Hoon.co / I’m Hoon Park: a husband, father and product manager.

What are the Baby Name Rules?

Last week, Mike Subelsky asked me the question,

what should I name my second child? or can you recommend a process for selecting a name?

This is actually a question Sarah and I have discussed ad nauseam for several years. Over time, we’ve developed a set of rules. Whenever we get the inclination to brainstorm some baby name ideas, we use these rules for guidance:

The Baby Name Must:

  • have one prominent spelling. If you say the name, most people in the US should spell it the same way.
  • be what you are going to call them—no nicknames!
  • be no more than 3 syllables, due to the possibility of shortening or nicknames. See the previous rule.
  • be declining in popularity or unpopular. No names in the top 25. None in the top 100 would be better. (We’ve used the Baby Name Wizard and Social Security’s baby names site to assess popularity.)
  • should not be clever. For example, if your last name is Park, you can’t name your child Yosemite National. However, a name like Jurassic may be too cool to pass up!

Edit (2010): Our firstborn’s name is Greta. There does exist an alternate spelling of Gretta, but my research has shown it to be extremely unpopular by comparison, so the name still fits all the rules pretty well.

Edit (2012): Our son’s name is Alton. I can’t find any alternate spellings for this name at all. It does have a minor annoyance of two prominent pronunciations (we pronounce the first syllable like the word all instead of the name Al, but doing so also makes it far less likely to actually be shortened to Al).

Edit (2015): Our youngest’s name is Jonas. Hopefully the “success” of any of the Jonas Brothers will have dissipated by the time he’s in school (honestly, I’m not really worried all that much about it). The similar name Jonah is pretty popular, but the rules fit pretty well with this one, too. The letter-S-slurring-together-with-the-word-Park-to-make-the-word-“spark” thing causes slight concern, but that wasn’t ever a rule…