Being a teacher you very quickly decide that there are certain names you will never call your own children. My wife and I very early in our teaching careers knew we would never have a Darren nor a Skye. We picked out James as a boy's name and possibly Rebecca as a girl's name. Four daughters later we have neither a James nor a Rebecca. Four daughters means eight different girl's names, so we have Amanda Clare, Kathryn Amy, Elizabeth Kelly and Jennifer Laura. All safe traditional names, but there were moments. In particular I wanted Sandy. However my wife would just not come at Sandy Shore. We also tried to avoid C. Shore, although I am a Robert C. Shore. It was some sort of oversight that Amanda ended up A. C. Shore. We also tried to avoid names which had to be spelt as we knew from experience that they would have to go through life spelling "Shore". Kathryn missed out here, but we liked Kate and always thought it would be shortened.
As you can see we put a fair bit of thought into naming our children. Other parents also do this. A recent article in Psychology Today (April 2010) by sociologist, Dalton Conley, explains why he called his daughter E and his son Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles. You need to read the whole article to understand why but Conley does sum up with "at the time we thought we were bequeathing to them our values of individuality, free choice, and the questioning of social norms. Perhaps it was also an unconscious social experiment..." (Note to self: ask daughters if they wish I had studied sociology)
Of course when it comes to naming children parents will find inspiration in all sorts of places. We have all heard of parents who have named their child after the nurse on duty at the time of birth, or the ambulance driver, or taxi driver, who delivered the baby on the way to hospital. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner in their book Freakonomics (2005) write about the parents who named their son Amcher after the first thing they saw when they arrived at the hospital: Albany Medical Center Hospital Emergency Room.
Do names matter?
Maybe Issur Danielovitch once thought so. He changed his name to Kirk Douglas. Frances Gumm changed her name to Judy Garland, and Norma Jean Baker to Marilyn Monroe. There are many more: Jennifer Anastassakis is now Jennifer Aniston, Frederick Austerlitz now Fred Astaire, Thomas Marpother IV is better known as Tom Cruise, Caryn Johnson is Whoopi Goldberg, Demetria Gene Guynes is Demi Moore, Annie May Bullock is Tina Turner, Walter Williamson is Bruce Willis and Marion Michael Morrison is John Wayne.
Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner Freakonomics 2005 devote a chapter to discussing whether names matter. They begin with the case of Robert Lane who, with his wife, had seven children. The sixth child they named Winner, while the seventh and last child they named Loser. An interesting case study because if names make a difference surely it would be reflected in this family. However as they grew up Loser won a scholarship to a prep school, graduated from college and joined the police force where he became, first, a detective and then a sergeant. What of his brother? Levitt and Dubner tell us "The most noteworthy achievement of Winner Lane.... is the sheer length of his criminal record".