What’s In a Name

By Kellie Head


What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.This may be true in the botany kingdom, but when it comes to our children, there are a lot of stinky names to be had.

Choosing names for our children is a monumental task. Maybe pregnancy spans the better part of a year to give parents time to decide on a perfectly flowing name for their sweet little bundle-to-be only to change it 25 times before finally agreeing.

Kids never like their given names. They wind up renaming themselves after their favorite Disney movie character and expect you to call them Rafiki or Quasi Motto from that point forward.

There are many books available on the market to aid parents in the name game endeavor. These books boast the added benefit of listing the meanings of each name, as well as alternative spellings. Mothers-to-be will more often pore through these books, while the fathers prefer the less scientific method of naming a child after that year’s Heisman trophy winner or the horse that won the Belmont cup.

It has become popular to give state and other location names to children. During first grade roll call you may hear names like Vegas, Dakota, Cheyenne, or Ravine (which, I suppose, beats the alternative, Ditch or Gully).

It seems more beneficial to plant early career seeds by naming a child Surgeon or Engineer–even Plumber and Baker would be pointing the tot in the right direction. You’d have to be careful of choices like Dancer and Rocky, though, since they aren’t specific enough. Instead of a Prima Ballerina and a Geologist, you could end up with a Belly Dancer and a self appointed groupie for the leading hard rock band.

Bird names have also become increasingly popular–Falcon, Raven, and Eagle top the list. These sound a little like secret agent code names, but at least the extinct birds like Dodo and Pterodactyl remain sacred.

Some parents choose to name their babies after the month in which they were either born or conceived. These are very pretty names but they must match well with the Surname. For example, you wouldn’t want to name you baby May if your last name is Flower or March if your last name is Neil (this would be like commanding your dog to sit and roll over at the same time).

Surnames lead to trouble with other first names as well. If you ever meet someone named Skye Gray or Stormy Knight you’ll know instantly that their mother was still feeling the effects of child birth drugs when she filled out the birth certificate.

Perhaps you’ll know their father aspires to be a poet if their name is something like Lisa Batista, or Shelly Carelli. I always assume a parent, nervous from the realization of their new responsibility, stuttered their infant’s name to the County Clerk when I meet a John Johnson or Dan Daniels.

My sister chose names from the Bible for her sons: Joshua, Matthew, Jacob, Zachariah, and Bob. As legend has it, Bob was the chariot mechanic preferred by the apostles.

A friend, upon given the advice, ,’try on a name, wear it around awhile and see how it fits, decided to name her daughter Saks (as in Fifth Avenue). Of course, her husband disagreed, but caved under the pressure of her pleas while she was writhing in pain during labor (guilt as a manipulation tool~she,ll make a great mother).

Some parents use acronyms from their combined names to award to their offspring. Robert and Sheryl Greene will inevitably christen a Sherbet Greene. Worse yet, Robert Greene and Sheryl Brown can’t decide who’s last name to use, so they add a hyphen and end up with a Sherbet Greene-Brown, producing a visual image no child should have to live with.

I know parents who name all their kids with the same first initial: Katie, Karl, Kent, Kimberly etc And others name their offspring alphabetically: Andy, Beth, Chris, Debbie and so on. Maybe George Foreman has the best system~name them all George and be done with it. A handy numbering system might work well, too.

Middle names, typically reserved for nerdy family names like Agatha and Heratio, are considerably easier to assign. Bestowing Grandpa Icabod’s name to an innocent child is rarely due to long-standing family tradition. Usually, it’s to appease the incessant pleading of a Mother-in-law. In an attempt to make everyone happy, my son possesses three middle names–then we had the nerve to tack a Jr. onto the end. Saying his full name ties your tongue in knots, but it kept the extended family on speaking terms.

Once you’ve settled on a name, you have to decide on a spelling. Some parents go off the deep end in this department. The simple beauty of Cindy becomes ,syndie and ,sandy becomes ,sanDeE (even the spell check on my word processing program had trouble with this one). Names that need phonetics in parenthesis after it should be outlawed. In my book, if parents select an oddly spelled or acronymic name, they forfeit the right to complain when that name isn’t listed on the bicycle license plate rack at Wal-Mart.

After all the time I spent researching name origins and doodling out the various spellings before selecting the ideal monogram for our child’s future bath towels, I end up forgetting it at least once a day. I can stare directly at one of my kids and draw a blank (Which one are you? I know you live here.). By the time I get them straight, I’ve forgotten why I called them in the first place.

Whatever name, whatever spelling, whatever heritage or culture, one thing is universally understood. When mom calls you by your whole name, Robert Alan James Fitzpatrick III, you know you’re in big trouble.


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