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Choosing a name
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My wife gave birth last Monday afternoon to a baby boy (9 pounds, 4 ounces; 20.25 inches) and we still didn't have a name for him. I was supposed to pick the name, but none of the ones I picked -- River, Tuolumne, Alder -- passed the mother-in-law test. (If she didn't like the name, she wasn't going to take care of it.) Even my son changed his recommendation from Firebaby to William Shakespeare Sinasohn (which has a nice ring to it, but my wife had issues with the name William.)
Girl's names are actually easier, I think -- had he been a girl, this one would have been named Tenaya. Finding the right boy's name, though, was a real challenge. I wanted something unusual and representative of my love for nature and the Sierras in particular (my first son was supposed to be named Redwood, but that got over-ruled too.) My rule of thumb is that if you can think of a famous person or more than one non-famous person with the name, then it was out (unless the famous person was someone really cool.)
So I spent a lot of time on-line looking for the right name, and I thought others might be interested in the resources I used.First off was the Name Voyager which I relied on heavily to check popularity. Even if you're not worried about how popular your kid's name is, it's still pretty darn cool. You start typing a name and you see the popularity of all the matching names over time.
Next up is Nymbler, "your personal baby name assistant". With Nymbler, you put in some names you like or are interested in and the program uses those as inspiration to recommend other names. You can mark names as favorites or block the ones you don't like. Clicking on a suggested name gives you information about the name's background and popularity and offers other names that sound similar or have a similar background.
Lastly, I spent a fair bit of time at the iVillage site, using their QuickFind tool. It lets you search for names by their meanings. They also have lists of names associated with famous people or places broken down by categories like Musicians, World Leaders, and Lakes and Rivers. Also very helpful are their message boards where a lot of people who are really into names hang out.
If you know of any other resources, feel free to share them in the comments.