I've always liked to name things. Even as a kid, I remember having lists of potential baby names. I don't think I was ever sure I really wanted offspring, but I was positive I wanted to name them! (Note here that it is very lucky that I grew up a bit before actually procreating, as the name I remember best from one list was Patience Paisley...) I've named the majority of our pets (Chance, Atticus, Atakan, Illy--all the ones who didn't come pre-named or came with names we just couldn't stand keeping). I don't name inanimate objects, but I did give one of my middle school teachers' daughter her middle name. I just like names. It's not surprising, then, that baby naming was one of the parts of this whole process that I was both excited and trepidatious about.
For some folks I know, naming is a really arduous process, involving books, lists, cross-referencing, and long battles with one's partner. I was a bit afraid that's the route we'd go, but, as it turned out, Mark and I choose potential names for this kid with almost no fuss. No books were ever consulted, and we didn't argue.
Yep, that's right, chose. This baby is named. We have one name selected for a boy, one for a girl, and we plan to use those. I didn't realize it before, but a lot of people find that really weird. I've had multiple friends and family members wonder how we can possibly be sure about names without having met the baby. Which is a good question. For me, the answer is two-fold. First, I don't expect that "meeting" the baby, that is, my first few hours or days of interactions with him/her, are going to give me a great idea of his/her personality. I may take this back in a few months, but it has been my experience up until now that newborns are more alike than different. In order to really wait to name the baby until I "get to know" him/her, I'd have to take weeks or even months. Which is the second thing--for whatever reason, and it's not one I can articulate, it's very important to me that this baby is named right away. I don't want there to be a big time lapse between birth and naming wherein s/he is alive and in the world as a separate being but does not yet have a name. I have no idea why, but that really bothers me. So being fairly set on names is necessary. Which isn't to say that we might not make a last minute substitution--if this kid is born and s/he just does not seem to fit the names we've chosen, we'll come up with something else. While there is not a formal list of back-up choices, our rules have left us with fairly few names to choose from.
Wait, what rules?
That's actually the point of this post. In our process of deciding on names, most of what Mark and I actually decided on were naming rules, or parameters for names we'd consider. We didn't necessarily set out to do it that way, but that's the way it ended up. And I'm kind of glad it did, as it cut down our possible contenders considerably. I have a Burmese friend who explained to me, upon the birth of her first child, how her cultural naming tradition is for the first part of someone's name to be predicated on the day of the week on which s/he was born. For some days, there are separate sounds for AM/PM and male/female, for some there are not. For example, she and her son are both born on the same day of the week (Wednesday, I think) and both have names beginning with Z. I really, really like this idea. First, I like the idea of having a cultural naming tradition, but beyond that, I love the idea of narrowing the field. So that's what the guidelines Mark and I developed did--they narrowed the field.
Before I even got pregnant, we agreed that we'd like to use family names. So that was our first rule:
1. All name choices need to be from family members.
This rule was later amended to also include close friends' names.
After some discussion about how being named after people plays out in real life, we added a second rule:
2. The family member/friend for whom the child is named must already be dead.
This was mainly because we didn't want any "Little Bob/Big Bob" type situations. Though we want our child to be named for someone we loved, we also want him/her to feel as i his/her name is his/her own.
Next, we added the equity rule:
3. There will be one name from each side of the family.
This just means that if the first name is from Mark's family tree, the middle name while be from mine, and visa versa.
The next rule was all about preference:
4. If the name(s) are identifiably tied to a culture or ethnicity, it must be one to which we actually belong.
Given the family tree context, you'd think this would be a no-brainer, but it's really not.
The next rule we came up with was more about logistics than aesthetics:
5. Names will be relatively short and simple.
We're going to hyphenate our seven- and eight-letter last names, giving the kid a total of sixteen last name characters (including the hyphen). S/he doesn't need a boatload of first name characters to go along with that.
We realized, then, as we were discussing names, that neither of us much wanted to go back lots of generations, either. We were most interested in naming our child after people we'd actually known. This, of course, narrowed the choices quite a lot further.
And from there, it was pretty obvious. We had our names chosen from about the eight-week mark. I went through a period a month or so ago where I was questioning them (Is this one too common? Is this one too hard to pronounce?), but I'm over that now and back to loving them.
And I'm not going to tell you what they are! They aren't a secret--we've been sharing them with friends and family--but I think I'm going to wait until this kid actually has a birth certificate to share them here.
However, I will give you a taste--here is the list of names that fit our rules:
For boys: Benjamin, Calvin, Clark, Daniel, Davie, Edward, Emil, Eugene, Frances, Gary, Hugh, Jack, Kenneth, Robert, Thomas
For girls: Agnes, Clara, Dora, Edna, Hazel, Iris, Jane, Katherine, Lorane/Lorraine (spelled the first way in my family, the second in Mark's), Loretta, Marian, Rose, Viola
So tell me about naming your baby/ies? Or your pets? Do our rules seem totally over the top? Am I going to change my mind when I see this kid?