I'm due with my first - a boy - on August 29th. My maiden name is Salem, and my married last name is Ceder.
What do you think about Salem Ceder for a boy? Too much alliteration? Is "Salem" too odd for a first name? Yes, I know about the associations with the witch trials and cigarettes :)
Thanks for any help!
Using the mother's maiden name as a first name is one of my top favorite baby name ideas. It's rare for it to work out: most surnames don't work as first names---and even among the ones that do work, many then don't work with the baby's surname, or aren't to one or both parents' tastes.
My opinion of Salem is that there are two reasons it doesn't work: (1) the negative associations you mention, and (2) the way it fits with the surname.
The Salem witch trials were a horrifying time in U.S. history. Terms like "witch hunt" are still used to instantly remind us of how people can become evil themselves in their efforts to find evil in others. The cigarette association pales in comparison with that, though it's also an issue. (And I think with this particular surname it can sound like a new kind of cigarette: Salem Slim, Salem Menthol, and Salem Cedar.)
Nevertheless, the name is being used, so the associations are clearly not as overwhelming as they are with, say, a name like Adolf: according to the Social Security Administration, in 2010 there were 67 new baby boys and 66 new baby girls named Salem. The unisex nature of the name is another issue, either positive or negative depending on what sorts of names you'd want to use for future siblings.
Salem Ceder might be okay alliteration-wise; I don't like the way the name sounds when I say it aloud, but such things are almost completely subjective and the next person could love the way it sounds. I think a bigger issue is that both Salem and Ceder are strong word names. The sudden double mental imagery (witch trials, then cedar chests; or cigarettes, and then cedar trees) is a lot of imagery for one name. Or the word-like surname can turn the first name into an adjective: Atlas Cedar, White Cedar, Salem Cedar.
I think all these issues are hugely reduced (if not eliminated entirely) if the name is instead put in the middle name slot. Then you get the mother's-maiden-name tradition, which is a great one, AND you get to use a name that would be a great name without the association problems and surname conflicts.
Let's have a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]
Poll results for "What do you think of the name Salem?" (476 votes total):
I love it! I'd want to use it! - 20 votes (4%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 44 votes (9%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 122 votes (26%)
No particular opinion - 28 votes (6%)
Slight dislike - 148 votes (31%)
Strong dislike - 114 votes (24%)