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girl-on-a-swing.jpg!BlogAre you looking for a baby name that is a bit different to the rest, but not outrageously so? That’s uncommon, yet not odd or obscure; stylish, but unpretentious; and that stands out from the crowd for all the right reasons? Many parents seek out the golden mean in baby naming, and a good place to start is the beautifully presented Upswing Baby Names, which shows you the practical steps to finding the perfect baby name.

What is your name?

Angela Dawn Mastrodonato

Your blog focuses on finding names “on the upswing” – less common, but rising in popularity. But your own name was at its peak when you were born, so how does that make you feel about it?

I remember when I was a kid feeling glad I wasn’t yet another Jennifer, but also that my name was a bit boring. I used to wish my parents had gone with the other name on their list, Alana. My parents knew Jennifer and Amy were popular (Amy was nixed for that reason), but had no idea Angela was not far behind. I’m not sure knowing that would have made a difference – my parents didn’t want a name as popular as Jennifer, but other than that, they didn’t care.

Have you ever wished you had a different name?

Absolutely! I love imagining different names on myself; one day I’m Alana, the next I’m Gabrielle, the next I’m Felicity.

Would you ever consider legally changing your name?

I would never go to the trouble. My name may not be interesting, but it’s me; I would have a hard time remembering to answer to something else. And the upside of having a common name is that I’ve never had to explain it. I do appreciate my parents unimaginative choice for that reason.

How did your interest in names begin?

I always had a passing interest in names – like most girls, I picked different names for my dolls and imagined my future kids’ names. However, I didn’t become really passionate about names until I named my oldest child, and discovered my daughter’s name wasn’t as uncommon as I thought. After believing I had picked a unique name for her, I started hearing it everywhere. I feared her name would become as popular as Ava, a name I didn’t even realise was in the Top 5 until I had kids.

What inspired you to start a name blog?

The realisation that I couldn’t have ten kids just so I could name them! I had the idea for about two years before I finally had the guts to do it, and then decided on a “different but not too different” angle for my blog. The name, Upswing Baby Names, evolved from that.

Your blog looks very polished and professional – do you have any previous experience?

Thank you! I took web design classes a few years ago, and used to work as an online programme manager. But I didn’t have any experience with WordPress until I created Upswing Baby Names. After hemming and hawing, I took the plunge and purchased a premium WordPress theme; I have never regretted it.

Do you have a favourite blog entry on Upswing Baby Names?

My favourite is Warning: Your Baby’s Name Could Become #1.

Any other ways of staying in touch with Upswing Baby Names?

Twitter and Facebook.

Do you have a pet naming peeve?

I get frustrated by parents who prioritise style over function, such as calling their kid by their middle name just because it flows better.

I also get frustrated by these extremes:

  • Parents who know they are giving their kid a truly problematic name, but don’t care because they love it
  • Parents who second-guess every name on their list, find teasing potential in every name, and need reassurance from every friend and family member before picking a name.

What are your favourite names?

Girls: Cecily, Opal, Ione, Felicity, Cordelia, Verity.

Boys: Hugh, Thaddeus, Roscoe, Linus, Stuart, Ferdinand.

What names do you dislike?

If it hadn’t become so over-used, I would probably like Madison, but I can’t bring myself to like Addison. The M makes a difference.

I fail to see the appeal of Keegan, which is very popular in my New England small town. Brayden also doesn’t appeal to me.

Are there any names you love, but could never use?

Thaddeus and Ferdinand are problematic with my surname. For a real off-the-wall guilty pleasure, I kind of like Serendipity, but acknowledge it has practical problems – it’s five syllables, and doesn’t have many obvious nicknames.

What is your favourite name in the US Top 100?

Girl: Naomi (#93)

Boy: Adrian (#56)

What is your favourite name which has never been on the US Top 1000?

Girl: Oona

Boy: Fritz (it hasn’t been in the Top 1000 since 1970, and never reached the Top 350).

What are your children’s names?

Fiona Dawn and Paul Robert.

If you were pregnant right now, what names would you be considering using?

For a girl, I might bring up Nora, which was one of the names on our list if our second child had been a girl. My husband nixed it, but I think he could eventually come around. He also nixed Cecily, and I might see if he would agree to Celia instead.

A boy might be a little harder. I’ve always liked Leo, but didn’t like it with our surname, but now I sort of like Leo Mastrodonato.

For middle names, I would like to use one of my maternal grandparents names: Marshall and Winifred.

What things do you and your husband disagree about when it comes to choosing baby names?

I wanted names for our kids that I had never seen on anyone else, and I suspect he needed to know someone with the name before he could feel comfortable using it (he knew a Fiona growing up). While I could never bring myself to use a Top 10 name, I think he would have preferred that.

What is something we don’t know about you?

I love experimenting in the kitchen. Sometimes my experiments are flops (black bean brownies didn’t go over well); sometimes the results are mixed (I loved the garbanzo bean [chickpea] chocolate chip cookies, but my husband didn’t); and sometimes they are hits (we’ll make coffee jello again and again).

What advice would you give to someone choosing a baby name?

  • Say the first name and last name together
  • Say the first, middle and last name together
  • Write the first and last name together
  • Write the first, middle and last name together
  • Write down the initials
  • Call out the first name, and any nicknames
  • Call out the first and last names
  • Call out the first and middle names
  • Call out all three names

By doing this, most parents will spot any practical problems.

What’s the best way for parents to choose a name which has that elusive quality of being different, but not too different?

I think I just have a sixth sense for it, which is one reason why I started Upswing Baby Names. One thing I’ve noticed is that names which are scorned by the general public, but have some stylish qualities, will suddenly become celebrated by the general public in the space of 5-10 years.

I started suggesting Dexter in name forums around 2008, and the general response was that the name was “too geeky”. Now it is one of the fastest-rising names in the US (it was #384 in 2011).

I would encourage parents who really like a name, but are hesitant because their family and friends don’t “get it”, is to use the name they really love. You never know when you might be on to the next big name.

(Picture shows Girl on a Swing by Homer Winslow, 1897)