Monday, February 28, 2011

About his name

We've gotten a lot of questions about Callum's name. We know it's not the most common name in the US, and that a lot of people here haven't heard of it. But the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, so that's nice. And who knows? Maybe people hate it and just aren't telling us. But that's fine. It's his name, and I have no need to know if people dislike it. That's the whole point of not sharing the name until the baby is actually born.

Edited to add: His name is pronounced CAL-um. Same Cal sound as Calvin, or calorie. Just for those who were wondering! (Though the automated appointment reminder we got from the children's hospital for our lactation consultation a couple weeks ago pronounced it kah-LOOM, which was a new one.)

We picked the name by process of elimination, really. There wasn't a lightning bolt moment for us. It wasn't that we hit upon the name and knew instantly that it was THE name. It was a contender for a long time, but there were other contenders too, and nothing that was far outpacing the others.

But it was one of the only names that neither of us vetoed. One of the only names that stuck as we kept thinking about it. And when we finally decided at 30-something weeks that it was the name we were going to use, we both felt really good about it. And now that he's here, I LOVE his name. It's such a great name. And it suits him so perfectly. I love the way it sounds, the way it fits with our last name, the feeling it conveys. Everything about it is exactly right.

Our naming philosophy was basically this: there is no name that everyone will like, so let's pick something that we ourselves like. We wanted something that was at least two syllables to balance out our shorter last name. We wanted something that had nickname potential. We wanted something that sounded pleasing. We wanted something that worked on a baby or an adult. We wanted something that was a real name, not made up, but had a fresh sound to it. We wanted something that would work in both English and German.

Callum is actually a Scottish name. It is relatively uncommon in the US, but it's very popular in the UK. According to the UK government's name statistics website, Callum was the 28th most popular boy name in the UK in 2009. And in the '90s, it was even more popular in the UK: number 8 for boys overall in 1998.

In the US, on the other hand, Callum was the 864th most popular boy name in 2009. It was number 967 in 2008, and never in the top 1,000 boy names before that. So it still has a ways to go. But its popularity is definitely climbing. In fact, if you look at the Social Security Administration's non-top 1,000 forms (which I found via Swistle), which lists every name that was given to at least five babies in a given year, you can trace it back to 1983 in the US. Based on that data, I made a little chart in Excel to show how the name has changed in popularity in the US from 1983, when five babies were named Callum, to 2009, when 239 babies were named Callum.

So you can see that his name is on its way up. We don't expect it to rise quite as fast or as far as Isabella, for example, which hit the top 1,000 in the US for the first time in 1990 as number 895 and shot all the way up to number 1 less than 20 years later, in 2009. But we do expect it to become more popular, and therefore we also expect that people will become more familiar with it over time.

So hopefully he won't spend his life having people ask how to spell his name when he introduces himself. But if he does, so be it. Torsten has that issue and it doesn't bother him at all. But if it bothers Callum, he can introduce himself as Cal and be done with it. That's what's nice about a name with nickname options.

Also, you'll notice one criterion that was not on our list: meaning. In general I couldn't care less about name meanings. It seems they all mean something like "light" or "gift from god" or whatever, and I just don't care about that. But somewhere along the way I discovered that Callum means "dove," and I just LOVE that meaning. I think it is beautiful and unusual and perfect.

Just like him. And his name.


  1. *happy sigh* A NAMING post! What a wonderful Monday morning treat!

  2. I love the name too. It's actually my nephew's name (spelled Calum) - he was born in the US where the name was very uncommon (he is now 9). When he moved back here, he was one of three in his class! That was just a fluke though, as there isn't a single Callum in my kids' whole school.

  3. I feel pretty strongly that whatever name you choose is great, and it's really no one's business.

    My husband's family is notorious for reusing names (his first name is also that of his grandfather, uncle and our nephew). We wanted a name that was neither too uncommon nor too common, and we certainly didn't want a name that was already in use in the immediate family.

    MIL's response to the name: "Is that a family name?"

    Hubby's response: "It is now." :)

  4. I love his name, not that it matters what I think.

    And, I have a very common name and still have to spell it for everyone. That's a battle you just can't win!

  5. Callum is in the top 100 in New Zealand (has been for a few years). I have a 15 year old nephew called Callum but we never shorten it and due to our accent, Cal wouldnt have entered our head as a shortened version!

