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10.14.08

10 Ways to Avoid Hipster Baby Names

How Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck bucked the current crop of clichés.

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck should give lessons on how not to give a baby a hipster name.  Their newborn daughter is Seraphina Rose Elizabeth, a name that's truly unusual (it's never been in the U.S. Top 1000), ultra-feminine, sensual as well as spiritual, familiar and yet exotic, and all-around trying way too hard to make it in the land of hipster parents.

Hipster mommies and cool dads, who claim to have a horror of conformity and a thirst for quirky individualism, nevertheless all seem to choose the same baby names.  Why do parents who are making such efforts to move ahead of the crowd end up simply jumping off a groovier bridge?

Maybe it's because the only thing a hipster hates more than being seen as a hipster is not being seen as a hipster.  So hipster parents know enough to bypass the too-popular Avas and Aidens favored by the great style unwashed, or middle names like Rose and Elizabeth, as standard issue as the plastic bracelet they clamp around your wrist in the hospital.  But they're afraid to venture into uncharted territory in search of names that might turn out to be uncool in some other even-more-mortifying way.

The result: Every other Bugabooed baby in Brooklyn and Venice Beach is named Ruby or Oscar, Matilda or Hugo.  Not, good Lord, Seraphina, which is tantamount to dressing your little girl in pink cashmere and having her picture taken wearing a little feathered halo: Too cute, and we mean that literally!

Hipster parents know enough to bypass the too-popular Avas and Aidens favored by the great style unwashed, but they’re afraid to venture into uncharted territory.

Want to avoid choosing a name that might make you—not to mention your innocent child—a hipster cliché? For specific Hipster Names to steer clear of, consult the list on Nameberry. And because hipster style is an ever-shifting target, be sure to follow these 10 Simple Rules for not giving your baby a hipster name:

1. DON’T NAME YOUR BABY AFTER A JAZZ MUSICIAN. No Ella, no Ray, no Miles. Nix on Billie, nyet on Bessie, never on Duke. And did you really think you were going to get away with Thelonious or Django? No and no. Lionel, however, is still genuinely cool.

2. NO NAMES OF GODS AND GODDESSES. We can blame the ultimate cool mommy blogger Dooce for this one. Her daughter is named Leta, which is derived from Leda, who was the mythological mother of Helen of Troy. And then, at the farmers’ market in Madison, Wisconsin, we heard a hipster dad calling to his toddler son, “Stop right there, Odin!” Zeus, Jupiter, Andromeda, and Pandora are all similarly hipster heaven.

3. AVOID THE NAMES OF HIGH-FALUTIN’ LITERARY CHARACTERS. Atticus, anyone? The more obscure and high-minded the character, the more hipster-worthy the name. So you’ll have to stay away from Scout, Daisy, Maisie, Holden and Gulliver. Soap opera character names remain safe if otherwise repellent bets.

4. AVOID THE NAMES OF HIGH-FALUTIN’ WRITERS. This is kind of a thin line. We’d say Auden, Austen, Flannery, Harper, Tennessee and Tennyson are dripping in hipsterdom; Edith, Eudora, and Ellison, still okay.

5. NO NAMES YOU MIGHT USE FOR A DOG. Prince, Duke, Max, Fifi: This kind of I’m-so-cool-I-don’t-care name should not be used for a human, even one you make yourself. Likewise do not name your dog Marian, Frederick, or Patricia.

6. IF A SUPERMODEL WOULD CHOOSE THIS NAME FOR HER BABY, STAY AWAY. Along with four-foot-long legs and cheekbones as wide as their shoulders, supermodels seem congenitally hip, and inevitably choose hipster names for their babies. (Yes, all supermodels seem to have babies.) Nameberry has a list of Supermodel Baby Names, which run toward choices such as Neva, Presley, and Sahteene.

7. SIMILARLY AVOID NAMES CHOSEN BY HIPSTER CELEBRITIES. Matilda hits the hipster list because it was chosen by hipster parents Heath and Michelle. Romy is Sofia Coppolla’s pick and Roman Cate Blanchett’s; Ramona is Maggie Gyllenhaal’s choice and Moses is Gwynnie’s. While you’re at it, you should probably not use names of hipster celebrities themselves: Isla, Ewan, Scarlett.

8. STAY AWAY FROM NAMES OF PLACES YOU WOULD NEVER GO. Okay, so Savannah and London are overplayed. Hipster parents have therefore decamped to Alabama, Indiana, and Reno. And from there it’s all too easy to wander from hipster turf into maverick territory: right, Bristol Palin?

9. DON’T PICK ANY NAME THAT STARTS WITH I OR Z OR ENDS WITH X OR O. If this whole issue is way too confusing for you, just following this one simple rule and you should be all right. Forget Iris and Isaiah. Zoe and Zane. Pax and Maddox. Nico and Orlando. Done.

10. FORGET ALL HIGHLY UNFASHIONABLE AND HIDEOUSLY UGLY NAMES. One earmark (Hi, John McCain) of hipsterism is being so hip you can be totally unhip, so cool you can give your kid a name that’s entirely uncool. Like Edna. Or Ignatius. Or Myrtle. But as important as it may seem to avoid names that threaten to turn you into a hipster cliché, it’s even more essential to stay away from those that might make your teenager try to kill you while you sleep.

Pamela Redmond Satran is the coauthor with Linda Rosenkrantz of nine bestselling baby name guides, including Beyond Jennifer & Jason and Cool Names for Babies, and a developer of the new baby-naming site Nameberry. A former fashion editor for Glamour, she is also a columnist for that magazine, writes for The New York Times, and is the author of five novels.  Her children are named Rory, Joe, and Owen.