Saturday, October 1, 2011

Critiquing Popular Baby Name Blogs & Sites

The ideal baby name website would have polls, the option to make a list of first and middle name combos that people can vote on, the option to save names I like to a separate list, forums where I can talk about names, popularity charts with information from every year since 1880 (or whenever, it's really time-consuming to make these) even if that name has never been in the top 1000, and the number of births for every name, even if there were only 5, and the widest variety of names with accurate meanings and pronunciations. I'm sure others would add famous namesakes to this list, but I'd just like to know of any bad associations.

Also, the very first site you go to when trying to pick a name should be the Social Security Administration to check if that name ranks in popularity. You could also check for an idea of how many people in the U.S. share your first and last name combo. You'll find other credible sources on the right side of this site. It is best to check multiple sites to find the meaning of a name because sometimes the first thing that pops up in an online search is a "fake" site looking for money through ads. Many other so-called baby name sites don't pay much attention to etymology and just grab the first random meaning they see.

This "critique" does not apply to any portion of a website that does not pertain to baby names.

1. Nameberry
A great place to talk with other name-nerds and expectant moms on the Nameberry message boards, but the website itself doesn't usually tell you how to pronounce names. Some names don't have meanings or origins either. That said, getting advice from the multitude of helpful users is priceless. They will give you ideas, critique your lists, and help you with any naming problems. They also have great blog posts. Although some names are missing from their database, a few threads on the message boards point out what's missing.

2. Think Baby Names
When writing a post, this is usually where I start. Their information is 98% accurate, they have a large selection of names to browse through, rarely don't have a name I'm looking for (unlike other sites), and they have a popularity chart for top 1000 names. However, there are no polls, message boards or other name related stuff.

3. Nancy's Baby Names
This site is written much like a newspaper, with articles and snippets of information and stories from history both past and present that you will not find elsewhere. However, I like to visit Nancy's A-Z list of how many babies were born in each year with each specific name, as it is a quick and easy way to get that info without going to the SSA's site and downloading their extended lists. Baby naming advice is now offered.

4. Appellation Mountain
This site has unique information about baby names and very detailed, accurate individual posts on names. Offered here are names from all categories, stories, and articles in a name-per-day format, and they are typically reader-requested.

5. Bewitching Names
One of my favorite blogs, Bewitching Names is a combination of baby names and Pagan/Neo-Pagan/Wiccan naming info. She offers a lot of rare names and personal insight, with a few themes here and there, such as Harry Potter names and Astrological sign-specific names.

I used to love this site. I thought it had so many names I never encountered before, and if anyone chooses to put a picture of their baby on the website, everyone can see that child under the specific name. However, I soon found that some of the name meanings were inaccurate and they don't have all of the information I'd like to know. So I began to only use it for the option to create a list of first and middle names (together, unlike Behind the Name where you can only list individual names) that other people can vote on. IF you give them the link directly. Otherwise, you have to pay for a membership, and I'm sorry but it's really not worth it. You also have to subscribe (pay for a membership) in order to use most of the features on their message boards. I know they have a lot of other stuff on their site, though, like a due date calculator and celebrity baby name announcements. My favorite feature is their list of the top 50 most popular cat names. But seriously, $28 a year for the same service I can get on Nameberry? Please.

7. Behind the Name
I was drawn to this site for their polls. You can only make up to 5 polls per 24 hour period, so make them count. But it is so much fun! Besides voting and getting votes, this site is also known for their excellent name etymologies (the meaning and origin of a name). Yes, there are a few legit names missing from their database, but they have quite a selection of names to browse through with accurate meanings. However, their message boards are much harder to deal with than the Nameberry forums. And you can compile a list of names for other people to vote on, but you can't pair first and middle names you're interested in. Worth noting is the country specific popularity charts, and the fact that this site probably has more foreign names than any other (or at least the easiest to browse).

8. Baby Name Genie
Visit this site for a little humor and to vote on names other people are considering. There is a baby name generator that will give you ideas based on your last name and the baby's gender, then there is another generator for middle names, and another for first names. I love that it lists the full name with middle initial and all three initials. And a feature original to this website is the "Baby Name Test Drive" which shows you how the name you are considering will look in the real world. I must say this one is awesome. Then there is a community with message boards that I haven't tried out yet.

9. Parent's Connect
Here you will find accurate meanings and interesting information from people who took surveys about their own name in order to help people thinking about using that name. Includes a popularity chart if the name has ever been in the top 1000, and name nerds will appreciate that it goes all the way back to 1880 when applicable. However, the video advertisements that play can be very annoying. Go ahead - advertise on your site. I do. But for goodness sake please don't let the ads have volume.

