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Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's in a Name?, 11 July 2013
This review is from: An A-Z of Baby Names (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This paperback is exactly what its title suggests. It's a handy resource to help you when searching for a name for your baby. It contains over 2500 names, with etymology and cross-references to related names.

It begins with some friendly guidance on choosing a name that will work well for your child, and will not mark it out as an oddity. To illustrate this, it refers to various bizarre celebrity names, such as those of Frank Zappa's children, Dweezil and Moon Unit (though neither name is listed in the book). It also considers religious and royal names, novelties, trendy names, nicknames, and surnames as forenames. The bulk of the book is a simple A-Z of names, giving simple descriptions of origins, famous connections, and reasons for the rise and fall in popularity of names.

It focuses on popular and common names, so omits oddities such as the aforementioned Dweezil and Moon Unit. I think this decision works well, as almost any word could be used as a name, and most readers probably aren't considering calling their offspring CHIMNEYPOT or IVEGOTALOVELYBUNCHOFCOCONUTS.

One thing that might be useful, but which isn't in the book, is some mention of possible nicknames, insults and jokes that could be attached to a name. Being a Stephen myself, I know all the nicknames that go with it - all of which are okay with me. However, while calling a firstborn son Gaylord may be a family tradition, it may expose the child to a lifetime of embarrassment and name-calling. I recall terrible memories of a school friend who suffered with the forename Beowulf...

Forename-surname combinations are also not mentioned. For example, if your surname is STILL, calling your child STAN is probably not a good idea. However, the book tactfully steers clear of comedy, and concentrates on the serious business of finding suitable forenames.
The back of the book is given over to more helpful advice, such as how to go about inventing a name. It also lists unisex, religious, country-specific, culture-specific, themed names, and so on, and ends with lists of the top ten names in various countries in 2011.

It is an excellent book, but is let down in a couple of places that are easy to spot. For example, it omits Stephen from the list of religious names, even though Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr. It does, however, mention this history in the A-Z entry for the name. To take another common name, the origins of Julie are not easy to identify. It is evidently a French form of Julia, but the entry for Julia does not mention Julie at all. Julie was in use in eighteenth century France.
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