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The baby name industry

The baby name industry
Latest posts by Keith Lindner (see all)

Wait, what… there is an entire baby name industry?

Yep. Turns out, choosing a name for your precious bundle of joy has become such a perplexing task that an entire industry has sprung up around it. 

From highly paid baby name consultants to fancy online databases and all sorts of specialized services, this article will give you a quick overview of the space.

How technology has changed the game

Technological advances and access to new data have had the biggest impact on this industry. Without access to a lot of the data we now have, some of these people, careers and businesses would not exist. 

Baby name consultants

One of the newest phenomenons is the world of baby name consulting. 

I was a bit skeptical about this when I first learned about it but the more I dug in, the more I understood it. My initial reaction was why would anyone want to outsource this process, it’s so personal and so important. 

Then I realized that these consultants can be hired to completely outsource the process and provide you with a list of names but they can also be there to help people navigate some really challenging conversations. 

  • For example, think about parents that have migrated to a new country and want to be respectful of the local traditions and maybe even incorporate some of them. 
  • Or think about a couple from very different backgrounds, religions, families, cultures that get lost trying to figure out how to navigate some of those conversations. 

Those two scenarios, along with many others, are becoming more prevalent in our global world and will only continue. 

So if you’re looking for a new career path, here you go. You’re welcome. 

Professional researchers

Did you know there are people that study names for a living? How cool is that? 

Names play such a vital role in our world and we now have such a rich dataset to analyze, there is now an entire field dedicated to it.

An onomastician is a scholar or researcher who specializes in the study of names. The field of onomastics focuses on the origins, meanings, usage, and cultural significance of names, including personal names (given names and surnames) as well as place names. 

Onomasticians employ various methods, including historical research, linguistic analysis, and cultural studies, to investigate the naming practices of different cultures and societies.

The work of an onomastician involves collecting and analyzing name data, studying naming patterns and trends, and interpreting the social, historical, and cultural contexts in which names are used. 

They may study the etymology of names, tracing their linguistic roots and historical development. Onomasticians also explore naming customs and conventions across different cultures, examining factors such as naming traditions, religious influences, and social dynamics.

Onomasticians’ research and expertise can have practical applications in fields like anthropology, linguistics, history, sociology, and genealogy. 

They may contribute to the understanding of cultural identity, migration patterns, and social structures through the study of names. An easy example to refer to is naming streets. When a city is building new infrastructure, someone has to name those new streets. Who better to help than an onomastician?

Their work can also be valuable in areas such as onomastic research for toponymy (study of place names), legal name changes, and the analysis of naming trends in popular culture.

Here is a quote from onomastician John Algea on the subject:

“The study of place-names (toponymy) is closely allied to geography, history, and related disciplines. The study of personal names (anthroponymy) is related to genealogy, sociology, and anthropology. Another sub-discipline is literary onomastics, which examines the use of proper names in literature, and often focuses on the names of characters in fiction (characternyms). A primary requirement of onomastics is the clarification of certain basic terms relating to the concept proper name. In casual usage, proper names, proper nouns, and capitalized words are often taken to be the same thing. That assumption, however, can mislead, because the three expressions refer to three different things which partially overlap.”

(John Algeo, “Onomastics.” The Oxford Companion to the English Language, ed. by Tom McArthur. Oxford University Press, 1992)

Name shaming led to important bullying regulation

An often overlooked area of this industry are the people and organizations that help protect our children from bullying. 

Name calling is literally the first weapon our children learn to wield. And some of them become ninjas at an early age. It can be brutal and has had lasting effects on millions of people around the world. 

Thankfully we are at least trying to address it. Whether we’re doing that successfully is for another time and place but I’m glad to report that all 50 states have something in place. Whether it’s actual laws or model policies that schools and other institutions can use as guidelines to create their own rules. 

Bullying regulation in the United States has evolved over time, with a focus on addressing and preventing bullying in schools. Here is a summary of the key developments:

In the 1990s and early 2000s, several states introduced laws that required schools to adopt policies prohibiting bullying. However, these laws varied in their definitions and approaches.

The issue gained national attention in the early 2000s when several high-profile incidents of bullying and school violence occurred. This led to increased efforts to address the problem at the federal level.

  • Safe Schools Improvement Act: In 2010, the Safe Schools Improvement Act was introduced in Congress. Although it did not become law, it aimed to require schools to develop and implement comprehensive anti-bullying policies.
  • Federal Guidance: In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance to schools, urging them to take action against bullying and harassment under existing civil rights laws. It clarified that schools had a legal obligation to address bullying based on protected characteristics such as race, gender, and disability.
  • State Laws: Over the years, many states have passed legislation specifically targeting bullying in schools. These laws typically define bullying, establish reporting mechanisms, and require schools to develop prevention and intervention strategies. Some states have also implemented cyberbullying provisions to address online harassment.
  • The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): ESSA, signed into law in 2015, included provisions related to bullying prevention. It required states to include measures of school climate and safety, including bullying and harassment, in their accountability systems.
  • Role of Schools: Schools play a crucial role in addressing bullying. They are required to have anti-bullying policies and procedures in place, investigate reported incidents, and take appropriate disciplinary action. Schools may also provide education and prevention programs to create a positive and inclusive environment.
  • Ongoing Challenges: Despite the progress made, challenges remain. Bullying can be a complex issue, and effectively addressing it requires ongoing efforts from schools, parents, and communities. Cyberbullying, in particular, has emerged as a significant concern due to the prevalence of digital communication platforms.

It is important to note that bullying regulation can vary between states, and specific details and requirements may differ. Consulting the laws and regulations of individual states can provide more comprehensive information on bullying regulation in a particular jurisdiction.

So what are you to do with this information?

Well, I certainly have a new level of respect for the world of naming. It plays a very crucial role in society and I’m glad there are professionals researching it which helps us create change. 

And maybe I will have spawned a few new onomast careers. 

But I think most importantly, as we discuss in our article about how the internet has reshaped this entire process of choosing a name for our children, this can become an overwhelming task for some parents. 

So let’s remember to not judge someone if they decide to hire a baby name consultant, or don’t have a name for their baby picked out 4 months into their pregnancy or choose a gender-neutral name you don’t particularly like.

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