A treatise on naming...


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?


I think that's an awesome list of names. My husband and I did the same thing--before we were even married, we had two boy names and two girl names. Turns out that we only used one of each, but it made the whole naming thing really easy.

You may change your mind when you see the kid, but I doubt it. It was important to me that our babies had names while in utero because I liked to call them by their name throughout the pregnancy. Then, when they were born, they already felt like family. It worked for us, in any case.

This makes me realize that I STILL haven't done the "How I Got My Name" thing for the boys' daycare class. Whoops!

I'm a list-maker. Interestingly, while Finn and Leo were on all iterations of my lists (and I had Finnian, and T had Finn), I don't know that they were front-runners until the boys were born. Neither name is what we planned to use for a boy if we'd had girl-boy twins. If you don't change your mind and give this baby Buzzy as her legal name once you've met her, I will be sad, but I'll get over it.

As for pets, Angus was named for a tiny Scottie dog (HA!) in a children's book. Hopper is actually Grasshopper, the name he got while we were fostering him. He was partially named in honor of an Internet crush I had at the time, and partly because of his talent for the high jump. Trout was named Trout because I like saying Trout, and because I needed an odd name for the oddest of cats.

Henry ther Pug came with the name Petey, which was just wrong. Cleo Pickles came with the name Tamara, which was also just wrong.

We had lists for I.M. but I had a favorite. It took us a little while to decide because we realized that my favorite did not fit his face. I.M. was our ginger name and we thought he had red hair (it was actually blood).

I think you should call Buzzy Elspeth.

Dh chose the kids' names with my input. We both prefer classic, old-fashioned names. All of the kids have family names in that their names are somewhere in the family but the older two are not directly named for relatives. The third was named after two ancestors.

Our biggest insistence was that we would not have a IV. (Dh is a III).

We had names picked out when we were trying to conceive (it took three long years, so we had plenty of time to work it out). I'm a big fan of family names, and I love cultural traditions, too. I have a friend who is Icelandic, and I love the patronmyics/matronymics that they use in their names--but I'm not Icelandic, and "Nanettesdottir" is more than a little weird.

My daughter is named after my maternal grandmother. She is (thankfully) still alive. Her first name is my grandmother's first name, Lenora, and her middle name is my grandmother's maiden name, Nelson. Oddly enough, I never would have considered Nelson as a boy's name, but I love the idea of carrying my grandmother's birth name down a few generations. Nelson as a girl's middle name was a tough sell to my husband, but I think he's come around now that he understands where I was coming from.

I was set on this name and never had any thoughts of changing it, even after Lenora was born. Had she been a boy, her name would have been James Grant--James after a late uncle who was one of my favorite people ever, and Grant is a family name from my husband's side.

Oh, Els's comment makes me remember that Angus's name was originally Marmaduke - which is what my mother called fetus-me.

fwiw, i find the ppb bags both machine washable and way larger than i thought they'd be. almost all of them i have bought turned out to be bigger than i thought they'd be.

The only time we changed our minds after the baby was born was when DD1 was born. She was an Emily the whole time after finding out she was a girl, and when the nurse asked what her name was after she was born to put on her little card, she said, "Well, that's Emily #5 for the day." And I said, "NOOOOOOOO!!!!"

And then we poured over the lists for a few days, and she became Meredith. Which suits her much better than Emily ever would have.

My family also names kids for dead relatives, it's Jewish tradition. We're pretty flexible generally - anything that sounds remotely like the original works. In my case, it was obvious that we were going to name our kid for my mom who died a few years before. I'm not a fan of second names, so if we both wanted family names we would alternate kids, but as it is my husband doesn't care, so the next name will probably also come from my side.

Anyway, we went back and forth between a few variations on my mom's name (which was Eugenia in the Polish pronunciation), and eventually settled on the closest we could manage: The English pronunciation of Eugenia for a girl (because I won't give my kid a name I can't properly pronounce), or Eugene for a boy. Naming a boy for a woman would have been a break with tradition, but I didn't really care. I felt that my mom would make an excellent role model for any kid, and there was no way her first grandchild was not getting named for her if I had any say in the matter.

Knowing my daughter made a difference when it came to the nickname, which we only settled on after about a month and a half. We thought we might call a girl Ginnie before she was born, and I still think that's cute, but it's just not her - she's just obviously Eugie. I didn't even think about that possibility before she came along.

All 3 of mine were named before birth. Sydney was named by 20 weeks, which was fortuitous in our situation. Levi was named by 22ish weeks, if I remember correctly? Reid was named around 30 weeks. Keith originally wanted to name him Chandler and at first I agreed because I do like the name, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn't like it. Reid fits him much better so glad I pushed.

Our naming rules are first name we like + middle name for a family name. We didn't hyphen their last names because we were afraid that would be too long but sometimes I wish we'd said "screw length!" and hyphened or given them my last name as a middle name or something.

Ok so we get to guess, and I am guessing Benjamin for a boy and Iris for a girl (you are lucky that you guys have cool family names no Velma, Vera weirdness. Congrats on the baby cant wait to see s/he's pic

please tell me the last name will be his-hers. hers-his is just as bad as giving the kid the fathers last name. i don't get why more women don't stand up and use their last name. here's hoping you're making some progress and using yours last.

We had a girls name and a boys name picked out, but I waited at least a day before being 100% sure. I have name woo.

His middle name took way longer…we hadn't picked those out at all.

He's also got my-partner as the order for last names. It works better that way (mine is very long and complicated and my partners is very short and common). I assume that Alice thinks that's not ideal because people will just go with the last name they see, rather than the whole hyphenated last name. Which reminds me that we need to get around to changing ALL of our last names to something new!

Ha - naming our babies has been one of the hardest things to do! Our first daughter, we named Meadow. It's not a family name, to be honest I've never met a Meadow, only heard it on The Sopranos. But it is beautiful and sweet and is perfect for her.
Our second daughter was born last summer. I was leaning toward using Ruby, my grandmother's name. My husband wasn't quite on board. A few weeks before I had the baby, my beloved grandma had a stroke and was hospitalized. She recovered briefly, but died within 2 weeks of my daughter's birth. We named her Ruby, and I was so glad to be able to tell my grandma we named our baby for her. It made her light up, and even though she couldn't speak anymore at that point, I could tell she was happy. So now we have a Ruby to live on in the family. I think if we have any future children we would like to use family names as well.

What it means it that women will come up with varied reasons for giving in to hers-his when it comes to hyphenating. Because he still wins since hers is seen as more of a middle name and his still comes LAST. Very few guys hyphenate themselves and are only ok enough to not cause a stink when it's hers-his. And for whatever reason women just don't care or don't want to fight the fight. What makes his last name belong to the child more than your? And if it's a boy yours especially will seem like a middle name. I don't get why this something feminists refuse to care about and just fold on. But there you go, that's what the comment means.

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