Forgive me if you have covered this already, but I am curious if you have an tips on dealing with negative name associations.
1. The name Adam has always been a frontrunner on our boy list. I love it - simple, classic, and (up until recently) a name where someone says "I don't know an Adam
who isn't a nice guy". BUT - now all I do is associate the name [with a recent crime].
2. I was googling to find out the original spelling for Anneliese (another favourite) - and came across "the real exorcism of Annelise Michel", and I can't get her
anguished black and white photo out of my head!
A negative association does sometimes completely ruin a name. I can say "Try not to let it," but what would that solve? If the association now springs to your mind every time, the name is ruined. The best I could advise is preventative measures when possible: if you know from past experience that a single negative association will be impossible to get out of your head, have someone else help with the Googling.
Fortunately, time takes care of most such things. For awhile after a major crime, a hit movie or book, a big scandal, or an unfortunate session on Google, the names of most of the participants will be too strongly associated to use. We've had several letters mentioning that the name Grey/Gray has been ruined by the association with the popular 50 Shades of Gray book series---but it's hard to picture that effect being permanent. New books, movies, crimes, and scandals are always coming along to kick the old ones to the backs of our minds.
Unusual names will have longer-lasting problems: the names O.J. and Adolf still have strong associations, even though quite a bit of time has passed. But Charles Manson didn't permanently ruin the name Charles, in part because there are so many other people named Charles to weaken that association (though I suspect the name Manson isn't going to join the surname-name trend). There have been so many other people named Adam, I doubt it will be ruined, either. It may still be ruined for your own use, however, just as the name Charles was probably ruined for people who were shocked and upset by those events at the time.
You could try to manually dilute associations by deliberately looking for other people with a possibly-ruined name. Find every Annalise/Anneliese you can, and look at their nice pictures and read their pleasant and ordinary histories and look through their insufficiently-privacy-controlled Facebook walls. Watch some Adam Sandler and Adam Levine videos, and then read the biographies of Adam Smith and Adam West, and then watch Mythbusters and enjoy a little Adam Savage. Etc. Each time the unpleasant association pops into your mind, replace it with one of your new images; leaf through them like a little mental deck of cards.
I notice that many teachers have problems with name associations at a more minor level. I answer only a fraction of the letters I get asking for help with association-free names, mostly because there's no way they can list for me all the names that have associations for them. One solution is to choose a very unusual name, never before encountered---but then if there ever IS an association with that name, it will be an intensely strong one. Another solution is to choose a name so common, there's no way a single association can stick to it---but then of course there will be many, many new associations made all the time. It's hard to know what to do. Which is better: a bigger mental deck to flip through, or a deck that doesn't have to be brought out so often?
I have one anecdote about a negative association that was taken care of by a combination of dilution, an overriding association, and time. My high school boyfriend had a relatively common name; I'm going to use James as a stand-in for that name. We dated quite seriously for two years, and then had a series of terrible break-ups. For years afterward, I couldn't even think about him without getting furious and upset. And a little over ten years later, I gave my first son the middle name James. There were several things going on: (1) the name James is very common and diluted; (2) my grandfather's name was also James, and I wanted to name a son after him; (3) more than a decade had passed, and I'd had two serious relationships since then.
Does anyone else have suggestions for dealing with negative associations? Or anecdotes about negative associations fading (or not fading) with time?