  6. It's a wonderful name! and naming can be such a minefield when you are naming across countries (I know all about that). But I agree with you- most importantly- you like it and it fits Callum!

  7. Love his name. Perhaps it's more popular in Canada because I know several Callum's. :)

  8. Our boys names have a few things in common. Gavin is a Scottish and Welsh name, meaning hawk. There must be something pretty amazing about those birds in flight. =)

  9. Yay! I was excited to see the name post! Obviously, I adore the name;-)

    He makes a beautiful calum.

  10. I love Callum's name, I love that it's different without being bizarre. And without strange, wack-o spelling, Caghlyum, anyone? ;)


  11. I love his name. Just to make sure I'm saying it correctly....sounds like "kale-um" not "call-um" right?

  12. My first exposure to the name was Erin's son (she commented above), and I've loved the name since. I don't know if it's because of her, but when you announced his name I thought "of COURSE, it's CALLUM." He, somehow, looks like a CAllum to me.

  13. I love the name and I love this post.

    Like Mama Bub said, I have a very common name and I am always telling people how to spell it the right way.

  14. Tarah: Oh, good question! I should have thought to include that. I updated the post with the pronunciation. (It's CAL-um like Calvin or calorie.)

  15. I absolutely LOVE it. I think it's a really distinguished name and it just sounds good to say it!

    I've seen Callum before, mostly as a last name actually. But it fits perfectly as a first name, too!

  16. I love it.

    I've never heard of it before, and at first was like, "Huh? How do you say that??"

    But, I asked my sisters (ha! talking about blog friends' babies with sisters!) and we agreed that it must be pronounced the way it is. AND I LOVE IT.

    It's just so...symmetrical-sounding. Soft but strong. Simple but unique. I love the way it feels when I say it. (I AM WEIRD.)

    We didn't have a lightening bolt moment, either. I'm not even sure we DECIDED on a name. But, he was born and we knew. :) Our little Gabriel. (And we're obviously HUGE nickname fans, from, like, day 2.)

    Yay for names!

  17. I had never heard the name Callum before, then yesterday my dental hygienist was talking about her grandson - Callum. So of course I thought of you. :)

  18. I think it's GOOD not to have a super popular name. I mean, my da is David, so is my brother. My other brother is Benjamin ... no imagination!

    My name is Karyn but you can see it's spelled cool ... so it never bothered me. I think having a unique name makes you a unique person.

    YAY Callum. LOVE. IT.

  19. i lovelovelove the name. as someone with a Not Very Common Around Here, Yet Everyone Is Familiar With It name, i think he'll appreciate it :)

  20. I've been largely absent from blog-reading and commenting in recent months, although i have been able to keep up with yours and a few others who update early in the morning by reading on my ipod via google reader on my break at work. Except we don't have wifi at work, so I can't comment. I'm not even sure if I've had a chance to stop by and tell you guys congratulations yet. Callum is so adorable, and I'm SO happy for you guys.

    And I love, love, love his name! It is totally the kind of name that I'm drawn to, and yet if I were making a list of possible baby names I don't know that I would have thought of it. I had no idea that Callum was an unusual name. I mean, I know it isn't one of those names that would like have him in 'danger' of being known as 'Callum Last Initial' all through elementary school, but I didn't realize it would seem unfamiliar to people or that people would wonder how to pronounce it. But then again I have quite a bit of Scottish heritage on both sides of my family and an affinity for names, so maybe that explains it. (And maybe I'm more of a name geek than I thought)

  21. Callum just seems like such a strong name--it's a name a kid can grow into wonderfully. I think we came up with Hannah in a similar way. I'd look at lists, he'd veto, then we'd play around with different combinations. I can't imagine her as anything but Hannah now, though she does get called Banana sometimes, hah. Thanks for sharing how you came up with his name--I was wondering if it had family origins.

  22. I actually (genuinely, I promise) LIKE the name Callum. And I get to feel like a smarty pants, because I knew it was pronounced that way already. :)

  23. Love the name. Very lord of the rings-ish. All my cats are named after characters.

    It is cool to have a different name that is unique. My name is unique and I love it.

    the only concern would be if some kids start calling him Gollum, but everyone has funny side names.

    Your baby is beautiful. You two are blessed. The wifey and I have been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby for 5 years. Maybe this year it will work.

    God Bless.

    By the way, I live in Eagle, CO.

    Vivan St Laurentus