Website Review: BabyNames.com

The year is 2050. Actress Dakota Fanning has been kidnapped by aliens. The extraterrestrials demand a ransom of Twizzlers (the cherry ones, not the licorice ones) in an amount that would cost nearly the entire GNP of the earth to produce and package.  

The Hollywood of the future springs into action the way it knows best: by staging a cheesy benefit to bring in donations to help fund the massive cost of Twizzler production. All the big names in show business are there to demonstrate their support, even though the captured actress’s most recent film work hasn’t been quite up to par.  

Mars Badu, daughter of singer Erykah Badu, is there, along with her brother from another father, Seven 3000, whose dad was Andre 3000 of OutKast. Audio Science Clayton, son of actress Shannyn Sossamon, is there. Moxie Crimefighter Jillette, daughter of magician Penn Jillette, and Speck Wildhorse Mellencamp, son of singer John Mellencamp, are a dating couple now, and have arrived together. Poet Goldberg, daughter of actress Soleil Moon Frye, and Elijah Bob Patricus Guggi Q Hewson, son of musician Bono Vox, are there, as are the daughters of singer Bob Geldof — Fifi-Trixibelle Geldof, Little Pixie Geldof and Peaches Honeyblossom Cheney (nee Geldof, and now the wife of reanimated former vice president Dick Cheney).

Even a few of the elders from previous generations make an appearance: Zowie Bowie and Diva Muffin Zappa join together in a duet written for the occasion, “It’s Not Our Fault Our Dads Were Rock Stars (Dakota Come Home).”  

Forty years ago, all the bizarre names in attendance might’ve taken focus away from the plight of Miss Fanning, now struggling so gamely to breathe in the thin atmosphere of East Pluto. But thanks to the creativity of parents everywhere, inspired by websites like babynames.com, virtually the entire world is now populated with goofily-named spawn. Today’s Website Review looks at this source of inspiration for parents and a lifetime of being bullied for their kids.  

Babynames.com is a darling site for prospective moms and dads looking to find just the right name for their bundle of Joiyieux, and not terribly concerned with the harmful effects that laptop radiation might pose for the unborn fetus. It has all kinds of helpful features to direct visitors to over 15,000 naming options, along with advice, games and shopping opportunities.  

The home page provides easy links to the top baby names of 2009, a search engine to allow you to browse for names by different categories, and a “Name of the Day.” Yesterday this was the two-star-rated “Verlee,” a combination of Vernon and Lee, and about as ugly as having two redneck dads might suggest. You can also buy an iPhone App to carry name ideas wherever you go, and can follow late-breaking names on both Facebook and Twitter. (If you sign up for these, you may want to consider not being pregnant quite so much).  

The most popular names for boys last year were Aidan/Aiden/Aden and Cayden/Caden/Kayden/Kaden, and for girls were Amelia/Emilia and Isabella/Izabella. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t saddle my child with all that slash drawing every time they had to sign their name, but I suppose it’s still better than plugging in a ∞ or a ∂ or a ‰. Other notable appellations to make the top 100 include Logan, Rhys and Xander for boys, and Isla, Esme and Aurora for girls. The once-popular John barely makes the list at the final spot.  

If you’re interested instead in a name that reflects a certain cultural background, there’s an option for you too. Most major nationalities are represented as well as some you’d think were long buried in ancient history. While there may be no Sumerian, Neanderthal or Australopithecus names, there is a nice list of Aztec names including Tlalli, Quetzalxochitl and the unfortunate Atl, who’s likely to spend a lifetime being constantly diverted to Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta.  

If you’re not sure which of several names you’re considering are best for you and your baby, there’s a place to list your finalists and have site visitors vote on their favorites. Obviously, there’s no requirement that you go with majority rule, which is a good thing if you want to avoid Internet trends like Stephen Colbert, Megan Fox or LongerPenisCanNowBeYours.  

There’s an Info and Advice pulldown that features message boards, a celebrity baby blog (‘just barfed again,” reports Atlas Tupper, son of Anne Heche), and a name consulting service. “Tips for Writers” suggests romance authors steer clear of exotic names like Chesapeake Divine or Rod Remington, and that science fiction writers avoid unwieldy titles like Zyxnrid.  

The predictably named Jennifer hosts an “Ask Babynames.com” forum to answer specific reader questions. No, she tells Anna, you shouldn’t name your twin girls “Tara” and “Clara.” Danielle is concerned that her choice, “Akuji,” was copyrighted by a videogame of the same name, but turns out it’s not. Kimberly wants to name her son “Dresden,” but is concerned it will recall the German city firebombed into ashes during World War II; not great, Jennifer advises, yet still better than “Hiroshima” or “Pearl Harbor.” Tyler wants to know the derivation of the name “Stamatina” and is told its root is “stop” in Greek, and therefore a good name for a girl.  

In the Fun Stuff section, there’s a “Random Renamer” feature. I typed in my first and middle name and got options for the “wild” me (Juke Mason), the “stylish” me (Tempest Jareth), the “quiet” me (Jokull Seiko) and the “philosophical” me (Daytona Raul), all of which would also result in the m0rtified me. You can also guess the stage name of people who chose to change their birthname for show business. For example, R&B singer Akon was born Aliaune Damala Bouga Time Puru Nacka Lu Lu Lu Badara Akon Thiam. Audrey Hepburn was Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston. Della Reese was Delloreese Early, Elle McPherson was Eleanor Gow and Laura Nyro was Laura Nigro.  

A list of games that can be played at baby showers starts out fun but trends toward the creepy and ultimately the ghastly. A game called “Baby Got Back” directs players to “get five little plastic babies and put them in a cup, have guests shake up the cup and toss the babies onto a table. The player with the most babies with their ‘bottoms up’ wins.” The game “Dirty Diapers” involves putting eight different chocolate candy bars in eight different diapers, microwaving them, then having each guest guess what candy bars they were originally (no tasting allowed). “Ice-Ice-Baby” again uses miniature plastic babies, this time putting them in cups of water and freezing them. “Each guest receives one ice-baby,” the instructions read. “Whoever can make the water melt first and announces ‘my water broke’ wins a prize.”   

Of course, the obvious temptation at a site like this is to check out your own name to see how it rates, so you can know if you’re a worthwhile human being or not. I searched for “Davis” and found that it’s the 395th most popular name currently in use and is contained on the tentative name lists of 547 expectant parents. The origin of the name is English and it means, not surprisingly, “son of David.” Other notables with the name are Sammy Davis Jr. and Bette Davis, but they’re not really using it any more. Though not common, “Davis” is rated four stars on a five-star scale for desirability. For comparison purposes, I checked the name “Adolf” (German in origin, it means “noble wolf”) and it only rated two stars, so me and my fellow Davis’s are at least twice as good as, for example, Hitler. 

Below the name facts is a place to upload photos of your own special namesake. Adolf had “no pix uploaded, yet” but there was one cute little Davis, shown below: 

This one looks like a wise guy

I enjoyed reading through this website, and can definitely recommend it to anyone in the market for baby names. Readers of all ages who don’t have a name will find a virtually endless supply of possible things they can call themselves. And if people are already referring to you by some kind of label, you can still enjoy a few fun facts and diversions. Just watch out for those diapers and those frozen plastic babies.

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