Find baby names on these fun Web sites

tummy time!The big day approaches, and you still haven’t settled on a name for your baby. You look around for inspiration, but Ben & Jerry are too common, Ghirardelli is too hard to spell, and Starbucks is just plain silly.

With celebrities dreaming up names like Apple, Scout, Pilot and Fuchsia, the pages of People and Entertainment Weekly are eye bombs for expecting moms.

It’s time to get serious.

If you go by what you hear in the park, you may wind up with a Jacob or an Olivia — the most popular names in our state in 2007 (the latest year data is available). Maybe you want a popular name for your baby; something easy to pronounce, unlikely to cause playground taunts (i.e., does not rhyme with any kind of vegetable).

Or maybe you’re thinking of something more distinctive and old-fashioned. Some family names are just the best — so out, they’re back in, like Hazel, my own wonderful mother’s name. Thanks to Julia Roberts, there are hundreds of little Hazel nuts crawling around these days. And Phinnaeuses (Phinnaeusi?), too.

My two kids got their cool names from my Celtic heritage: a Kayleigh (“Ceilidh” in Gaelic) is a crazy-happy dance party, and Aidan just sounded great back in 1999 (before “Sex and the City” sent the name up the charts). You can now find baby name books for ’most any heritage, from Irish to Russian, Greek gods and goddesses — even sci-fi. (“Anakin! Stop hitting Beldar right this minute!”)

Try playing with names on a few cool Web sites. The Social Security Administration lists names ranked by state and year, so you can see how your favorites stack up — and avoid choosing a too-common name, if you want. While you’re at it, check out your last name via census data at to see how many distant cousins you may have.

You can see a cool graph of a name’s popularity and more on the “Voyager” page of the Baby Name Wizard. And is just loaded with cool info and links for name-gazers, including surveys and games, and even tips for naming characters in that great American novel you’re going to write once that newborn learns to diaper herself.

Even if you’re not expecting, you can go nuts with the cool reader-created lists on that site, to wit: “Soap opera names,” “Reality show names” and “Names from ‘Gilligan’s Island.’” (Lovey’s real name was “Eunice”!)

If you like lists, check out Baby Names Made Easy, a new reverse-directory of baby names by Amanda Elizabeth Barden. Here, you’ll find names grouped by their meanings, like “kindness and goodness,” “happiness and joy” and my favorite, “food and drink” (“Chablis! Mimosa! Dinner!”).

Once you come up with your short list, consider keeping the names secret to avoid annoying and unsolicited advice (“Oh! I had a dog by that name!”). Give yourself a little time to get the feel of the names. You may even want to wait until you meet the baby before making that final decision (“I’m not sure he looks like a ‘Herbie.’”). Take your time, and remember the words of Don Quixote: “A good name is better than riches.”

Kristen Russell Dobson narrowly escaped being named Kiersten. If she had been a boy, she would have been called Brian.

Fun baby name books

Cool Names for Babies by Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz

Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana: What to Name Your Baby Now by Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran

Celtic Names for Children by Loreto Todd

The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby by Laura Wattenberg

Sci-Fi Baby Names by Robert Schnakenberg

Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse-Directory of Baby Names by Amanda E. Barden 

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