Shy Kids vs. Unique Names

Not long ago I read an essay called “Please don’t give your baby a weird name” by Shalini Miskelly.

It starts, “Hello, my name is Shalini, and I hate my unusual name.”

I hate my unusual name for the reason so many parents love them and want to give them to their bundles of joy: It stands out. It makes the bundles of joy unique. That’s the whole point. No more anonymous Jennifers clouding up elementary classrooms! Down with the Jennifer!

But listen: Your bundles of joy are going to have to pay for the uniqueness.

…with a lot of attention.

And sure, attention isn’t bad for everyone, but for me? It’s awful. I’m a writer. My favorite hobby is not talking, and my second favorite is avoiding people. Surely some of the Xenons and Shoogs will be introverts, too.

My name added to my shyness. It was hard to be real friends with someone when she didn’t even know how to pronounce my name. I even babysat for a family who thought my name was Charlotte for a solid year because I was too awkward to correct them.

shy girlShalini’s essay really struck a chord with me.

I’m both introverted and shy (two different things). I can only imagine how frustrating and embarrassing it would have been to grow up with a very unusual name.

I’m reminded of the woman named Open, who said: “Childhood was painful.” Yup, I can believe that.

All those parents-to-be competing to give their kid the most unusual name on the block? I wish they would step back for a second and consider the possibility that they might end up with a kid who’s introverted, or shy, or both. And really think about how burdensome unusual names are for those types of kids. (Or adults, for that matter.)

P.S. Shalini blogs at Reading (and Chickens).

5 thoughts on “Shy Kids vs. Unique Names

  1. I agree that this is worthy of consideration. Not just with the shy/unusual pairings, but really with any name that sort of comes with pre-defined expectations.

    For example, if you name your sons Magnus and Thor, they somehow MUST love throwing spears and wrestling bears, or at least fantasy roll-playing games. There’s no room left for a Thor to be thoughtful or shy or scholarly.

    But I also see the opposite problem, people who say things like “I chose the name Isabella because it was so unique.” Here’s a hint for such people: If a name has been in the top ten for a DECADE, unique probably isn’t the most apt way to describe it. If your goal is a unique name, you’ll need to find a name you’ve literally never heard before. If your goal is an unusual name, take a few seconds to Google what’s in the top 100.

  2. see, i’m very introverted, but i adore my weird name. i thought it was terrible when i was a kid, but i like that it’s memorable now.

  3. But … how do you know in advance if your newborn baby is going to be shy? It seems going a bit far for nobody to ever have a slightly unusual name, just in case they turn out to be shy.

    It seems more sensible that if you’re going to be use a super-unusual name, to maybe add a Top 100 name in the middle as an insurance policy, so they have the option of using that if they want.

    Most unusual names can be given less-unusual nicknames (Shalini could have become Lena or Shaz or Nini with little fanfare), and they can always change their name if they really can’t cope.

    I also know plenty of people who were shy as children, or as teenagers, but aren’t as adults – one of them is even a public speaker. So shyness isn’t necessarily a lifelong condition.

    PS I’m not particularly shy, but I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed having a highly unusual name, just because of all the time-wasting chit-chat that would have ensued. Impatient people maybe don’t go well with unusual names either.

  4. The thing is, Shalini seems to be a perfectly normal name in India, where the writer’s family is from. And to me, using the name Shalini when you’re Indian (or Seo-yun when you’re Korean, or Pyotr when you’re Russian) is a totally different thing from naming your kid Ziondra or Aquarius just because you think it sounds cool.

    I get why she personally would have preferred to be Jenny or Katie, but I’m leery of telling parents they shouldn’t use valid ethnic names just because some Americans don’t know how to handle them and it could be awkward for the kid. You can always give a kid with an ethnic name a more American nickname, but the process doesn’t really work the other way.

  5. @Anna Otto –

    “But…how do you know in advance if your newborn baby is going to be shy?”

    There’s no way to know, of course.

    I meant this as more of a thought experiment than anything else.

    Unusual baby names are fun to talk about, but the experience of owning such a name — esp. if you’re a shy/introverted kid who just wants to fit in — is unlikely to be much fun at all.

    Just food for thought…

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