1. Do not name your child after compass directions (Kim and Kanye, I’m looking at YOU) or Alfred Hitchcock movies (except maybe Vertigo, which would be kind of awesome).
2. Do not name your child after expensive status symbols, whether you can afford them or not, lest you look like a pretentious toolbag (I actually know people with these names so will refrain from specific examples).
3. Do not name your child a name which seven other children in his/her kindergarten class will share, thus obliterating your child’s sense of individuality forever and dooming him/her to forever be known as “first name + last initial” in all social settings.
4. Do not name your child something which will get him/her beaten up on the playground and/or shoved in a locker on a regular (or even semiregular) basis.
5. Do not give an utterly unpronounceable spelling to a well-known name. I will accept that say, Katherine/Katharine/Catherine/Kathryn are all legitimate alternate spellings of the name (though Katherine, since it’s my middle name, is the right one… sorry, you Catherine-with-a-C people), but if you name your child Qaθthyarinne (“NO! IT’S SPELLED WITH A THETA! YOU KNOW, THE GREEK LETTER THETA!”) and insist on it being pronounced “Katherine”, you don’t look classy and creative; you just look illiterate.
6. On a related note, don’t name your baby something utterly impossible to spell, especially if you already have a difficult-to-spell surname. (I spend 20 minutes a day spelling my real last name to people and another 20 correcting their mispronunciations. I could like, eat a cheeseburger AND make a baby of my own in that time period.)
7. Don’t give your child a dog name. Your mileage may vary here (I think some names are cute that my husband thinks are dog names), but a good rule of thumb is: if you know exponentially MORE canines than humans with the name, be very leery.
8. Literary, cinematic, and biblical allusions are acceptable provided you are aware of the reference and okay with the connotations it will unfailingly evoke amongst literate people, e.g.: Anne Shirley? Theodore Lawrence? Jeremiah? probably fine; Becky Sharp? Bertha Rochester? Quasimodo? Jezebel? Avoid. (To be fair, my favorite girl’s name is Scarlett, a case in which again your mileage may vary based on whether you see a penchant for longterm adulterous affairs, masterful manipulation, making slutty dresses out of their curtains, and starvation in the war-torn South as a BAD destiny for your offspring.) I think Arwen is a beautiful name, but would probably never name a kid that, because I’m the only English-graduate-degree-holder on the planet who hates Tolkien (don’t judge) and don’t want Lord of the Rings to be my every conversational opener for 18+ years. Use your judgment.
9. On that note, if you’re going to go for an overt literary or cinematic allusion, go for a timeless one, like Audrey or Anastasia. Don’t name your kid Snooki or Christian Grey. Just don’t. (Also, I LIKED THE NAME BELLA BEFORE THERE WAS TWILIGHT.)
10. Don’t give your child a name they feel they have to live up to. (Chastity Bono comes to mind.)
11. Boys’ names and last-name-names for little girls can be totally adorable. Just be aware of what you are getting into (and consigning your daughter to) when you give her an androgynous name… a lifetime of deadpanning “I’M A GIRL” in repeated cases of mistaken identity. Giving girls’ names to boys goes back to rule #4: handle with care and make sure it won’t get him beaten up on the playground.
12. Your kids’ names don’t have to be all cutesy matchy-matchy (in fact, please no), but don’t make people wonder if you had a personality transplant after each childbirth. Some form of consistency amongst them is nice. “These are our kids, John, Nebuchadnezzar, Aston Martin, Daenerys Targaryen, and Latoya” is just confusing for everybody.
13. Don’t name your kid something with three or four syllables and expect them not to get nicknamed. You can fight the good fight, but at some point it’s gonna happen. (And also, if you reeeeeealllly HATE HATE HATE HATE “Dan” and “Danny”, you might want to think long and hard before naming your child Daniel, because somewhere along the line, a doting grandparent/high school girlfriend/frat buddy somewhere is going to nickname your precious baby.)
14. For the most part, avoid naming your child after alcoholic beverages. (Plus, the only one worth naming a child after is Guinness, and that is a dog name. See #7.)
15. Nicknames are one thing, but don’t give your kid a lifelong baby name as a given name, because like puppies, most kids grow up, and ideally they will someday be an adult who will need to, you know, go on job interviews and fill out a marriage license without being laughed out of the room and stuff. (Pikabu Street, anyone?)
16. Ignore everyone else’s rules and name your kid whatever the hell you want. At the end of the day, it’s your kid, not mine. But know if it’s something totally stupid we are all secretly judging you.
Just kidding. Mostly.