What do you do when you want to name your child Olivia but it's the second most popular name in Canada for girls? You name your child Aliviyah instead. Or try Leeam, Liaam, Liahm or Liamm instead of Liam, the number one boys name. Anything unique to set your child apart. But a study suggests this trend could have a negative effect on kids.
Generally, baby name trends follow big cultural happenings. The names Arya and Tyrian rose in popularity when Game of Thrones debuted. This year, Star Wars is set to inspire some new parents. But a curious trend that's been gaining steam is the intentional misspelling of "common" names.
A study released by the San Diego State University in 2009 posits that the rationale behind the head-scratching creations is the parents' desire to enshrine their child's uniqueness in a name.
"This huge change in how parents name their babies is a particularly vivid illustration of the shift toward valuing uniqueness in American society," Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at the university and co-author of the study said.
According to Twenge, where parents used to want their children to fit it, now they want them to stand out.
"Unique names may have some benefits such as creating a more individual identity, but they run the risk of promoting separateness, which is linked to narcissism," W. Keith Campbell who co-authored this study and the book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement with Twenge.
There might be other long-lasting effects. Children with 'misspelled' names can have difficulties with spelling and reading David Figlio, a researcher at Northwestern University in Illinois, told Live Science.
"You have the child named Jennifer spelled with a 'G,' her teacher says 'Are you sure your name is spelled that way?' That can be incredibly hard on a person's confidence," Figlio said.
According to a Bounty.com study, which interviewed about 3,000 parents, one in five regretted choosing the name that they did for their kids, mainly wishing they had chosen names that were easier to spell.
And then there's the whole irritation factor. According to a recent Reddit thread on the worst baby names, these misspellings cause serious annoyance.
It's important to note that the annoyance at the trend in question is not referring to ethnic names or ethnic variations of spelling, such as Kristofer/Christopher, which of course is to be celebrated.
Unique names, in that they're actually unique and not misspellings can actually benefit children. They can serve as markers of cultural identity. Or they can be an extension of a larger parenting strategy of celebrating uniqueness, Twenge said.
But when parents purposely invent a new spelling of a name, people can get pretty vocal about it. In the New York Times, one blogger wrote: "Misspelling a child’s name won’t make Junior special, creative or unique. Y’s and I’s are not interchangeable, and apostrophes are not some sort of newfangled confetti to be sprinkled liberally throughout groups of letters."
In a comment thread about baby names on Mommyish, one reader said: "Letters are not squiggly things bereft of meaning. If you want a name that uses an A sound, USE THE LETTER A."
Someone even started a poll on people's thoughts about intentional misspellings of baby names. The majority felt this trend is "shortsighted. The child will face a lifetime of corrections and possibly ridicule."
But at the end of the day Steven, Stephen, Steavan and Steephan may look different but they still sounds the same -- so why bother?