When it comes to unusual baby names, Alberta is likely not unique in any significant way beyond the fact that we publish the data which illustrates just how unusual some of those names are.
Most jurisdictions publish lists of the most popular baby names, but Alberta goes one step further by releasing an annual compilation of all baby names issued in the province. It can make for some fascinating, amusing, and even frustrating reading.
The criteria for what makes a good baby name is highly subjective and there are all sorts of cultural, historic, and religious factors that shape the choices parents make. There is an understandable impulse many parents feel in wanting to bestow upon their child a unique name, one that stands out. Better that parents be free to name their kids Thanos, Beige, Riot, Punish, Anger, Jupiter, Shade, or Wednesday (actual 2018 baby names in Alberta) than to have a government dictate what children should be named.
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Clearly, though, some parents are abusing that freedom.
Perhaps it’s not new or unusual to have pop culture influencing the name choices new parents are making. Anakin makes the list once again in Alberta, but I suspect the longevity of the Star Wars movie universe means it’s a name that’s been around for a while (Alberta even has a George-lucas born in 2018). The same likely goes for the names Kal’El and Krypton (Krypton being Superman’s home planet and Kal’El being Superman’s Kryptonian birth name). And the popularity of Game of Thrones would speak to the more recent appearance of names like Daenerys.
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But I don’t think it’s unfair or off-base to suggest that there’s a degree of narcissism at play here. If your name choice for your baby is more about drawing attention to yourself then perhaps you’re not really doing what’s best for your child.
For example, there was a baby boy born somewhere in Alberta in 2018 who was named Despot. The dictionary definition of the word ‘despot’ is “a person, especially a ruler, who has unlimited power over other people, and often uses it unfairly and cruelly.” Are these parents really setting their child up for success?
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Another example is the girl born somewhere in Alberta in 2018 who was given the name Indica. Cannabis aficionados will recognize that as one of the two main forms of cannabis plants (Sativa being the other. And no, there were no Alberta babies given the name Sativa). Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that the year of legalization might spawn some cannabis-themed baby names, but do these parents not see how that might be problematic for the child?
It’s not just judgmental traditionalists who fear the potential impact of some of these names. As it happens, this is something that has been the subject of a fair amount of research.
A 2014 study by a team of Dutch researchers found that many parents tend to “overvalue” their child — in other words, “believing their child is more special and more entitled than others.” Not surprisingly, that begins with the name given to that child. And indeed, researchers found that these overvaluing parents were much more likely to choose an unusual first name.
A 2009 study by researchers at San Diego State University found that there were potential negative implications of this trend toward unique and unusual names. One of the study’s co-authors warned that such names “run the risk of promoting separateness, which is linked to narcissism.”
Other studies have pointed to additional possible negative consequences for employment prospects, educational outcomes, socio-economic outcomes, and even just how the children are perceived by peers.
A recent British survey revealed that many parents end up regretting their name choice.
It seems irresponsible for parents to not consider these possible consequences. That doesn’t mean giving parents a list of ten names to choose from or having government bureaucrats crack down certain names, but rather that parents appreciate the responsibility they have in naming their child.
Rob Breakenridge is host of “Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” on Global News Radio 770 Calgary and a commentator for Global News.
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