PUBLISHED: 4:12 PM on Wednesday, November 2, 2005
What's in a name?
Uniqueness and meaning play major roles for parents deciding the names of newborns

Courtesy photo
  Choosing a name for a child can reflect pop culture or follow tradition.
What is the first thing someone needs to know when meeting a new person? It's not where they're from or what their job is. Even more basic than these questions, is learning a person's name.

A name is something a person has to live with for the rest of their life and choosing the right one can be a very important decision for any parent to make.

"I think the meaning of the name," said Roxy Cramer, mother of 3-month-old, Russel Joe Cramer III. "It defines who you are. In a lot of ways your name can describe something about you."

Meaning can be important, but uniqueness can play a role too. Uniqueness and the ability to rattle off a string of names, if the child gets into trouble.

"If you have more kids, it's a good baby name if you can say them all in sequence when they're in trouble," joked Taya Drake whose 3 1/2-month-old daughter is named, Addison Nichole Drake. "No, I would say, I guess how well you like it, if your the parent naming the child. I personally don't go too much on meaning. I go on uniqueness."

People choose names for a variety of reasons. They can be family names, a friend's name, or a famous person's name like a movie or sports star. They can even be names of characters from television or a favorite book.

Cramer chose Russel to keep a family tradition going.

"It's a family name. My husband is Russel Joe Jr., and I wanted to carry on the tradition," Cramer said. "(We) have three generations of Russels."

Darlene Claffey said the name for her three-month-old daughter, Autumn Rose Claffey, was a decision that came from her husband, Joseph and her 5-year-old daughter Amber.

"It was a family decision. The kids had a lot to do with it because I have five kids all together," Claffey said. "My daughter came up with the middle name Rose, and my husband came up with Autumn because it seems like every time I get pregnant it's in autumn."

Jeremy Burns, of Cherokee, Kan. whose 3-week-old son is named Blayke Charles Burns, said as long as the parents like the name, that's all that matters.

"As long as the mom and dad like it and you think it would be OK when they get older, so they don't get made fun of at school," Burns said. "That makes a good name."

School is a big part of a child's life. Having a name that is easy to spell and pronounce can make things much easier.

"I tried to make sure when naming my children that anybody could pronounce it," Drake said. "Choose a name that will be easy and short enough for the child to spell in school."

Drake herself has had problems with people getting her name wrong.

"My name's Taya and let me tell you, I'm still battling with that," Drake said. "Nobody ever gets it right. I always get Tanya, Tonya, Tya, and it's Taya. It's easy to spell, but it was just one of those nobody could ever pronounce."

Claffey said she looked at all aspects of what a name can do to a child. She made sure her children had names that she and her husband liked, and wouldn't lend themselves to taunting in school.

"I always try to make sure it goes together to where the kids, when she's in school, won't pick on her," Claffey said. "You don't want to be called such and such and have the kids calling you this. I look at all aspects of it." Wherever the name comes from, choosing the right name can be an important decision for parent, and can make a big difference in the child's life.

Take the example of the lyrics written by Shel Silverstein in the Johnny Cash song,

"A Boy Named Sue." Would the character in the song have had to learn to fight and defend himself against ridicule so often if his name would have been Bill. More than likely, he would not.

Claffey said to think about how all the names will sound together when spoken.

"Make sure it sounds right, all together with the last name," Claffey said.

According to the Social Security Administration, the top five baby names for girls and boys in 2004 were not that uncommon and in some cases very old.

For girls, the top five baby names in the country were, from most popular, Emily, which has been the most popular female name since 1996, followed by Emma, Madison, Olivia and Hanna.

The top five names for boys were biblical. Again from most popular, the names are Jacob, which has been the most popular male name since 1999, followed by Michael, Joshua, Matthew and Ethan.

There are many reasons parents choose one name over another. Burns said he and his wife, Cara wanted something similar to match Blayke's older brother.

"We wanted something to go along with his older brother Brandon," Burns said. "Blayke just seemed right."

Drake said family names as middle names work just as well using them as the first and can still be unique.

"I wanted something different. I was looking for something to go with my middle name, Nichole. Pick a family name that you want to use as a middle name and then pick out a name that you like for the first name.

"You can incorporate family, but you don't have to name the child the name." Drake said. "Using it as the middle name gets the job done just as well."

A name is something you have your entire life and can help you to be stand out. Cramer said that her son, being Russel Cramer III, they have nicknamed him Tre.