What’s in a name? A lot, according to Mama. It gives you a good start in life, tells the world who your people are, and offers advance thanks to well-heeled grandparents who might pay for college and buy all those place settings down the line. Your child’s name matters, and you only get one chance to get it right. Baby Girl and Baby Boy will always have the option of overruling you through legal action (if they actually think they can get away with that, bless their hearts), but you only get one chance.
Mama has some personal favorites among baby names, which she’s happy to share, but she also respects your right to freestyle. Should you choose that dicey option, keep in mind Mama’s general rules of thumb:
1. You can’t go wrong with family, particularly loved ones with cash for the college fund and the bridal teas.
This simple rule is the birthplace of the Southern double (sometimes triple and quadruple) name because it allows Mama to bestow her maiden name, her mother’s name, her great-grandmother’s name, etc., on her offspring. Whether or not to hyphenate is entirely your choice: Jane Riley, Eleanor Rose, Ann-Morgan. Let’s back up to Ann. Together with Jean, Jane, Mary, and Lee, it offers the Mama lode of double names: Mary Ann, Martha Ann, Sarah Ann, Sarah Jane, Sarah Jean, Jean Ann, Jane Ann, Lee Ann, Mary Lee, Martha Lee, Sarah Lee (wait—that one might be taken).
2. Mama says this with great reverence: You can always turn to the Good Book.
Mama loves Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Sarah, Elizabeth, Rachel, Leah, Peter, Paul, David, and Joseph. Always choose from The Faithful, and you’ll be fine; never tempt Providence by going with something like Absalom or Jezebel. Even Biblical concepts can make wonderful names—Grace, Hope, Faith (Mama thinks Faith Hill is perfectly lovely, by the way).
Related: Happy Halloween-Inspired Baby Names
3. In general—and Mama says this with some degree of trepidation, as it is SO easy to go off the beam here—you can name Baby Girl after flowers but not fruits and vegetables.
Rose, Lily, or Violet could easily chair the Junior League’s annual benefit. Peach, Pear, or Better Boy? Not so much. That said, if you’re going for a garden-themed child, choose wisely. Best to keep it to the short list of traditionally accepted blooms. Nobody wants to go through life named Gardenia Amaryllis.
4. Finally—and this is Mama’s most sternly delivered rule of all—NO MORE “HIPPIE NAMES” FOR SOUTHERN CHILDREN!
Now, if you happen to HAVE a hippie name yourself, Mama completely understands. It’s not your fault, bless your heart. Just add “Kathleen” or “Robert” to it, and you’ll get through life just fine. But now it’s up to you to put an end to all those unfortunate names created by tie-dying youngsters who had perhaps listened to a little too much of that Woodstock folderol before they gave birth. Let us all bid farewell to Air, Cloud, Dew, Hummingbird, Whippoorwill, and Lilypad.
Need a little more specific guidance? Not to worry. Herewith, Mama’s all-time favorite baby names:
Girls: Elizabeth, Margaret, Vivian, Evelyn, Amanda, Eleanor, Amelia, Kate, Caroline, Rebecca, *Milly
Boys: Jack, John, Luke, Thomas, James, Robert, David, Andrew, Edward, Joseph (Joe is such a nice nickname), *Shane
*Mama watched a lot of Westerns growing up, so there’s just a touch of Tex in her list of faves.