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Unusual baby names: Burden or blessing?

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Step aside Noah, mama's got unusual taste in names. We love unusual names — we'd have very little to write about if everyone liked the same hundred — but we recommend giving careful consideration before making the moniker permanent. Have we thought of an up- or downside to unusual names that you missed?

It depends on what you mean by unusual

A baby name may be unusual for any number of reasons. Let's have a rundown to help you see where your quirky name choice falls. Common name, unusual spelling. Many names have multiple common spellings, like Aiden or Aidan, Sophia or Sofia. That's not what we're looking at here. Think Aydyn or Sophya.

Non-name names. Apple. Blue. The last decade has seen a surge in noun and adjective baby names.

Unusual for its generation. These names — Ethel, Humphrey — were common once but have since fallen out of fashion.

Truly made-up names. Maybe you've decided to create a mashup from both grandmothers' names or made an anagram from several initials. Chances are slim anyone else will have this name in your baby's lifetime — these names are truly unusual.

Names that swap gender. Americans have been big fans of unisex names for decades, and we see more boy names go "girl" every year, but some baby names are truly surprising when given to a child of the opposite gender.

So how unusual is too unusual?

Generally, unusual baby names falling into any one of the categories above will be just fine. After all, those Aidens and Sofias will be dealing with misspellings their entire lives, and those names fall in the top 20! Plenty of common baby names have homophones — Hayes vs. Haze — that give a completely different impression than the parents may have intended. In fact, very few names come without baggage. If the name you love sticks to being one sort of unusual, we call it a blessing all the way.

However, when a name carries an uncommon spelling and another unusual trait, things get tricky. Rainbow feels quirky in a pleasing way, but Rainbeau requires a second level of explanation. While this is not a hard and fast rule, the more layers of unusual you heap on, the heavier the scale weighs toward burden.

Would I want this name myself?

The final test of any baby name, unusual or not, is imagining carrying the name for yourself. Would it be cumbersome or embarrassing to explain it to others? Would you tire of spelling it out, or could it be cleared up quickly?

An unusual baby name will give your child an entire identity from day one. Some children will embrace it, while others might look longingly at gift shop keychains and wish their names were there. We recommend pairing uncommon first names with simple middle monikers if you want a safety net.

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