What’s in a Name?

Picking a name is the one of the most important things you will do. This applies if you are naming a child, a business or even your pet. The name has to sound right and fit with the purpose for it.  A wrong name can lead to a lot of unintended headaches. There was a time when a very strict process was followed for naming. Modern society has done away the over all rules however some religious, cultural and family traditions continue. Here are a few things I recommend you consider when you decide to name something.

Naming Children

Top 10 names for 2011

When you are naming children you need to consider several factors.

  • Tradition – Many families have traditions about naming children.
  1. A popular tradition is to name a first-born male child after his father. This practice comes from the days when there were standardized rules about how to name children. While most of the rules have lost favor with popular society this one remains. If you do have this tradition, or would like to start it, with your family then you need to consider not only the child’s name but also how you will distinguish him from his father. a common practice is to add a y to the end of the name. John Jr. becomes “Johnny”. However, Johnny may feel that this version of the name is childish once he becomes an adult. And when John Jr has John III – then you will have all 3 at family functions and the mayhem will ensue. Trust me I’m named after both grandmothers and 2 aunts. There was nothing you could call me that didn’t get at least one other person thinking you were talking to them. Strictly speaking a child is only a “Junior” if his first, middle and last name are the same as the fathers. If he is named for an uncle then he would be considered “The Second”.
  2. A newer tradition is to name the children all starting with the same constant or theme. I’m not really sure how this idea started but it was highly publicized and gained momentum with the Duggars television show  “18 (19) Kids and Counting”, where all the children’s names start with the letter J after the father Jim Bob. There is another variation on this practice in which the girls are named with one letter and the boys with another.
  • Spelling – A recent trend is to use standard names and spell them differently. So Michelle becomes Mychele. While I can appreciate the creativity it will need a lot of patience as it will be frequently mispronounced or misspelled. It does no one, particularly not the child who may become self-conscience, any good to constantly hear ranting over their name. A simple way to check the readability of a name is to write the name down and have other people read it back to you. If the majority of people aren’t saying it the way you think it should be pronounced then chances are the spelling will need to be tweaked to get the desired results.
  • Unintentional Meanings  – Some parents attempt to be creative by naming their children words that create a phrase or saying. This can be very creative for Sierra Dawn or Summer Rose but very unfortunate for Holly Wood and Candy Kane.
  • Name Order – A child’s name will be said in various combinations. In most cases there are 3 main combinations for a name.
  1. First name – used by family or friends.
  2. First and last name – used by teachers, doctors, and in more formal settings.
  3. First, middle and last name – used in formal documents like diplomas, and when in severe trouble.

The exception is when a nickname comes into play. When considering a name all 3 aspects need to be taken into account. Let’s say that you want to name a daughter Bethany Annie Thompson (a made up name for the purposes of demonstrating my point). On the surface this looks fine but look more closely and you’ll see concerns. First of all the initials will spell BAT. This means that using initials on anything will bring teasing. Bethany Annie is also very hard to say aloud. Go on try it. It has to do with having a vowel sound after the soft Y sound and the addition of another soft Y sound at the end of Annie. Another potential concern is that Bethany may be shortened as a nickname to Beth. Unless we make a big deal out of calling our child by their full name, in this case Bethany, then others will adopt nicknames for them. If the first and middle name are both short then there it is likely that the child will be referred to by both names. Some parents do this intentionally, others hate it.

Naming a Business

A business has different naming criteria than a child, regardless of the modern trend to name the child after a corporation in the hopes of getting some sort of advertising payment. A business name should be clear as to the function of the business. Name’s like “Sally’s Place” and “Joseph Micheal’s” tell you nothing about what type of business it is. Instead of Sally’s Place try Sally’s Tavern, which implies that that it’s a bar.  Joseph Micheal’s could use Joseph Micheal’s Photography. It clearly states what the business is although it is a long name. In this case JM Photography or J. Micheal’s Photography might be a better fit.

When choosing names be aware of how the words go together. I wouldn’t recommend that Mr. Master name his Bait shop after himself.  If using initials then be aware of what other meanings the initials or acronym may have.  Thomas and Ann will want to reconsider using their initials for their business name, unless they are opening a strip club. The business name is the first thing that people will see and recognize about the brand. The name should be right for the business and attractive to the target market.

When considering a name take a minute to search for that name and see who else might be using it and what their business does. The worst thing for any business is to have it confused with a similarly named one. One of my first businesses was named NC Photography. It took all of 3 months for me to regret the decision. People were confused about why NC (as in North Carolina) Photography was located in the state of Connecticut. The trouble only became worse when the bank started to mix up my accounts with another business “NC Photo” who opened in the same town.

As with children’s names take a moment to write your business name. Say it out loud. Share it with a few trusted friends or family and note their reaction. Not just what they say, but how they react. If an eyebrow goes up or they are trying hard to fight off a hysterical outburst then you may want to reconsider the name.  Having a good name is not a guarantee to success but it is a step in the right direction.