The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

May 17, 2012

We're having some fun playing the 'name game' ...

The Herald

MERCER COUNTY — What’s in a name?

We've been putting together lists of local high school graduates the last week or so in the newsroom and it has prompted discussions about the art of naming children.

I like different names. My favorites I saw in my lists this year were Jericho, Marketta, Yonshalae and Halston.

One thing we all agree on is that the growing popularity of the random apostrophe is not cool.

People don't seem to understand that the "high comma," as our colleague Tom Davidson calls it, has a purpose. It's not just for decoration.

We've also noticed an increase in double middle names and hyphenated last names over the years, which is interesting.

The anthropologist in me assumes this is because of ever-complicated family trees, feminism and a growing sense of history in young people.

I also wonder if that's what's behind the push for traditional names like Madeline and Andrew making a comeback.

Each year, we notice a dearth of certain names, reflecting trends from 18 years ago.

This year, Tyler seems to be THE name, as one local high school class had five of them out of 100 kids. If the grade is split evenly between boys and girls, that means 10 percent of the boys in the class of 2012 are Tylers. Or Tylor. Or Tyeler.

And just how many ways can you spell Katelyn? By our estimates, the possibilities are infinite.

--- Courtney Saylor and all variations: Cortney, Kortni, Courtnie, Courteney Quartknee, Sailar, Sailor, Saeler.

Courtney’s much better about thinking about how names sound, as opposed to how they look. I’ll admit as she said some of hers aloud as she typed them, they sounded nice. But I just can’t get over all the “y”s replacing “I”s, or the extra “e”s which seem to be added on just for fun.

Since we spell names for a living, I never take the spelling of a name for granted. It sometimes means people named “John” look at me a little funny when I confirm the spelling with them. Come on, we all know at least one “Jon.”

As a result, I’ve become a classic name enthusiast. And I was quick happy to see George, Mary and even Theodore on the graduation lists this year.

--- Joy Leiker and all variations: Joi, Joye, Joi’e Liquor, Liker, Like-her.

My rule of thumb: Follow the Kmart test. Don't name your kid something you can't find in a bicycle license plate at Kmart. And if the name needs a nickname or abbreviation or will go by the middle name, cut to the chase and just make that the name to start with ("Did I register for that website as William Smith or by my nickname Bill Smith?")

Trust me, you're doing your kid no favor by choosing a name that's different for different's sake. Forget Jayme or Jamye for Jamie and the use other consonants or wannabe vowels for real vowels.

And, please, don't even think about hyphens or apostrophes or odd capitalization ("SanDeE"), because punctuation either isn't an option for most computer listings or must be precise to find the record in a database.

Going with a "special" name or spelling more than ever in this digital age means your kid's name will be misspelled or misplaced in computer databases and online searches. For life.

And newspaper reporters will be pausing and questioning the spelling of the name from birth through sports boxscores through graduation and on to marriage, parenting and the final obituary. We'll probably get it wrong half the time. Hey, don't blame us.

At least my college friend Deborha O'Connor had an excuse for people perpetually spelling her name wrong: The hospital transposed the "h" and at "a" the end of her name. I don't think the university even got it right on her diploma. She was doomed to a life of frustration.

Don't cripple your kid for life. Keep it simple, people. Common spelling doesn't mean your kids can't turn out to be uncommon and special. Trust me, they'll thank you for it.

--- John Zavinski (that's John, not Jonathon or Jon or Jack)


What do you think?

By the way, you can check out all these names, and hundreds more, on the graduation lists that will be published in Sunday’s Herald.