What’s In a Name?

40,001 best baby names cover40,001 Best Baby Names

Submitter: Baby name books can provide for hours of fun and a whole variety of drinking games. I love them as much as the next 27-year-old single librarian. But like any good thing, even baby name books can go bad. This one has gone as bad as that carton of cream you left in the back of your fridge. Hilarious in its breadth of pigeon-holing children and marginally offensive in how it tries to get you to pre-define your kids, this book might not be “the very best baby name book ever”.

Holly: This book has some seriously weird lists.  I wouldn’t necessarily weed it…but I wouldn’t necessarily have BOUGHT it, either!

names teachers can't pronounce
(Above) Submitter: As a friend of many teachers, I was at first shocked and appalled, but I assumed that this list was there to prevent you from using these names.

Holly:Schmoopie?  Really?

Death Row Names
(Above) Submitter: Really? We needed a list of names of death-row inmates? Who hasn’t always wanted to name my child after John Wayne (Gacy).

burdensome names and names for gays

(Above) Submitter: Gay and lesbian couples somehow need to name their children from a separate list? Not to mention, when I hear “Caleb” and “Celeste”, I think children of same-sex couples? Well, this book was clearly written in the 80s, right? This was ok then, right?

Famous mob names

Holly: I’d be interested to see what list my name is on in this book.


  1. As a former teacher at a Jesuit school, I have no problems with Ignatius! In fact, we would have loved to have had an Ignatius in any form (including the Spanish Inigo – sorry, can’t figure out how to do the tilda over the n). I do acknowledge that name does make less sense outside of the context of Catholic schools, however.
    And, seriously, how hard is Camilla to figure out? I’d have an easier time with that than “McMurtry.”
    I’d be more inclined to have lists for regions over sexual orientation, but that’s just been my experience. Up until Ethan became trendy all over, I had never met an Ethan until I moved up to New England. And my mom thought differently of names like Amanda and Jeremy after she lived in an area where they were very common and very commonly pronounced “uh-MAN-duh” and “germy.”

  2. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m a lesbian and I named my baby Alice~ clearly I picked the wrong list! WTH?! I would love to know their criteria for those GLBT name choices. I’m also a teacher, and have has more Seths and Aishas than I could count~ in no way the most unpronouncable names I’ve encountered. I will agree that Momo and Schmoopie are unforgettable, though.

  3. I love the idea of all these lists (except for the lists of names for children of lesbians and gays, which is just bizarre and borderline offensive). Shame that the choice of names to go in them is somewhat haphazard

    I also don’t understand George P’s point (or, rather, why he made it).

  4. I think we librarians underestimate the importance of keeping the baby names section up to date. Sure, it’s not as crucial as staying current on legal advice, medical information or tech manuals, but even so, perceptions about names change quickly. A lot of new parents have no clue what people are naming babies these days. If they take the advice of a ten-year-old baby name book, they’re going to be in for a rude awakening when they visit the playground with their little one and realize that Ella isn’t the “underused and distinctive” choice that the book advised them it would be.
    I’m a bit of a name nerd myself, and I love the type of name book that has lots of fun lists. I’m not digging this one, though. Why on earth would a teacher be unable to pronounce Seth? And while I would be interested to know if there are any naming trends that are more prevalent among gay and lesbian parents, this list seems like the author just wrote down the names of kids she knows who have parents of the same sex.

  5. I would think Hitler would be a bigger reason to not name a kid Adolph than Hernandez.

    My dad’s the one who named me. Mom wanted to name me Christine. Dad decided he wanted to name me after the Bionic Woman. So she said only if they could drop the E because all 3 of my older brothers have only four letters in their first names.

    Guess you could put me on the “Girls names from fictional super heroines” list.

  6. We have no problem keeping the baby name books up to date. Why? They are probably *the* most stolen book in the library. We now have to keep them behind the desk to keep people from stealing them. And when they do get checked out, they frequently never come back. Wouldn’t you think people would at least bring them back after nine months?

  7. Never mind pronounceable (which they are, thank you), but what kind of parent would deliberately inflict Hieronymos or Wyclef on their child?

  8. Did anyone notice how on about half the lists, the first half of the names begin with a, b or c? As if someone started a list going through the alphabet of names, and then got bored?

  9. And the first famous Adolph I thought of certainly didn’t have the last name Hernandez (who?) Or for that matter, the first famous Napoleon…

    Maybe someone should send this to the Baby Name Wizard to see what she thinks of keeping baby name books current. Admittedly, she has published baby name books of her own, so there may be some bias there.

    Also, I think it also bears important note that this type of thing is very regional. The name Declan wouldn’t be hard to pronounce in any Irish public library.

  10. I’m with you, Andrea. Anne-with-an-e, how else would you pronounce Amanda? Simply curious. I’ve never heard the emphasis anywhere but the middle syllable, nor any of the vowels given a “long” pronunciation…

  11. It’s still in our library catalog. I’m going to have to take a look at it now. I suppose my given name – Kathleen – is in one of those lists….

