What's In A (Baby's) Name?

Anyone who's been around kids lately knows there are far fewer Johns and Karens, and a lot more Jacobs and Kaitlyns.

More parents are putting lots of effort into selecting "perfect" names for their offspring, names they feel are distinctive, but not silly.

Why the obsession, and do names really matter?

Bruce Lansky, author of "The New Baby Name Survey Book," discussed it all on The Early Show Monday with co-anchor Harry Smith.

Lansky says almost every new parent has some anxiety over what to name his or her bundle of joy, but the pressure to give their child the "right name" has some overly worried: Will the name remind others of someone else? Will the name ruin the child's school years, riddling him or her with nicknames? How will the name shape the child's future? Is there too much attention on the child's name in the first place?

Lansky says names can convey an image or, in his words, branding for a child; they convey an impression.

"I don't know why it's more important now than before, but let me tell you what's feeding into the anxiety, or frenzy," Lansky remarked to Smith. "Parents (want) the best for their kids, and they wanna do their best by their kids. Now, anything they can do that moves their kids ahead, like a good education, is good. A good name can be like a good education, because it makes a quick, positive impression. And puts their kid ahead."

What about the concept of branding?

"If you name your kid Brittany," Lansky responded, "your child will be — people will think of Britney Spears. Right now that's not a good thing. If you name your child Paris, same thing, they'll think of the city, but they'll think of Paris Hilton, not a good thing right now. So, every name has an association. Tiffany, we think of that wonderful jewelry store that has a classy ring to it. So ... by picking a name, you're associating your child with something known. That's the branding idea."

He told Smith "Harry" is a "very cool, hip" name at the moment. "It brings to mind Harry Potter." But not long ago, Harry was associated with old fogies.

"Interestingly," Lansky pointed out, "if you were applying for college right now, Harry would have a very positive ring to it. But, think about these names: You're a college admission officer and you get a resume from somebody named Darrell, Bud, Elmer, Cletus. No sale!"

Does Lansky buy into it?

"Here's what I believe," he replied. "It gives you a head start. A name like Franklin or Harry says, 'This guy might really be a smart guy.' A name like Darrell says, 'He's in trouble.' "

The book lists a wide variety of first impressions, and names Lansky says now convey them.

To watch the segment,


To see an excerpt of "The New Baby Name Survey Book," click here.


Which "real" name belongs to these celebrities?

___ Calvin Cordozar Broadus
___ Stephen Georgiou
___ Virginia McMath
___ Margaret Geertruide Zelle
___ Anne Frances Robbins
___ Chloe Anthony Wofford

a. Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam)
b. Mata Hari
c. Nancy Reagan
d. Snoop Dogg
e. Toni Morrison
f. Ginger Rogers

(Answers: d, a, f, b, c, e)