Why Baby Names Are Getting More Unique

When I was growing up, there were four Jennifers in my class (and I probably don’t have to add, not a single Jenifer, Gennifer or Jenafur either). Being Jenna was unique. Parents back then didn’t even consider whether little Jen would wind up going through life being known as Jen G. (to distinguish her from Jens M. R. and Z., of course). They picked a name they liked -- maybe to honor a beloved great aunt or after a character in a favorite book -- and moved on.

Today, many expecting parents feel pressured to come up with a baby name that’s unique (but not ridiculous), meaningful (ideally in a spiritual way) and expresses their dreams and ambitions for their child (but isn’t impossible to spell). I’ve even seen news reports claiming that parents are choosing baby names based on URL availability (“Check Psusee-hyphen-Smith-dot-com, honey!”). Which seems a little excessive, unless @PsuseeSmith is already taken, too.

A Today.com article looking at the evolution of baby names says the trend toward extreme individuality is a reflection of something sociologists call entropy, which is a measure of how much information is contained within a message, such as a name. Whereas our parents and their parents had to rely on their own limited knowledge for inspiration, today anyone with internet connection can look up unusual street names in Perugia (where great-grandpa was born) or how to say Sunday (the day of the scheduled C-section) in all of the 6,800 known languages in the world. You know, so they can look smart and cultured when they announce, “Her name is Dogg. It means ‘dew’ in Icelandic.”

I remember as a kid sitting around with my friends trying to think of the weirdest and worst possible names we could. (I’m pretty sure we never managed to top Mac A. Roni.) My kids will only have to scan the school roster to come up with a dozen or more doozies. And I’m sure it won’t be long before one of them comes home from school and asks if she can have a play date with Anita Martini. Consider it a sign of the times.

What’s your baby name preference: unusual, classic or somewhere in the middle? Chime in below!

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