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Even though Im not yet pregnant, Im always on the lookout for a good baby name to add to my list. The idea that Im allowed to name another human being, let alone take care of one, is a lot of pressure.
When I consider a baby name, I take a few factors into account: how the first and middle names sound together (Emily Amelie is out), whether any horrible nicknames may spawn from the original (e.g. Seymour Butts) and how much judgment-filled side-eye other parents will likely give me and my husband. (At one point I really liked Lulu Bear, but my husband vetoed that one.) So, I was excited when I heard that the app could help me with some of the legwork in this terrifying process.
Billed as a Tinder-like baby name app, babyname is pretty simple. You and your partner both install the app on your phones, swipe left on names you dont like, swipe right on names that have potential and get alerts when you match on a name.
Because you both use the app independently, it stops you from swaying each others picks (in case one of you is more outspoken – and I am). Ideally, you end up with a list of boy and girl baby names that you both truly like.
I had pretty high hopes for the whole process. By the time Tinder came out, I had been in a relationship with my husband for six years, so I missed out on the satisfaction of making a snap judgment with a single swipe.
After giving the app a try, I have to say that its pretty fun to use and might even reveal a few names that you never knew were on the table. My husband and I matched on 21 names, and we had only a handful of possible options before this. But it took a lot of swiping to find those matches, in part because the name selection is not what I expected.
I thought the app would have a lot of the names that you might find on those yearly top 100 baby names lists. I did swipe through a few popular names like Olivia, Sophia and Liam (all top baby names of 2021), but they were mixed with a good portion of names that I hadn’t anticipated. To give you an example: While writing this, I just swiped left on Theodorus and Folkert.
Folkert: That’s not one you hear every day. Yes, it’s a real name, but it’s not going to be on any top 100 – or even top 1,000 – baby name lists in the near future. And that includes my list.
Most parents-to-be will probably find that the app is trying to cover too much ground when it comes to name options. If youre not looking for a totally unique name (and of course, there’s nothing wrong if you are), youre probably going to swipe left on a lot of Folkerts and Theodoruses (Theodori?) before you find your matches.
One good thing about the app is that it provides the names meaning and country of origin, so you can learn a bit more about each option. For example, Folkert is a German baby name and means “strong, brave people.” That extra info might be enough to help you to take the plunge on a more unusual or old-fashioned name, especially if you’re worried that your kid’s name could make him a target for teasing in the future.
I Tried the Tinder of Baby Name Apps and It Was Not What I Expected
babyname’s solution to its own e options is to offer five different filters (celebrity, alphabetical, hipster, nationality and famous athletes) for $0.99 each. You can also buy all five at once for $2.99. (I bought them all.) Unfortunately, this feature that promises to aid you in your massive baby name search turns out to be babyname’s biggest pitfall.
The celebrity filter brought up names of various celebrities. (For some reason, I was expecting names of celebrity kids, like Apple or Jaden, but thats not what this filter does.) With each name, you get a short sentence about a famous celebrity with that name.
A lot of the name-to-celebrity matches are not what you would expect. When you hear the name “Lena,” do you think Lena Dunham or Lena Meyer-Landrut, the German singer? I don’t even know who the latter is.
And, occasionally, that short sentence about the celebrity leaves a lot to be desired in the writing department. The description for Kanye said, “Kanye Oerican rapper, songwriter, record producer and fashion designer. And is THE shit.” What? The one for Jennifer Lopez ended in “And is super hot.”
I have doubts these descriptions were even read over a second time based on a few of the typos Ive seen in other parts of the app. If you want a laugh, install the app and pay $0.99 for the celebrity filter. My husband cracked up for a full minute over the apps description of Shia LaBeouf as “an American actor and director who is a lot of fun!”
The other four filters had problems of their own. The alphabetical and nationality filters only let you choose one first letter or one nationality at a time, which narrowed the search too much for me but might be helpful if youre absolutely set on a first letter or a country of origin.
I cant even guess how the app creators chose baby names for the hipster category. Some of the options were Savannah, Kira, Simon, Charles and Maria. (Raise your hand if you’re not sure what makes those particular names more hipster than others.)
And if you wanted to name your baby after a famous athlete, then you probably already have one or two athletes in mind and won’t find the app selection that helpful.
If you’re seriously looking for your babys name, this app probably isnt the solution you might hope it will be, but it might provide a dozen or so “matches” that you and your partner hadnt thought of, and its definitely good for an hour or two of mindless entertainment. Ive already swiped through a few hundred names while watching Netflix.
Just stick with the free offerings (unless youre looking for every baby name that starts with “V” or really want to read those bizarre celebrity descriptions) and dont expect much beyond a few laughs.
Before using the app, my husband and I were stuck on five particular first names, so babyname provided about 15 other possibilities. Once we actually do get pregnant, I think well probably choose one of the five, but at least we now have a few more choices for a middle name.