If you're like most parents, when choosing a name for your baby, you tend to think short-term. Are you going to feel comfortable calling a tiny infant Oscar or Josephine? Will your friends find Max horrifyingly trendy? How do your name choices sound with your last name, and how do they look written out on a birth announcement?
But a name is forever. Only over time will you discover its real effects, not merely on you but on your growing child. Is it cool or nerdy? Pleasantly unusual, or weird and confusing? And how will the name you choose play out with the mean girls in high school or the admissions director at Yale?
Here, a peek into how some of today's major naming trends might influence a child's future:
The trend: Naming your child after the city where he was conceived, the country your great-grandparents came from, or just some random place you like the sound of
Examples: Brooklyn, Paris, Dakota, Kenya
Baby-name fortune teller predicts: Your child's future will be plagued by "Who's on First"-style misunderstandings. For instance: "What's your baby's name?" "Brooklyn." "Oh, that's nice, but I asked what his name was." "I said Brooklyn." "Right, you live in Brooklyn, but his name..." Later, friends, relatives, and total strangers will offer jokes about the Brooklyn Bridge or the Eiffel Tower, or worse.
How to deal: If you pick a name this far off the map (see, it's irresistible), you have to be prepared for some teasing. Okay, lots of teasing. More important, you'll have to help your child handle the jokes that are sure to be a fact of life for her, as well as help her appreciate the good points of having a name everyone will notice and remember.
Boys' Names for Girls
The trend: Androgynous or masculine names for girls
Examples: Jaden, Logan, Taylor, George
Baby-name fortune teller predicts: When your child is very young, everyone will assume she's a he. When your little girl Jaden meets her first little boy Jaden (it won't take long), she may demand that you immediately change her name to something gender-distinct, like Jasmine. As young Jaden approaches adolescence, however, she'll probably appreciate the allure of having a boyish name. It can still be an advantage later on, when she's applying to colleges and jobs. And of course she'll end up marrying someone named—what else?—Jaden.
How to deal: Cultivate a taste for ruffly pink outfits, which will help sidestep sticky gender questions. And give your child a middle name with a clear identity—Rose or Mary—in case she wants to tack it on to her first.
The trend: Importing names from the Emerald Isle, whether you're Irish or not
Examples: Conor, Aidan, Katelyn, Riley
Baby-name fortune teller predicts: While giving your youngster one of these names won't make him grow red hair and sprout freckles, it will make other people assume that he's Irish, complete with whatever stereotypes they want to attach to that particular ethnic background.
How to deal: Bestowing an ethnically distinct name provides the perfect opportunity to talk to your child about how to deal with other people's expectations and prejudices.
The trend: Names with a religious or spiritual quality
Examples: Genesis, Christian, Trinity, Angel
Baby-name fortune teller predicts: If you tempt the gods by naming your child Angel, you know what he's going to have to do: Scream day and night; be the kid who's always cutting up in school; spend his adolescence staying out too late and making your hair turn gray. And if things don't go that way—if your little Angel is in fact sweet and well-behaved and grows up to be a minister—everyone you know will be sorely disappointed.
How to deal: Adjust your expectations. Know that names are not self-fulfilling prophecies and that giving your child a heavenly name will not guarantee heavenly behavior. Still, it's better than tempting the fates in the other direction and naming your baby, say, Damien.
Grandma & Grandpa Names
The trend: Plucking names from the family tree—real or theoretical—for a traditional, folksy feel
Examples: Gus, Sadie, Ike, Ella
Baby-name fortune teller predicts: Your parents will be horrified that you're using names that were considered ugly and outmoded in their day. But you've discovered that names at the playground closely resemble those at the old folks' home: Gus and Sadie are hanging with Herb and Issy. To your kids, these names will seem cool and modern. Your parents, however, will never utter your kids' names without wincing.
How to deal: Keep in mind that taste in names tends to be generational. To drive this point home, your Gus and Sadie will grow up to give their kids names you consider old and musty—for instance, Donald and Doris.
The trend: Inventing a new spelling as a way to make a popular name more distinctive
Examples: Emmaleigh, Jaykob, McKayla, Cristofer
Baby-name fortune teller predicts: By your child's first birthday, you'll be very tired of spelling her name to underscore the fact that it isn't plain old Emily. Once your child starts school, however, a lot of people will call her Emily B. or Emily S.—grouping her with all the plain-old Emilys. And those who don't make that mistake will assume the pronunciation must be as different as the spelling, and so will call her Emma-LEG or Em-MAH-lee-uh. Later on, she'll be sort of happy that she has a name that's special—and sort of tired of having to spell it just to let people know it's special.
How to deal: Consider choosing a more unusual name but sticking with the conventional spelling, rather than the other way around. And if the birth certificate already reads Emmaleigh, think what a terrific speller she's going to be.
Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz are the coauthors of eight best-selling baby name books.