"The Complete Idiot’s Guide to 30,000 Baby Names," by Marcia Layton Turner and Robbi Hess

Pros: Names taken from all sorts of creative places; a wide array of names to suit every taste; will give you ideas in case you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for in here
Cons: Some names I can’t imagine giving a child–gets downright silly in places; at least one missing piece of text
Rating: 4 out of 5

Review first published 5/23/2006
Review copy courtesy of Alpha Books.

Seeing as I don’t have any children, am certainly not pregnant, and am not planning to have children any time soon, you might wonder why on earth I’m reviewing a book on baby names. Well, it’s because baby name resources can be very handy for roleplayers and writers as well as for expectant parents.

This is a very focused book, containing baby names and nothing but baby names. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ve seriously come to the right place. It has a couple of aspects to it that I really love and that put it head and shoulders above the other naming books I’ve looked at. For one, it doesn’t just take names from cultures–it has lists of names of celebrities, sports heroes, award-winners of various types, and so on. It provides a much wider array of lists to keep you interested and give you something to think about when naming your child. You could name your child after a Nobel Prize winner, an Olympic gymnast, the CEO of a famous company, an opera singer, an activist, or a mythological figure.

The one negative here is that some of these lists seem rather short and arbitrary (lists of actors and actresses, for example, seem to pick a rather arbitrary small subset of the possibilities), however, simply by pointing out the types of names you might look at the book gives you a place to start looking for more if you don’t quite like the specific options it presents.

I like the fact that last names are included in some of these lists, which isn’t the case with any other baby name resource I’ve found. You can use these last names as middle names, or, if you’re a writer or roleplayer looking for inspiration, you can mix-and-match first and last names that you like.

All in all I think this is the most fun, interesting, and useful naming book I’ve seen so far. However, it does have a couple of problems. In one section the book promises to include a list of “no-nos”–names you should avoid giving your child–yet I couldn’t find this section at all. Some of the sources get pretty silly, such as superhero secret identity names and brand names–I just can’t imagine naming my kid after yogurt, thanks. And a few suggestions would get your child into so many fights at school that I can’t even believe the authors included them (Uranus as a boy’s name, anyone? *Shudder*).

The Verdict

For Parents: I think this would be an awesome way to avoid simply picking the same name as every other parent, and it’s a neat idea to pick a name that might have some meaning to you, such as a famous inventor or scientist. Just exercise a little restraint and maybe run your ideas past your neighbor’s 10-year-old to make sure he doesn’t start laughing too quickly or find an obvious crude joke in the name.

For Writers: Finally, a naming book that includes some last names, and more than just culturally-based possibilities! This one is definitely going onto my resource shelf.

For Roleplayers: What a fantastic way to find a name that might have meaning for your character. Buying a book is a bit more than most roleplayers want to invest in, but if you’re also a writer or are a GM trying to come up with a zillion NPC names, this is a great resource.

Posted in Reviews, Writing

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