baby-name-wizard2Those of you who read my other blog know that I have this thing about baby names.  I grew up with a really crappy last name, one that invites ridicule and snide remarks, and it is only now, when everyone I know is having a baby, that I realized how traumatic that was.  I implored them to think about their choices, to say them out loud, perhaps even go so far as to run it by a handy eight year old.  So far they have listened to my pleas and not branded their children with anything horrible, but it was touch and go there for a while.

In May I’m going to be an aunt for the first time, when my sister in law has a baby.  I’m very excited for her and my brother both (and for my two best friends who recently gave birth to Jacob and Dylan respectively).  They aren’t really talking names yet, until they know the gender, which is smart move (it removes half the names to fight over).   Like most other couples I know, Tim and I started that fight years ago and have since narrowed it down to a short list for each gender.  And I’m not even pregnant.

Since I’ve got my own future children taken care of, I’ve been thinking about names for my future niece or nephew, especially since my brother’s child may have my last name (poor thing!).  On a recent visit to my favorite independent bookstore, I found Baby Name Wizard in (obviously) the baby section, a place I heretofore did not visit in bookstores, but which, since everyone I know has gotten pregnant, has become like beckoning siren to me.

The first page had me hooked.  I love you Ms. Wattenberg!  Here is a woman who is so obsessed with baby names that she created a computer algorithm that puts names into families for easy cross referencing.  Created. Her Own. Algorithm.  It still gives me chills.

This is no mere baby name meaning book, like the many thousands on display everywhere.  Yes, it tells you the meaning of the name, but more important, it tells you what the name means in today’s context.  How will it fit in with today’s Harrison’s and Kaylee’s and Madden’s?  Is Timothy really making a comeback?  Is Lillian worthy of its new found prevalence? 

The book is simple though at first glance it seems intimidating (as if 64,000 Baby Names isn’t!)  If, for instance, you like the name Jessica (and why wouldn’t you?), it tells you it’s current popularity (pretty high, but not as high as decades ago), and that it’s an impeccable choice with a perky nickname.  It also tells you that names like Nicole, Amanda, and Vanessa are in the same vein (i.e. stuck up and bitchy).  An interesting twist is that Ms. Wattenberg offers up both genders in her name families, so if you like a female name but end up with a boy, you can pick a name that is similar.

I never thought I’d see a person who thought more about names than I did.  I’m happy to see that there is such a person and that person has written a book.  I bought it and read it repeatedly.  I’ve given it as a gift.  Look up your name.  Your mother’s name.  Your pet’s name.  It’s addictive and fun.

Buy it for your favorite pregnant lady. Or buy it for yourself, just ’cause it’s cool.