Naming a child is an example of the principal-agent problem: the parents pick the name, but the child bears it.
A key discrepancy is between:
- personal meaning (to parents)
- personal meaning (to child)
- social meaning (to others)
A rule of thumb is to choose a name that is just a name:
- not laden with meaning or strong associations;
- not so unusual as to draw attention to itself;
- not so common as to be generic.
Simply a pleasant and practical label that does not prejudice others.
One should neither overstate nor understate the importance of a name: even the worst, most offensive name needn’t curse its bearer (“Loser” went by “Lou”), nor does the choicest ensure success and happiness, but conversely, it is an integral part of one’s public identity, and warrants care in its choice.
People can and do change their names, both what they go by and their legal name, so naming needn’t be forever, but this is rare, and the vast majority of people in English-speaking countries go by some variant of the name they were given as a child.
- Steven D. Levitt; Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. pp. 180.