Woman Dislikes Sister's Choice of Baby Name. Is It Bad to Give Kids Unconventional Names?

Elle Silver

Remember the good old days when naming your baby was a simple process? You had a certain number of traditional names to select from. You chose one of those or you named your child after a relative.

Today things are different. Celebrities commonly decide on unusual names for their children. Think of Blanket, Michael Jackson's daughter; Apple, Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter; or North, the daughter of Kanye and Kim.

These names are strange but still, they're actual words in the English language. Where people run into problems is when they try to make up their own names.

This is what happened to one woman who had the best intentions to create a portmanteau of her name and her husband's. Her name is Ella and her husband's name is Sam. She chose Samnella as the baby’s name.

However, when Ella introduced the baby’s proposed name to family members at the baby’s shower, she was met with chuckles. Her sister informed her that the name sounded like Salmonella, a foul bacteria that causes severe stomach sickness.

Ella was so angered by her sister’s critique that she kicked her out of the party. The sister took to Reddit to ask for advice. Was she in the wrong for thinking this name was a bad fit for her new niece?

As you can imagine, most commenters were left scratching their heads, wondering how Ella could have been so ignorant to name her daughter something so closely resembling a terrible bacteria. Some even worried for the child's safety as she got older. A girl named Samnella would surely get bullied at school.

Many parents do worry about bullying and that's why they choose names that won't elicit the derision of the child's peers as they grow up. In fact, numerous countries around the world have strict naming rules, intended to protect children. A woman in Norway was jailed for two days for naming her child, Gesher, which means "bridge" in Hebrew.

But here in the U.S., parents still want the freedom to name their children whatever they want. Parents in this country have chosen to christen their children anything from Arson, to Mackoneum, to Abcd. Even Elon Musk and Grimes hopped on the unconventional name bandwagon, calling one child, X Æ A-12, and the other, Exa Dark Sideræl.

But is choosing such names for children good for them?

A 2012 study said no. Lead researcher Eryn Newman of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, examined how someone's name affects other people’s opinion of them. Newman found that the stranger the name, the less that people will trust the individual. According to the researcher, a bizarre name may even lead people to view an individual as "dangerous."

Newman explained this phenomenon to Parenting Magazine, blaming it on the primitive parts of our brains. "To the Fred Flintstone parts of our brains, that feeling of ease or familiarity signals something that we can trust, but information that’s difficult to process signals danger,” she said.

David Figlio, Dean of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, even told Live Science that boys given names traditionally meant for girls (think Ashley or Shannon) are more likely to have behavioral problems in school. Giving kids names that are typically given to people from a certain socioeconomic status can also cause a child to be treated with less respect as they grow older.

Even children with an unusual spelling of a common name were shown to develop poorer spelling and reading abilities. Say if Jennifer is spelled with a "G" instead of a "J".

Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, found an even darker reason for why parents give children unconventional names. The professor’s research found that parents who defy conventions and name their children unusual names have narcissistic tendencies.

All this should be enough to make parents think twice about what they name their kids.

It is unknown whether the mother of Samnella has since decided on a different name for her baby.

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I write about dating, marriage, divorce, family, society, and the city I live in: Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, CA

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