One of my best friends in Missoula, when I told him I was pregnant, did one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me and told me I could “have” the name he had been saving for his own baby girl some day.

The name was Isabelle, and I turned it down. I also turned down Kalani, offered by my beloved grandpa; Sage, which my mom argued for until she found out I was having a girl; and Karen, which is a name that has been passed down through both my own and my husband’s family, and was therefore favored by some of our more traditionalist relatives.

We – my husband and I – went with Willow, a totally left-field name that turned out to fit her perfectly. Or maybe she grew into it. The point is, picking a name for another human being is an awesome responsibility about which nearly everyone seems to have an opinion.

Names tend to fall in and out of favor rather quickly for girls (“Madison”) and stick around longer for boys (“Jacob”). In fact, according to a recent Associated Press article, “Jacob” has been the most popular name for boys in the United States for 11 years running. In contrast, “Emma” was the top pick for girls last year only, being being replaced by “Isabella” this year. Willow, on the other hand, is currently ranked 315th most popular.

If only I’d listened to my friend, my daughter could have a variation of THE most popular name in the nation. This year, anyway.

– MM