Who’ll Win the Baby Name Game?

From a Wall Street Journal column by Bart Stratton headlined “Who’ll Win the Baby Name Game?”:

My daughter is pregnant and wants to talk about baby names. I’m reluctant. My parents never advised me on what to name my kids or how to raise them. My wife and friends all say I should plunge into the name game.

I’m touchy about names. I have an artificial last name. My dad changed it from Soltzberg in 1941. He got Stratton out of a phone book in a waiting room before a job interview. He got hired. Anti-Semitism was the reason for the name change. When I finished college, I told my dad I was thinking of changing back to Soltzberg, and he went nuts: “You’re looking for trouble. Don’t do it!”

I texted my daughter: I said I’d talk baby names with her if she insisted. She’s expecting a boy and wants a list of family-legacy names. I emailed her: “Family names from Europe—Moishe, Beryl, Levi, Fishl, Wolf, Yehuda. Names of older American relatives—Sam, George, Benny, Milton, Sol, Morris. Hyman, Julius. Random names from WWII era—Rudy, Irv, Max, Alex, Marvin, Herman, Bernard.”

“Gold mine,” she texted back. A couple of days later, she said Kylie Jenner and Travis Scott just named their baby Wolf. “So that’s ruined.” Then the celebrity couple changed Wolf’s name to something else—yet to be tweeted.

I understand, we’re decades beyond the Wonder Bread era of Mike and Bob. Every kid needs a unique name and password. I read about a young man who named his son Stratton. Why not? There are a lot of names ending with the letter n. I have adolescent relatives named Carson, Logan, Justin, Gavin and Nolan.

I recently ran into a man pulling a wagon carrying two of his grandchildren: Finneas and Clementine. The girl’s name comes in part from Clementine’s Restaurant in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, where the man with the wagon raised his family. “There are too many Sarahs,” he told me. He has a third grandchild, Marigold.

A friend of mine has grandchildren named West and Kennedy. I don’t know their sex. I guess that’s the point.

The grandpa with the wagon said he searched the Social Security website for the most popular baby names. There’s a lot of help online, such as “The 135 Coolest Baby Names of 2022.” It begins: “Ace, Arlo, Axel, Beckett, Bishop, Bowie, Brooks, Bryant.” I stopped there. Let my daughter, Lucy, and her husband, Barry, do the research. My wife is pushing for Cecil—her late father’s name. If our daughter goes with Cecil, she wins.

Bart Stratton is author of the blog Klezmer Guy: Real Music & Real Estate.

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