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More parents than ever are choosing unique baby names. The following article touches on interesting theories and explains the pros and cons of giving your child a distinct name. Sometimes the effect of an unusual name may be much more significant than the cause.

The Quest for a Unique Baby Name

Many prospective parents seem to want a unique baby name - at last count, for example, there were 45 known variations of the name McKenzie. Many other well known names, including Elizabeth, Emily, Zachary, Jennifer, and Madison - to name but a few - have come in for some very creative spelling. And recently, it has been reported with some amusement that parents-to-be are using a famous search engine to check for instances of their offsprings' possible names.

Where does this desire on the part of the parents come from? Is it just a wish to be individualistic? To make their child more distinctive and special? Certainly, these must be primary motivations. One interesting theory holds that as the USA becomes less formal in its culture and manners, fewer people are addressed by their surname. So the first name is left to do the identifying work that previous generations did with both a first and last name. Therefore a distinctive first name is more important than ever, according to this theory.

It is certainly plausible. The truth is, there are probably many reasons why parents choose unusual, or unique baby names. And the fact is, the effect of such names may be more significant than their cause.

The problems that can ensue from an unusual baby name are well-documented. Ask any kindergarten teacher about names that are hard to spell, or difficult to pronounce, and you will find that a child can be embarrassed by a "different" name in kindergarten, if not earlier. Some names may lead to teasing, others to the child having to spell it out every time she says it. And several academic studies have shown that unusual or "creative" names do not fare as well as traditional names either in job interviews or the work world. People make subconscious assumptions when they hear a name. If you are on a search committee looking to hire a new top executive, are you favorably impressed by the name Brooklynn when her resumé hits your desk? How about Autumn, or Haylee or Jazlyn?

When parents say they want "a unique baby name" what do they really mean? In all probability, when they say "unique," they mean individualistic, distinctive, out of the ordinary. In fact, there are many thousands of such names in the rich traditions of baby names from around the world - names that have a history, but have not been used in years, perhaps centuries.

The Bible, for example, is a wonderful storehouse of underused names with a long tradition. Names like Eran, Judah, Kezia or Sapphira. Or from the botanical world, floral names like Anthea or Shoshana. How about Shakespearean names, such as Ariel or Ophelia? There is really no shortage of inspiration, if you take a moment to look at literature, culture, history and so forth.

If you really want to make up a baby name, to make it unique, there are some simple strategies. Using an alternate spelling is a popular method, turning 'Kaylee' into 'Kayleigh' for example. But be careful not to go too far out in the rearrangement of letters. The 45 variations of the name Mackenzie, mentioned earlier, include such strange variants as 'Machenzie' and 'Mackynzi,' which are unlikely to be appreciated when junior grows up.

Another option is to use unusual punctuation, turning 'Madison' into 'Mad'sn,' for example. Or you can play the anagram game, reversing a name like 'Darlene' into 'Enelrad.' And of course there is always that old standby, the combination method, by which parents named Jane and Robert will name their boy or girl 'Jabert.'

Clearly, any word in the dictionary can be transformed into something else, and declared a 'name.' And yes, it may be 'unique.' But will it be a good choice? Not if your name is Jabert.

If you are parents who are determined to have a uniquely named child, and you cannot come up with the right name, you can always do what a Midewestern couple did several years ago - they named their son 'Version 2.0.' It may not be the most inspired name in the nursery. But it is the most unique.

Article by Neil Street. Neil Street is co-publisher of Baby Names Garden, a website for everyone who loves baby names. He writes frequently on this topic.

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