Students, professors discuss baby name trends and traditions

By Online Editor Emily Kazungu and Life Editor Melissa Parker

What’s in a name?

Our names are more than just random letters thrown together. They often influence how others see us, and often, how we perceive ourselves.

“We often think of names as being very individualistic, but there are all kinds of factors that influence names,” said Assistant Professor of Sociology Andrea Hunt.

Parents may give their son a strong, masculine name and give their daughter a pretty, feminine name, she said.

“Parents are trying to project (onto their child) ‘this is how I think that they’re going to be, so I want to name them a strong name or a name that represents something else,’” she said.

There are other factors that influence naming trends, she said.

Sticking with traditional names, biblical-based names, names that have a family connection to them, names based of pop culture events and people in media are trends we see, she said.

“When Twilight came out, there was a surge in names like Edward and Bella,” she said.

 Chelsey Moore said her mom spelled her first name differently from others at the time to make it more unique.

“There’s a story behind my (middle) name, Nicole,” she said. “My mom watched soap operas all the time when she was pregnant with me. Nicollette Sheridan was an actress on one of the soaps, and she named me Nicole from that.”

Parents often look to baby naming books to find the perfect name, Hunt said.

“The name is the one (thing) that really stays with us throughout our lifetime,” she said. “Parents want their children to have a name that really fits them or is influenced by some of these other factors.”

Most firstborn males take their dad’s name, said Sociology and Family Studies Department Chair Yaschica Williams.

“It just depends on the family,” she said. “I do know that sometimes a child might (be given a new name). They may take one of the relative’s for the middle name and then the family name for the last.”

Williams said her mother wanted her to have a unique name.

“Around (the time of my birth) there was a Yashica camera,” she said. “It was just spelled different from my name.”

Some parents choose to give their child a unique name while others choose to stick with more traditional names, Hunt said.

Senior Nicholas Johnson said his parents chose the trend of naming the son after the father, with a twist.

“My mother told me she named me after my father,” he said. “His real name is Willy Johnson, but his nickname was Nick. That is why my name is Nick.”

International students often change their names once they come to UNA because their given names are hard for us to pronounce, said Coordinator of International Success Cala Flippo.

“They usually try to choose names that they’ve heard and names that are easy,” she said. “Sometimes they’ll come with names, and a lot of times when they get here they will ask us to help with a name.”

Senior Nhu Nguyen recently changed her nickname to Danni.

“My name is actually Dan Nhu Nguyen My Dong, and since not a lot of people here can pronounce it, I was given a different name,” she said.

Some international students choose to keep their given name and hope we will be able to say it, Flippo said.

Sophomore Ahmed Sherbeeny said Arab tradition played a role in his name.

“My grandfather has the same name, so (the naming) is something in the family,” he said.