according to statistics from a leading baby names website, there were at least 45 variations of the name Mackenzie, including such strange variants as ‘Machenzie’ and ‘Mackynzi’.

Another trick is to use unique punctuation, turning ‘Maxwell’ into the odd name ‘Max-Well’. Then there is the anagram method, turning a name like ‘James’ into ‘Smeja.’ And finally there is the method that makes traditionalists see red — the combination method, by which parents named Mary and Donald will name their boy or girl ‘Mardon.’ Get it?

The point is, anyone can mangle any word in the dictionary into something else, and call it a name. And sure, it will be ‘unique.’ But will it be desirable? Not if you’re named Gnataleigh. Is there another way to come up with a name that is unusual and individual? There is. Probably the surest method is to look through baby names lists for names that do have some heritage, some history, but have not been used in recent years, and try to find an unusual name that fits your personal tastes and desires.

Baby name websites and baby name books are rich sources of unusual, often forgotten, yet ‘real’ names – names that often have fascinating and beautiful origins and meanings. Here are just a few of the lists or categories you could look at: biblical names, floral names, Victorian names, place names, Royal names, Shakespearean names, mythology names, sports figures names, ethnic names, top names from the 1920s (or any decade you like), early film star names, and so forth. There are literally hundreds of categories of names, and each one can be a good starting place to find an unusual, meaningful name.

The trend towards “made-up” names has really picked up steam in recent years. Judging by the 45 variations on Mackenzie alone, it seems to be getting to the logical conclusion, where you’ll need to come up with some really strange variations to stay “unique.” If you do go down this road, try to avoid being Mackenzie variant number 46.

If you still end up stumped, you can always do what a Michigan couple did a couple of years ago – they named their son ‘Version 2.0.’ There’s no question it’s a unique name.
About The Author:
Neil Street is co-publisher of Baby Names Garden, at http://www.babynamesgarden.com, a website dedicated to helping parents choose the perfect baby name. His work on unique baby names can be found at http://www.babynamesgarden.com/uniquebabynames.aspx

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