10. Baby Name Wizard
This site focuses primarily on American trends. Explore popularity changes and potential sibling names, although I really never like their suggestions for sibling names. Unfortunately, one of the worst aspects of this site is that anyone with an account can add information, kind of like Wikipedia, so you don't know how accurate some information is. It's insightful when reading about how someone chose their baby's name, but not when they can add whatever meaning they invent. The "name finder" tool is particularly useful. Some of you probably own Laura Wattenberg's book, The Baby Name Wizard, and it is a very good book, but alas misses quite a few names. As for her blog, there is some interesting stuff there, with lots of celebrity baby names. I believe you can also pay for the popularity chart exploration.

11. Waltzing More Than Matilda
This blog features celebrity baby news (which is always useful because even if you don't care about celebrities and their naming trends, you may want to know what they're up to so you can avoid copying a celebrity baby name). There is other news/articles and baby name related information as well. Keep in mind this blog is Australian.

12. Nook of Names
The author of this blog now has a book out: Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names, and it is a great read. The book and blog are geared towards Pagans and those of alternative religions, and, as she puts it "independent thinkers of all sorts." Both book and blog are so well researched and informative. If you are not yet overwhelmed by the trillions of names to search for online, or have exhausted all your online possibilities, buy the book. I own it and have picked it up over a hundred times. It covers tame choices like Robin, moderately adventurous choices like Charm, very bold choices like Gossamer, and forgotten historical choices like Nicander or Petrosinella. *Update: unfortunately the author has passed away. Her blog is still available to read for now, and in the future there should be an archived version.

13. Names From the Dustbin (abandoned?)
Another site with no-so-wearable names from times past, but there is great advice here and there and some interesting articles. I expect to see some gems on here at some point. There is already one: Euphemia.

14. Mer de Noms
Click on the "Data" link for great popularity tables, that I believe no one else has. (It's always great when a website or blog features something you can only get there.) Click on the link "Get Started" to see some posts original to the blog. There are also articles on pop culture, naming and sibsets. Keep in mind the writer is not in the U.S. and she covers naming popularity from England and Wales. That said, there is even useful info for those in the U.S.

15. Marginamia
This blog features names picked from unexpected places, such as websites, blogs, designers and shops. There are also random "name consultation" posts.

16. For Real Names
I love that by browsing this blog you can see if anyone has used the first and middle name pairing that you're considering for your own baby. This blog only posts the names of actual babies born, and will tell you where those names are coming from.

17. Nymbler
This is where you can go if you're starting at the beginning, have a few names you like, and would like to find more that are similar in order to build a longer list of names to choose from. It gives you a lot more options for similar names (to build your list or for potential siblings) than The Baby Name Wizard.

18. Baby Namer
And here's one I stay away from because it's a little bit like Wikipedia, you never know if the information is accurate. It is not up-to-date information (a 1990 census isn't cutting it for 2011),  and you have to hunt down any interesting facts, if there are any. For more popular names, the meanings are often sloppy versions. For example, for Joan they have "God's grace" instead of "God is gracious" and they list Ivanka as a variant, even though Ivanka is a direct variant of Jane, and they neglect to inform you that Joan is the female variant of John. They also miss quite a few names.

20. Baby Zone
Don't expect too much here when it comes to names, as there isn't any in-depth information, unless you really hunt down the good stuff, like the Nameberry posts (that you could just get on Nameberry). Some name info is lumped together (like Bettina with the nickname Liz). Some origins and most meanings fail to appear. Sloppy.

21. Baby Center
Stick with, since most of this website is confusing, and the pop-up ads are annoying. There are options for polls and name lists, but Behind the Name and already have you covered. No pronunciation help.

22. Swistle Baby Names
This blog is mainly for name consultations - people asking advice on what to name their baby. There is a wait list, but check it out anyways if you're in desperate need of naming advice...maybe someone else already asked the same question.

23. Babynology
Advertisement hell. Go here if you're hunting down categories like Kenyan, Gothic and Zoroastrian, and don't expect meanings. Also, PLEASE STOP LEAVING AD-COMMENTS ON MY BLOG.

24. 20,000 Names
One of the oldest sites for baby names, this one has so many you'll need a few days. They have great lists like "rain" names, names that mean "light," etc. They also have a multitude of countries to browse for names and categories you won't find elsewhere, such as "dragon names" and "shadow names." When applicable there is a quote from any literary reference, which is much better than just saying the name was used here or there. However, always double check etymology, even on this site.

Want to remain anonymous when asking for name advice? Try Yahoo Answers.
Need pronunciations? Check Forvo.
If there are any country-specific blogs or websites you think people should know about, please leave it in the comments and it will be much appreciated. If you have your own baby name blog, you can leave that link in the comments too for people to visit.

*Last updated June 2017

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