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No, I Don’t Hate Your Name.

December 29, 2022 laurawattenberg 4 Comments

No, I Don’t Hate Your Name.

December 29, 2022 LauraWattenberg 4 Comments

Despite what you might read in the paper, I simply have not released a baby name hate list.

I just read an astonishing headline in the Daily Mail. Apparently my new, extensively researched list of the top 10 baby names everybody hates has sparked a storm of controversy! This controversy caught me totally unawares, because…huh? WHAT list??

The story is spreading. The Sun says my reasons for hating names are “savage.” I’ll say it again, “Huh??”

I’ve had bad dreams like this, where the whole world gets mad at me for writing an article about names that I can’t remember writing. But this time it’s real—the anger, not the article. You’re reading this on my website, which contains everything I’ve written for the past three years. Feel free to look around. You won’t find anything remotely resembling a “hated names” list.

I’m not certain how this nonsense started, though I believe the news reports were inspired by a random TikTok. My best guess is that it all ultimately tracks down to a column I wrote 11 years ago about names people disagree on. That was filtered through a game of social media telephone, and here we are. However it happened, I seem to have been appointed Official Baby Name Hater and I’m starting to get the angry messages that come with that position. So I might as well say something about baby name hatred.

Changing standards

Once upon a time, America had a name culture of conformity. A relatively small number of standard names dominated, and strong social pressures pushed parents toward choices considered “normal” and “American.” Fitting in was the byword.

Starting in the late 1960s, the tide turned against conformity. Parents felt freer to choose diverse and creative names that reflected their individual interests, values and ethnic backgrounds.

By the 1990s, that freedom was evolving into a new kind of constraint. Modern baby namers became as determined to stand out as their predecessors were to fit in. Parents felt pressure to choose unique names that made an impact.

Today, there is no more “normal.” That means that the typical name carries strong individual signals about parents’ culture and outlook. It also means that the typical name will be actively disliked by more people than ever before.

The Judgy Era


  • Popular just means well-liked, so avoiding popular names inevitably lands you in more divisive territory.
  • This is a culturally splintered era with a lot of mutual distrust and animosity. A name lovingly chosen to reflect one family’s interests, like a favorite musician or brand of hunting rifle, may be incomprehensible or even off-putting to another family.
  • Highly familiar names flow past without scrutiny. (When was the last time you really thought about the name Thomas?) Unfamiliar names make people stop and consider, and form opinions.
  • Making fun of celebrity baby names has been a popular pastime for decades. It has primed us to go into automatic snark mode when we hear an unfamiliar name.
  • Striking, high-impact names up the ante on both positive and negative reactions. The name that gets the most “oohs” from one audience will get the most “eeks” from another. And now everybody wants a striking, high-impact name.

Put it all together and you have a recipe for a judgy era and a lot of hurt feelings. Here at Namerology, I’ve made a conscious effort to stay “name positive.” Whenever I find myself slipping toward judginess, I remind myself of a basic principle. Perhaps it will work for you as well:

These names represent real children. If you wouldn’t tell a mother you think her baby is ugly, then don’t say how awful her baby’s name is, either. Not to just to her face, but even anonymously to the internet. Because she or her child WILL find it, and it will hurt, and it will be one more step toward a crueler world.


Namerology founder and "Baby Name Wizard" author Laura Wattenberg is a globally recognized name expert, known for her scientific approach to understanding name trends and culture.

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  • Elizabeth December 30, 2022 at 3:19 am

    Well stated! This is galling. I hope it results in more traffic for your site and for some people to get the message that cruelty isn’t cool.

  • Clara December 30, 2022 at 5:02 pm

    Longtime lurker here. This is an excellent, respectful article. I’d like to add that, in the US at least, name-hatred is often inexorably tied with racism and classism. Names (accurately) deemed “Black” are often then wrongly ridiculed as “made-up” or “misspelled,” ignoring their long history originating in African naming customs (the same can be said, though likely to a lesser extent, of names labelled “white trash” like Paisleigh or Braelynn).
    Attempts to justify this bias have been made, such as in Freakonomics, which argued that Black names should be avoided because they will “economically disadvantage” their bearers, suggesting people of color conform to white naming culture instead of white people try to be less racist.

    Anyway, to echo your point, it’s totally okay to dislike or even hate names. Everybody has names that they just can’t stand. It is not okay to move that hatred onto the bearer of the name or their parents, or insinuate that that it means the parents are less smart, or care about their child’s name (and often thus their child) less.

  • Emily December 31, 2022 at 6:14 pm

    The irony of calling a professional name expert a “name hater”…. sigh. Laura, your perspectives are always thoughtful and well-written, I look forward to every new article.

  • Nicwoo January 3, 2023 at 7:56 am

    Your stellar reputation proceeds you. I highly value your positive MO, that’s what makes the work you do truthful and timeless. And you could address legalities with offenders.

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