A major principle of being a hipster is that you want to be the trend-setter. You want to be ahead of whatever will be popular in the future. Once the bandwagon starts rolling, it’s too late to jump on.
After all “hipster” is mostly used as a term of derision for poseurs who are late to the cultural party. This is the hipster double bind: if you are a real hipster, you don’t want to be called a hipster. Your image must be new or ironically out of place. This eventually becomes impossible, which is why all hipsters tend to look alike.
With that in mind, naming one’s child is among the most difficult of hipster decisions. It is wise to be prudent. The lists of “hipster baby names” you see on the Web are mostly worthless, because they describe names that have already begun to be popular. Hipster baby nomenclature is lampooned in the parody Pinboard “My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter.” Today’s hipster baby is all too likely to attend preschool with a class full of Atticuses, Brooklyns, Dexters, Kales, Salingers, and Pipers.
To help hipster parents avoid the hipster baby name trap, we’ve developed a method for coming up with really original names that still have that je ne sais quoi of the hipster baby name. We determined several categories that tend to describe currently popular hipster baby name trends, and suggest euphonic alternatives that are nevertheless unlikely to catch on.
Too many hipster babies derive their names from the only literature their parents ever read, i.e., a high school reading list. This accounts for the prevalence of names like Atticus, Harper, Salinger, and Scout. A slightly more literate hipster may name her son Auden, Byron, Eliot, or Huxley. One suspects that hipsters are not aware of the existence of any literature prior to the 20th century.
Yet literature offers a rich variety of very uncommon names. Even well-known authors such as Brontë and Faulkner have not yet made their appearance on the baby name charts, although Hawthorne is apparently on the rise. Reaching back to the ancients, one may find a pleasant sound in Arcadia, Achilles, Hera, or Jove. Arthuriana is a good source: Gaheris, Gawain, Ygraine, or the classic Lancelot (last popular in the early 1800s). Steer clear of Tristan or Ysolde–these are too likely to make a comeback.
Literature is unfortunately a prime source for hipster baby names. There’s always a risk, as with novels, that a forgotten classic may become the next Hollywood star.
Literary criticism has its own vocabulary, with many terms that sound like hipster baby names. Words describing books: Deckle (a good substitute for Dexter), Folio, Quarto, Vellum. Literary terms: Catharsis, Euphony, Kenning, Sestina. Legend and Lyric are also possible, but more risky.
As a hipster, you curate your iPod music library to be as obscure as possible. It’s important to be just as vigilant if you decide to give your child a musical name. Kaidence (misspelling of Cadence) is already climbing the charts, and lots of babies are going to be named after famous musicians, like Lennon or Presley. But music offers many names that are guaranteed to never be mainstream, like Allegro, Caesura, Chaconne, Fermata, Fugue, Gavotte, Minuet, Melisma, Octave, Orchestra, Rosin, Rhapsody, Sonata or Sonatina.
You heard about the celebrities who named their daughter Blue. Don’t worry–if color is your thing, there are many more creative and obscure options, such as Cobalt, Carnelian, Lapis, Mauve, Sepia, Taupe, Umber, Vermillion. Some of these are also gemstones, which brings to mind other minerals like Carbon, Cadmium, Gypsum, or Zircon.
Like the American West, geography offers vast possibilities and little competition for baby names. You’ve known of kids named River and Canyon. But these names don’t even scratch the surface. Your little future geologist will be ahead of his or her class with a name like Arroyo, Atoll, Fjord, Gorge, Igneus, Islet, Estuary, Delta, Moraine, Piedmont, Scree, Tarn, Tundra, or Taiga.
Too many people are naming their children after surnames that do not exist in their family tree, like Addison, Carter, Harrison, Lincoln, Maddox, McKenzie, or Piper. This is not a safe category, since basically any surname that ends in -ly or -son is guaranteed to become popular, and people have been doing this for so long that Madisons and Taylors are now graduating from college. Speaking of college, although Cornell, Harvard, Wellesley, and Yale have a nice ring to them, it’s a bit early to burden your child with Ivy League expectations.