Home / By Any Other Name: The Perils of Unusual Names for Children

By Any Other Name: The Perils of Unusual Names for Children

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We’ve all heard the urban legends about children being given the names of flavors of gelatin, the first five letters of the alphabet, where they were conceived, or sexually transmitted infections. While it is likely that these stories are just stories, they may have a grain of truth in them when you think about what some contemporary parents are actually naming their children. While nowhere near as deeply strange as the pronounced punctuation of “La-a,” the names some parents are giving their children will likely be almost as much of a burden to their kids as they grow into adulthood.




Most parents want the best for their children and want to do the right things for them in all areas of their lives, right down to the names they choose when they are born. Unfortunately, not all parents are as wise in their selection of a moniker for their children as might be wished. Sometimes a child will be given an unfortunate name or series of names purely through an oversight on their parents’ part.

Many times, though, parents think that they are doing their children a favor by giving them unusual names, helping them to stand out from the crowd. Sadly, however, all these names often do is make their kids’ lives more difficult.

One thing parents sometimes do when deciding what to call their children is to make up a name, like Jesaray, Lanaya, and Reylyt (pronounced Rel-let). While this name will often be unique, it might not always be unique in a way that will benefit the child. A name that is obviously made up will sometimes have the unfortunate effect of labeling a child as coming from a less affluent or educated family. These names are also sometimes difficult to pronounce or spell for the child. Neither of these factors is helpful for the child’s future chances of success.

Another thing parents sometimes do when naming their children is give them trendy, traditional, or popular names, but then add syllables to the names or spell them in new and strange ways. Currently, there is a plethora of spelling variations on a few very popular names. These spelling modifications often involve abusing letters like “K” and “Y,” apparently so that the name will look cooler or more unique.

Thus, “Caitlin” becomes something like “Kaytllyn” and “Aidan” becomes something like “Kaydyn.” One name that has become infamous for different spellings is “Kaylee,” variations of which are as numerous as the name is popular. These creative misspellings can eventually become almost unpronounceable, such as with names like Kymbuirleigh. To add to the confusion, many of these names, like Caden, are used for both boys and girls, often spelled in exactly the same ways for both sexes.

Since the above names are very popular, despite their supposed uniqueness, kids are likely to run into many other children whose names sound similar to theirs. While little Jayden’s parents didn’t want their son to be the fifth Michael or John in his class, he will actually likely be one of several boys whose names are modified forms of the name Aidan. Ironically, had his parents called him Michael or John, he might not have had any other kids in his class who shared his name or one that sounded very similar.

Something that these parents probably don’t think about when they are signing their children’s birth certificates is how these creative misspellings will make their kid’s life difficult, and how they will make them and their children appear to others. For example, young Quixandra (pronounced ‘Kiss-an-dra’) is going to have to correct the pronunciation of her name for every single person she ever meets. People may assume that her parents and by extension Quixandra herself are less educated since it might seem that the parents apparently didn’t know how to spell the name “Cassandra.” Quixandra herself may also have a difficult time reconciling the English phonetic system with the spelling of her name, making learning to read and write more challenging than it might otherwise have been for her.

Another thing parents will sometimes do when giving their children names is to use some sort of noun. This often leads to names like “Apple,” “Jazz,” and “Boulder.” While these are familiar and usually correctly-spelled words, giving a child a name like this may be the cause of vicious teasing and bullying from their peers during childhood and adolescence.

One characteristic that all three of these types of names possess is that they often won’t translate well into adulthood. While a childish-sounding name might be an impediment in an adult’s social life, an ill-fitting name can do much more harm when it comes time for the person to look for a job.

For example, if a person has a strangely spelled name, an interviewer might be less likely to call them in for a job interview than they would be if the person had a more common name. Perhaps the interviewer isn’t sure how to pronounce the name and isn’t interested in making a fool of him or herself trying to puzzle it out over the phone.

Having an odd name could also make it less likely that a person would even be considered for that position in the first place. Pronunciation issues aside, many names that parents give their children just aren’t professional-sounding, or are unfortunately associated with professions parents probably wouldn’t be too thrilled about their kids entering. For example, “Candy” and “Bubbles” are more likely to evoke “Joe Schmoe’s Gentlemen’s Club” rather than “Darvish, Fisk, and Rottler, Attorneys at Law.” Businesses need to maintain a certain level of professionalism with their staff, and this can often be extended to their employees’ names.

As can be expected, children with unique names also stand a good chance of disliking the name their parents gave them. Many parents respond to this by saying that once they’re adults, their children can change their names if they don’t like them. While changing one’s name is a possibility, it is not one that many 18-year-olds can feasibly accomplish. Legally changing one’s name can be time-consuming and expensive, and usually requires going to court. Not many teenagers can afford that, especially if they are in college or living on their own.

Even if the person manages to get his or her name changed, much of the damage has already been done by spending 18 years saddled with a moniker likely made fun of by peers and that had to constantly be spelled or pronounced. All of this can be deeply humiliating, and those experiences stay with a person for life.

Many parents who give their children these names say that they do so in order to make their kids more unique. Uniqueness, however, can be a significant burden in children’s lives, so parents should consider the uniqueness aspect itself. Thousands of parents give their children similarly “distinctive” names. If so many different people are doing the same thing, is it really unique anymore? And if these kinds of names aren’t actually truly unique, what positive purpose is there in giving them to children?

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About Ellen P. Petri