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What's in that name?

New parents weigh 'unique' vs. 'odd,' 'earnest' vs. 'precious,' 'bold' vs. 'bully bait.'

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Thank you, Uma Thurman. The actress named her new baby – this is true – Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson. Hollywood has a long tradition of foisting upon us wacky baby names like Banjo, Moxie, and River. Politics, too, has been a godsend for unusual monikers – think Tagg or Trig. Finding out about Baby Thurman's name reminded me just how stressful I found naming our new baby son.

Was it always like this?

Amazon.com heaves with books that provide parents with matronly advice on naming newborns. But the books only further complicate things and play on people's vulnerabilities. The zillion parenting websites out there are also patronizing. (Top baby names for "future achievers"? Andrew and Addison, according to MomsWho­Think.com.)

Things used to be simpler. The top baby names for newborn boys and girls in the 1880s were John and Mary. The only thing that changed half a century later was that James dethroned John for most popular boy's name. Today's top-trending baby names are Sophia and Jacob. Or, if your area code is 212, they are Isabella and Jayden.

Too many baby names these days feel lifted from a bad Bravo sitcom or broken Tom Cruise marriage. That only adds to the stress of not falling into that trap. What if the name sounds too corny or clichéd? What if I found out after the birth certificate was issued that there's a mass murderer with the same name? (That almost happened: My wife and I briefly considered Anders as a boy's name, until we heard about the Norwegian shooter.)

Baby names have gone from biblical to a form of branding, which may be why a recent study by Gurgle.com found that more than half of first-time parents regret the moniker they chose. The evolution of baby names mirrors that of corporate identities. Just as iconic names like General Electric or IBM have given way to Pinterest and Zynga, John and Mary have made room for Moonbeam and Zuma.

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