Why Are American Parents Obsessed With Unique Baby Names?

If, like me, you have a child in preschool or early grade school these days, chances are some of the unique baby names on the class roster may raise your eyebrows a bit. Of course, chances ALSO are you’re the one who USED one of those unique baby names for your kiddo, and what I say here might offend you greatly. That is not my intent, so I apologize in advance. But suffice it to say, over the last ten years, I’ve been more than a little dismayed at the rise of WEIRD STUFF Americans are naming their kids. (This has been the norm for celebrities for years, but regular folks are catching up to Hollywood, FAST.) These days it seems unique baby names are not enough, we also have to SPELL them uniquely. (Or, in a compromise of sorts, give them a “normal” name like Katie, and spell it “Caydee.” I have often wondered, as I read one more baby announcement or baby shower cake with one eye open in trepidation, “Why is this?” Why do we need our kids’ names to be so…SPECIAL?

Well, I have a theory. But first let me tell you where I am coming from.

My name is Jenny, and I was born in 1977, at the height of the “Jennifer Juggernaut.” (It’s a thing, from 1976-1984, the likes of which has not been seen since. Google it.) But my mother made a fatal error, in that she ONLY named me “Jenny,” leaving off the “ffer” – which has been GREATLY inconvenient, let me tell you. Since I have suffered greatly from having a SUPER common name (three out of four of my suitemates my freshman year of college were named Jenny. The fourth? Arlyce. I have to tell you at that point I thought her parents were PRETTY smart), why am I bothered by the super-unique names of today?

Well, I’ll tell you. My theory is that we giving our kids ultra unique baby names because we want our kids to be better than everyone else’s.

We want them to be special, different, spectacular. Since we can’t bestow on them a royal title or (for most of us) a large inheritance, we control their ability to stand out from birth by naming them Payson and Serenity (or, as I saw at my kids’ school a couple years back, Sarenitee) and Chaseton (for a boy) and Chasteynn (for a girl). We take a thing, like Paisley, and turn it into a name, which is kinda cute, and then we decided it’s not cute ENOUGH, so we spell in Paizlee just to be SURE that EVERYONE GETS IT. Our kid? Is special.

But here’s the thing, you guys. Our kids are ALREADY SPECIAL. They don’t need unique baby names. They were fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who knows the number of hairs on their head at any given moment and who delights in them just as they are, whether like my child, they have the most popular name (Sophia, hey, when she was born it wasn’t even in the top 10, I tried…) or if their first name is mom’s maiden name (something I wholly approve of, not that you were worried about that.) I was give the most common girl’s name of my day, and why it caused me some inconvenience, it didn’t add or take away from who I am. It just gave me something to be called, and the truth is if my name were Rachel or Amelia or even Paizlee, I’d be unmistakably me.


Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.

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