  12. Oh my gosh. I OWN this book! It’s the funniest book I’ve ever seen!

    It’s not just lists either. It’s also got a whole section of names and their meanings. The author inserts random names she has obviously made up herself and claims they are “American” (or in some cases, just plain “Invented” ) like Dusky-Dream. Seriously, “Dusky-Dream” is listed about five times throughout the book.

    There’s also a section where she interviews people to ask them if they like their names or not. One person gets practically hysterical over being named “Wendy” (who knew that was such a burdensome, atrocious name???)

    This book probably deserves to be weeded but I myself would absolutely keep it.

  13. Even current baby name books can provide some bizarre choices. While browsing names for our younger son in a recent publication, I came across “Messiah.” Really? I know parents want their children to do great things, but that might be setting the bar a LITTLE high…

  14. My animal shelter has this book on our shelf. We use it all the time when naming cats. My favorite lists are the names by future career lists. I believe there is even a “Future garbageman” list!

  15. Oops, sorry, should have stressed that the local pronunciation wasn’t unflattering based on emphasis but on vowel sounds. Shouldn’t Amanda come out more “ah-MAN-dah” and less “uh-MAN (which often became two syllables, for extra emphasis, so “mayyan”) – duh”? Personally I think Amanda pronounced normally is perfectly lovely.

  16. The unforgettable names list are a hoot. I always joke with my husband about why people don’t use names like Hyacinth anymore. It’s always fun to see his weird facial expressions. I have a coworker who works in the circulation department of our library named Momo and she is proud of her name so I wouldn’t call that unforgettable.

  17. This book is just plain weird. I have a book of baby names from the ’70’s that’s better than this one.

  18. I have this book! It’s super weird. My husband (then-boyfriend) bought it for me maybe 7 years ago to use for character names (I’m a fiction writer). He crossed out “baby” and wrote “character” everywhere. It was sweet. But the book is seriously odd. Some of the other lists: names for future architects, lawyers, and mechanics (apparently “Brewster” is a good mechanic name). Also, “Names That Make Girls Feel Weird.” What the heck does that mean? (Chastity, Delite, Panther, and Fashion are examples from that one).

    Thanks for reminding me how weird this book is…

  19. My library still has a copy of this book, which apparently is in reasonably high demand, because it has been checked-out over 60 times. I think this post gave it some more fame, because when I went to check the catalog for it, I noticed that someone else had beat me to it and had already placed a hold on it.

  20. I wonder, with the special lists for children of lesbian and gay parents, if the author was trying to show that she’s totally cool with the gays, but didn’t think it through. It could be worse–when I read the first few names in the first gay parents list, I thought it was going to be all non-gender-specific names, which would be more than a little offensive. (As the list of names for kids with gay parents, I mean–nothing wrong with androgynous names in general or a list of them.)

  21. Heh! Do you think the people who mispronounce “Seth” pronounce it “seethe”? If my name were Seth, I might tell people to pronounce it that way.

  22. My brother in law is named Reginald (we call him Reggie). His name is burdensome and death row.

  23. My brother Seth was only called Seeth when people were joking about how the hell his name could be mispronounced. However, he had a very hard time getting people to remember his name wasn’t Sean. Is there a list like Totally Forgettable Boy Names?

  24. The few scans of this book make it such a WTFbomb I love it for all the wrong reasons!!

    So, to pick two things at random: “McMurty” (Where did THAT come from?) is a valid first name, but “Richard” and “Pamela” are death row names?? WTF??

  25. While I understand the point of including a list of names that people may find hard to pronounce–Seth? Declan? Camilla? I don’t get it.

    Baby Name Wizard also includes a list of names that have negative associations (like Adolf), but it’s only ones that are very strongly associated with them, not names like John and Andrea. I don’t exactly know what their point was there. I’m sure EVERY name has belonged to a criminal at some point.

  26. Back when we were naming our child-to-be, some research had just come out where they showed groups of teachers (sorry, teachers) pictures of children, told them the names of the children, and asked which child would be most likely to get into trouble. However, different groups of teachers were told different names for a single picture — the child was the same, only the name was different. The names were common names, and the point was to find out if teachers who were told a boy was named “Kevin” thought he’d be more or less likely to get into trouble than the same boy named “Kenneth”.

    Turns out “Kevin” is a troublemaker’s name. We named our boy something else with a better rep. This book doesn’t appear to be based on anything more than the whims of the authors and a few obvious ideas — but I’ve never yet met a woman named Bronte.

  27. This book could provide me with hours of entertainment. Yes, I am easily amused. Since when is Jake a gay name? I wonder what the author considers ethnic names?
    I would love to know if my name is on any list—is there one for names from songs?

  28. You know this book is out of date when they don’t have a list: Annoying spellings for common names. In my school we have a “Kahlobh” (pronounced Caleb) and a Kielah (pronounced Kyla).

