Hipster Parents Admit They Regret Their Baby's Cool Names


By Rachelle Bergstein

Naomi Tomky was still laid out on the operating table after an emergency C-section when the earliest pangs of regret kicked in.

“The baby was being lifted over my head,” the 34-year-old freelance writer remembers, “and the anesthesiologist was like, ‘what’s her name?’ I started explaining and was like, oh God, what have I done?”

Tomky’s now 8-month-old daughter is Tove (pronounced TOH-vah), a Swedish moniker that’s typically said like TOO-vah, but in this case, the expectant parents from Seattle changed the pronunciation for a twist.

“My husband has Swedish heritage and then Tova, or Tovah, is a common Hebrew name, which I liked because I’m Jewish,” says the mother of two, laughing. “When I was pregnant, we loved the idea of combining them. Now we know we doomed her to a life of spelling it for other people.”

Would-be adventurous parents, take note: The name that calls out like a siren’s song from the page of a baby book might turn strident upon repetition. Baby name shame is real, and with unusual appellations such as Kairo and Zayd (for boys) and Oaklynn and Paisleigh (for girls) on the rise — per the Social Security Administration’s most recent fastest-growing baby names report, released in May — it’s likely to become an increasingly common phenomenon.

“People are working a lot harder to come up with a name that is really distinctive and has a lot of personal meaning,” says Pamela Redmond Satran, co-founder and CEO of baby naming site Nameberry.com.

But in that quest for originality and special significance, mistakes can be made. Beth JoJack, a freelance journalist from Roanoke, Va., and her husband picked the name Mangum (MANG-gum) for her now 4-year-old son in honor of their favorite musician, Jeff Mangum of indie rock band Neutral Milk Hotel. The 41-year-old didn’t really mind when her father started calling the boy Van —the kid’s middle name is Van Ness — though the couple rankled at the unanticipated nickname “Manny.” But it was her son’s own trouble with the name that made her really second-guess the unconventional pick.

“Mangum was a late talker, and he didn’t say his name until he was almost 4,” JoJack says. “I think if he was named Bob or something, he probably would have said it sooner.”

For some, the misgivings about a name start even earlier — during pregnancy.

When Jonita Davis, a writer and mother of six, married her husband in 1998, they were still teenagers, and they were both candid about dreams for the future.

“I told him I wanted to finish my college education,” says the 37-year-old from Michigan City, Ind. “And he said he wanted to name our first son, Kalel Charles,” after his father, Charles — and Superman, whose name is Kal-El on his home planet of Krypton.

At 18, Davis thought her husband, an avid comic book fan, would eventually change his mind, so she agreed to it. But, after her son was conceived 15 years ago, Davis says he made it clear that he would be holding her to their “verbal contract.”

Kalel (Kal-El) is now 15 years old, and, like his father, he loves DC and Marvel characters. The teen is happy with his unusual name and goes by it at school and on Facebook, but his mother insists on using his middle name.

“I still call him Charlie,” says Davis, “but I’m the only one left on this planet who does.”

And, while Kalel’s name is the most distinctive (and most regrettable in Davis’ eyes), his five siblings also all have names related to comic books.

There’s Chloe, 21, after Superman’s best friend in the newer comics. Catelin, 19, a k a Cat — is a reference to a reporter in the Superman universe, and Kara, 18, is named after Supergirl. Connor, 5, is named for Superboy. And there’s even a villain in the bunch: 2-year-old Quinn, a reference to Batman villain Harley Quinn.

With Connor, Davis says, she was intent on giving him a name that didn’t have any superpowers, but her husband tricked her.

“He suggested Connor, and I really liked [it]. I asked him specifically, ‘is this related to the Superman comics.’ And he said, ‘no, it’s not,’” she says.

Then, “In the weeks before I’m about to deliver, my husband reveals that Connor is Superboy’s first name,” Davis says. At that point, it was too late.

“I loved the name, I committed to it.”

For a while, she says she was embarrassed by it all.

“I tried to keep it a secret,” she says. But her husband is so proud of it, and her kids like their monikers.

“They loved that their names were in the comic[s],” she says. “It’s not a secret anymore … [the kids] tell new people [about it], new boyfriends, new friends — it’s a thing now.”

It’s not just parents of children with unique monikers who struggle with post-naming regret.

Mandy Waysman, 36, says she and her husband chose “Sophie” for their first daughter because they thought the name “Sophia” was too trendy. But Waysman — who has to repeatedly correct people who wrongly assume her full name is “Amanda” — didn’t put it together that “Sophie” is a nickname for Sophia, and her daughter, now 8, would have to deal with the same problem.

The reconciliation analyst from Sioux Falls, SD, says she eventually made the connection at a family wedding, when the baby was already 5 months old. “Many people were calling her Sophia and saying it was a beautiful name,” she remembers. “Awkward. I didn’t correct them, but it clicked what I had done.”


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