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Laura Wattenberg is the author of The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby, first published in 2005. If you recall, this is Swistle’s favourite baby naming book, which is a very high recommendation. The Baby Name Wizard is described as a “field guide to American baby names”, in that it doesn’t give definitions or histories of names, but provides lists of names by style, has a popularity graph, and also makes sibset suggestions.

The Baby Name Wizard website was started in 2004 – I guess to promote the book, and create a place where its readers could discuss names.

There is a weekly blog entry from Laura, where she discusses name trends and often does some interesting things with name data and statistics. For example, last month she looked at the name Cressida, and concluded that it already seemed dated, because of the SS sound in the middle, shared with Vanessa and Melissa. Earlier she examined which were the most American and most British names of 2012, noting that the British Alfie and Archie were cuter than the American Landon and Gavin, while American girls Harper and Addison were more androgynous than the British Imogen and Florence.

This seems like a good moment to mention that The Baby Name Wizard is very much about American name trends, and American perceptions of names. For example, she categorises Jenson (a fast-rising name in Britain thanks to Jenson Button), as a “semi-androgynous name”. Yep, Jenson is apparently half-ready to hand over to the girls. Or maybe all-ready to hand over to half of the girls? Or maybe just the Jen half of it is androgynous? (I confess to not really knowing what a semi-androgynous name is).

Another rather glaring example that I hope will suitably rile up my Australian readers is one of Laura’s early blog entries, where she very sensibly defended the celebrity baby name Apple, and pointed out that other celebrities had much sillier baby names … among them, Rachel Griffiths, who had chosen the name Banjo for her child. Pause for patriotic display of righteous indignation.

The entries on statistics are probably my favourites, but I also love her name myth examination and debunking, such as looking at the massive popularity of celebrity name Shirley in the 1930s, how Biblical names are in steep decline, where the name Bree came from, and how there aren’t really twins named Lemonjello and Orangejello.

The Baby Name Wizard is essential for anyone even slightly interested in name trends – and most of these are international trends. Learn about trends such as the “Biblical-sounding” names, the “raindrop names“, and the “huggable names“. But also listen to Laura’s sage baby naming advice not to be a slave to trends. This might sound slightly contradictory, but you have to identify trends in order to not follow them.

The Baby Name Wizard got a forum last year so you can ask questions about baby names, including taking part in baby name games and asking about character names. You will get helpful advice for your naming dilemmas, given with candour but not meanness. In my opinion, the forum was very much needed, as people were using the blog comments to ask for baby name help. (Some still haven’t got the memo).

There are other cool tools as well. The Name Voyager is an excellent popularity graph of names in the United States, which has been copied by England/Wales and New South Wales. There is also a Namipedia to look for more information on a particular name, and a Name Finder to help you find names that suit your requirements. I’ve had a go using this, and found it brings up quite a few names that didn’t fit my requirements.

For example, I asked it to exclude anything very unusual, and it suggested Lovely – a name which has never ranked in the US. It was also quite insistent about me using Hispanic boys’ names, for some reason. However, it did offer some good names too, although I felt that if it was up to the Name Finder, my next child’s name would be either Vorgell or Lorenzo. Lots of fun if you don’t take it too seriously.

You can also sign up and pay for the Expert Name Tools, which are reasonably priced. As these are based on American popularity rankings and perceptions, I really don’t think these are worth it for Australians, except for interest, or if you are doing name research (or moving to America).

The Baby Name Wizard and Nameberry are both websites set up by the authors of baby name books, and I’m guessing most name enthusiasts would belong to both sites, even if they prefer one over the other. It would be insulting to compare them, except to say that they are different enough that you can follow and enjoy both of them, and never feel that you are covering the same ground.

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