  29. I just had to request this book from another local library! (Thankfully mine doesn’t own any incarnation of this one. There’s newer versions going up to “60,001+” names.) I look forward to hours of laughter and asking WTF? I just worry my colleagues will think I’m hiding something – I recently got books on pre-nup agreements for a friend.

  30. There’s so much to comment on that I can’t even start. Zacharias and Bartholomew are burdensome, but Dionysus and Hermes aren’t? The former easily become Zach and Bart, what the heck do the others become? Also, people can’t pronounce Seth or Camilla?

  31. How about a list of the most annoying “precious” names?

    Anything that begins with Ja-, Ca-, Kay-, Ky- and ends with -lie, -la, -den, and -len.

    Anything purposely misspelled to make their little schnookums feel as if they have a “unique” name, but require them to correct the spelling for the rest of their lives.

  32. Jolene, I’ve got some bad news: your name isn’t in the song title section, it’s in the section the song is about.

  33. I admit I’d have trouble pronouncing Seth, though it would come out more like Sef noth Seeth. I know how it’s supposed to sound, but I’m not good with that “th” combo.

  34. I meant “not”, I must have “th” on the mind, plus I must have accidentally hit the return button. Ah well.

  35. Nice to know though. You can turn any name into a colorful work of art. Something you can create and have as much fun doing so, as reading baby name books

  36. I own this book and while it is completely useless as an actual naming resource it is great for entertainment. Whenever my husband and I hit a wall while naming our second child I’d pull this out and read through some of the names listed. No Calvin? No Jonas? Well then, how about “Chubby?” “Celery?” (Yes, those are really in there.)

  37. Recently I was signing in at a conference and I saw there were two other women named Deborah in my group. I absolutely knew they’d be “women of a certain age” (like me) as I haven’t seen the name Deborah used much since the 1970s. I was abolutely right–the two other Deborah’s were indeed about my age.

    /Named for Deborah Kerr, the actress in “From Here to Eternity.”

    //Never been on death-row.

  38. I’m surprised there isn’t more shock at the idea of “David” and “John” being death-row names. Especially since they also happen to be movie-star names and Supreme Court names and important-biblical-figures names.

  39. I wonder what the author of this book would say about the current fashion in apostrophes and dashes in names? Talk about never knowing how to pronounce them! I’ve gotten so many wrong that now I just ask the student for the correct pronunciation if their name is the least bit unusual-looking.

  40. I’m guessing they just used the same first letter of Adolph’s last name, same with Napoleon (not quite as infamous, but who knows…)

    Also, sorry if someone already mentioned it, but how does one list 40001 BEST names? “Best” means…The singular best one. The title alone, therefore, is enough reason for me to discount this little tome. Then again, it’s a freaking book of names 😉 But still…

  41. That does it. When I go to work tomorrow, I’m telling everyone to call me Wyclef “Schmoopie” Hyacinth from now on. Anyone who doesn’t will be rightfully ignored.

  42. In all seriousness, I would expect demand for baby name books to be falling. There are a million baby name websites and they’re both free and up-to-date.

  43. It’s pretty sad to have to admit that this is the most up-date baby-name book at my local library. It’s a good thing we’re part of a regional system that has more up-to-date and less odd books available from other libraries. :S

  44. katz–I would imagine it is. I would also guess that library demand might be okay since people probably won’t BUY the books (like they used to) but may feel they’re worth checking out.

    However, I fully suggest that if it’s at all possible, anyone who is even remotely interested in baby name books should look at Baby Name Wizard. The sibling matching name thing is fascinating.

  45. I love this book because it’s so incredibly crazy. I love how “Cricket” and “Indiana” are “burdensome girl names,” but “Snooks,” “Buffalo,” and “Sundancer” are presumably OK because they’re on the “names that make you smile” list.

    And then I ended up devoting several posts to its ridiculousness for the benefit of of friend searching for baby names because every time you think you’re done, more pops up (“alternative spellings for names you can’t pronounce;” Malachi=Malla-Ki; Allegra=Alaygrah; Daphne=Dafnee).

  46. I actually have this book, too. The 40,001 count is highly inflated because the authors list invented names the average person would never think of using, and they also count multiple spellings and derivations of names as separate names.

  47. My real first name is Aileen, so it makes me crazy that it’s now associated with a serial killer. It’s a good Irish name, shared by plenty of people who aren’t killers.
    I love crazy name books like this, though.

  48. I propose new legislation. All American children should be named using real English words. Daphne, for instance, would be spelled Daft Knee. Caleb would be Kale Ebb. Colin would be Call In. Any name that couldn’t be rendered this way would be banned.

  49. I can’t see how a teacher could mispronounce “Seth” unless it involved a speech impediment and spraying the entire front row.

  50. The only Shmoopie I know is a dog. He lives in Shanghai, China. It is a cute name for a cute dog.

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