What’s In a (Baby) Name?

17 Jun

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
      — William Shakespare, Romeo and Juliet

I’ve always found the above quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to be interesting and, for the most part, wildly incorrect. In the context of the story I get what she was saying. It shouldn’t matter that the love of her life happens to bear the name  of her family’s sworn enemy, etc. etc. But, when taken as a single phrase, I happen to disagree. I do think names are important. This has especially come into play in my life lately as Husband and I have been struggling to come up with a name for Baby Boy #2.

Naming Child #1 was easy. We found out he was a boy, I told Husband that Jack had always and forever been my favorite boy name, he said he liked that name too, and we were done. The whole process took about five minutes. This time around it’s been a completely different story. I seem to be the only person in existence (except for my brother) who likes my first choice name (Desmond), which has been mildly disheartening. Husband doesn’t think he can commit to that name, and we haven’t been able to agree on anything else. For now, that perfect name is eluding us.

The issue is probably my fault. I think I’m by far the pickier person, but this is an important decision. The kid is going to be stuck with this name for the rest of his life. (Or, at least until he’s 18 and can save up to legally change it if he really hates it that much.) When I think about it, naming a child is probably one of the most permanent decisions one can make as an adult. That’s why I really want to take my time and get it right, although I was hoping we’d have a decision made by now.

Everyone has issues to consider when naming their child. Horrible playground nicknames, rhyming words, and initials that spell out something bad are things every parent considers. But I’ve got a couple more considerations on my list that complicate issues even further. Here are some of the complications we’ve been running in to.

For starters, I will not name my child something “popular,” no matter how much I may love it. If it’s in the Social Security Administration’s top 10 list for the past year, it’s out. When I was in elementary school, there were two Sarah’s and one Sara in my class. I also had three Breanna’s in my Girl Scout troop. (Funny side story – all three Breanna’s had a last name that started with B. so I couldn’t even distinguish them by their last initial when talking about them.) I remember vividly how irritated I would get on their behalf when the teacher would call their name and they wouldn’t know which one she was talking to, and to this day I am still grateful that in almost all situations I am the only Andrea present. Well done, Mom and Dad.

Another thing that’s an issue for me is that we have a common last name. As is typical in the midwest (hello, Scandinavia), the last names Johnson, Nelson, Anderson, etc. are as common as hotdishes and flannel shirts. Given that he’s already going to be one of millions with our last name, I don’t want him to also be saddled with a common first name. That means that traditional names like John, Michael, Matthew, Jacob, Samuel, etc. are out. I’m not saying he needs to be named something exotic like Xavier or Django (although the movie Django Unchained is fantastic). I just want him to have something slightly more original.

My third issue is the fact that our last name ends in “on.” When I say potential names out loud, it doesn’t sound right to my ear if his first name ends with a similar sound. Logan, Colin, Landon, etc. just don’t seem to flow off the tongue as well as I’d like.

There are two other things that have hindered our naming decisions, and these are the two things have been driving my husband crazy. The first is that I’m a teacher. For almost every name out there, I have an image of a student in my head. There are some students that I’ve loved and adored and I’d have no problem giving that name to my child. Then there are those other students… Let’s just say my memories of them are less fond. I’d hate to call those memories to mind every time I look at my child.

The other one that drives Husband crazy is that I may be too in touch with popular culture for my own good. Like with students, almost every name calls to mind an image of someone else. You say Edward, I think Cullen. You say Charles, I think Manson. You say Stuart, I think Little. The list goes on and on, and similar to my student names there are some people and characters in our collective history that I’m happy to associate with my son. Others, not so much.

Like I said, I’m picky. My list of qualms and quirks doesn’t leave us with many realistic options, and my taste is generally different than my Husband’s to begin with. At the rate we’re going, we’re going to have an unnamed baby in the hospital, and monogramed anything will be out until the kid’s at least a month old. Husband’s newest job is coming up with a top 5 list of names that we haven’t already ruled out, and we’ll try to go from there. Fingers crossed that we don’t wring each other’s necks in the process.

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One Response to “What’s In a (Baby) Name?”

  1. Bridget June 24, 2013 at 9:38 pm #

    Not that it’s coming into practical application at the moment, but I think it’s partially a writer thing, too, because I have the same issue. I want names to have some kind of lyrical flow but also to imply some kind of characteristics that I’d want or expect my children to have. It’s like setting the stage for the rest of his or her life.

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