5/06/2005

What's in a name?

Well, due to lack of research on my part, I have only recently discovered that my three children all have very common names. They are all in the top 10 in America, with 2 being in the top 5. This is very distressing to me. I have doomed my children to living with a last initial throughout their school years. Every time their name is called, it will be answered with a "which one?" Poor kids. I don't know how they'll ever survive. I guess I should just start saving now for the therapy bills that will come later. ("My parents didn't love me enough to give me an original name. That's why I'm content with mediocrity. It's all in the name!) I always wanted to name them something basic, no funky modern names for me. What is WITH the name Madison, anyway? Oh, and BTW, NOBODY named their child Madison until after 'Splash' came out in 1984. Go ahead- look it up . Nothing like being named after a mermaid. Sorry to all you moms of Madisons, and I know some very nice Madisons, but I just can't handle it. Get mad at me if you want. What do I know? My nickname's "The Wiz" for crying out loud. I thought the names should be easy to spell, (her name's Madison, but we spell it 'MadiSYN' - just to be different) easy to say,(can anyone say 'Hermione?') and something that they could grow with (nothing like an 80 year-old 'Bobby'). I wanted to make sure their initials didn't spell anything, and most of all, I hoped they would like it. I would like it to have a family connection if at all possible, but that does not mean that I am naming my daughter 'Mildred'. And yes, that is my Grandmother's name - what's it to you? I always feel for the child with the funky names, and I always wonder - do they view it as a conversation starter? Do they like it,as in - hey, it's always an ice breaker to tell why your name is "Liahona"? Or do they wish they were named Jane? And do the Janes of the world wish their names were more interesting, as in "Cordelia", a la Anne of Green Gables? And how do we as parents avoid pitfalls in naming our children? For example, I would think it's a pretty safe bet that if your last name is "Hill", you don't name your child "Cumorah." But that didn't stop it from happening. I went to high school with a Cumorah Hill. (Hi, Cumorah, if you're reading this, although I very much doubt that you are, unless you happened to Google yourself.) My cousin went to college with a "Happy Thanksgiving." Her middle name truly was Thanksgiving. What is the thought process here? (Ditto to Happy, if you're reading this. I've never actually met you, but I think your name is funny. It makes me smile. Maybe that was the point.) Oh, and what's with the girls taking over the boy's names? Did you know that 'Beverly' was originally a man's name? And then the girls took it over, and the rest is history. Do we think that by naming our daughters a male name, that we are somehow making them more assertive or something? Naming your child is a very stressful and personal thing. And I do think that to some degree there is a little bit of revelation involved, whether we know it or not. (Anyone heard of Joseph Smith, Jr.?) But people, can't we use a little common sense in the process?

36 Comments:

Blogger Bryce said...

Clearly, the most important rule to follow is that if the prophet is passing by your house, don't invite him in to bless and name your baby.

5/06/2005 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous claire said...

I'm with you on the cool boys names being appropriated by girls! All the boys names I like sound too feminine for my husband. Luckily we still have 5 months to settle this..... AND we don't even know if it will be a boy or not (although so far it seems like we've used up all the good girl names).

5/06/2005 10:44:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Hey, Liahona is a great name! My friend Liahona says she gives a first discussion every time she introduces herself! Plus, she can just go by "lia" if she thinks the whole name is too weird.

Heather is also a name that you go through life telling people "which one". In my college single's ward, there were 5 Heathers. We were all known by our full names. Amazingly, we all survived. I think your kids will be fine.

Sometimes I think that the whole girls taking boys names thing can go too far. Every met a girl named Bret, or Ryan? I have. It's just not right. And then to hear the mother call her daughter "Hey, Ry Ry-" C'mon people, pick a girl's name for your girls, for crying out loud!

5/06/2005 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

Try being raised a Susie.

I asked my mom once why she named her children such common names--we all have the most common names possible, it's remarkable really--and she said, "I guess I just wanted *something* in my life to be normal."

Couldn't argue with her there.

I think the meaning of names are important. When my sister-in-law was trying to decide between Elias and Isaak for her son I said, "'A forerunner,' or 'He laughs'? Of course it has to be 'He laughs!'" (Isaak)

I named my daughter a name I don't particularly like, because I named her for my grandma. I may not like the name, but I loved my grandma. (It's also my middle name.)

5/06/2005 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger annegb said...

Hopefully this isn't a thread jack. (BTW, my granddaughter's name is Madison).

I have a sort of mental illness or something where I will get it in my head that a person looks like, say, Joanne. Her name is Mary. I will call her Joann. Not on purpose, it is maddening, but I just can't get peoples' names right if I think they look like another name.

I call my future son-in-law Nathan and that is not his name. He just laughs. I don't even know another Nathan. He just looks like a Nathan. Nice and easy. Eventually I get it right, but I've had people get really mad at me for it. People with no sense of humor.

5/06/2005 11:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Sue said...

I named my daughter Emma. We didn't live in Utah at the time, and I loved the Jane Austen book, and thought it was a sweet name. We now live in Utah. There are 7 Emma's in my daughter's nursery class. Oops.

5/06/2005 11:25:00 AM  
Anonymous McKay said...

I normally don't post under my real name, but since this is a conversation about names, I figure it's a good time to do so! I'm the only member in my family, and my name (McKay) comes from my Grandmother's maiden name. I think people in the church assume I was named for David O., but it's not the case. I personally have appreciated having a different name, and one that is not necessarily male or female. Yes, it hurt when my 7th grade English teacher expected a boy but instead got me, but then again everything in 7th grade hurts! In business, I appreciated being able to be "anonymous" sometimes in my dealings via email - it was kind of fun to surprise people when they eventually met me face to face or we spoke on the phone.

When I was pregnant, DH and I didn't know what we were having, but we wanted to follow the same naming pattern my parents had used - using my husband's mother's maiden name - Maxfield. In the end we had a boy and we did that, but we probably would have done it with a girl as well. I like "Max" for a girl, I think it's cute, and I would have given her a rather feminine middle name so that she could have a choice if she wasn't happy with Max.

5/06/2005 01:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

Maxfield is a really cool name. If we'd done that, our oldest would be Emfield. Not as cool.

5/06/2005 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

McKay - My husband's mother's maiden name is Fail. As in "not succeed." No way we were naming our kid that, but I'm glad the pattern worked for you. It wasn't a pattern we even considered, for obvious reasons.

We almost named our son "Max", but then we met him, and that name seemed too intense for him. I like to wait until I see my babies before I name them, just to make sure the name we picked in utero fits the face.

Bryce - No Mahonrimoriankumr -s in this household. I have learned my lesson. And don't even talk to me about how I butchered that spelling. There's a reason he was known as "brother of Jared."

5/06/2005 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Melanie said...

There was an article in the NY Times a while back about how people in Denmark have to get their children's names approved by the government to prevent children getting named names that are uncommon and could lead to a lot of difficulty for defenseless little babies who can't tell their parents, "No, I don't want to be named Apple!".

5/06/2005 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

We named our first son Samuel, thinking we were doing something kind of unusual and original. Nope, there are Sams all over. So we named our second son Abraham, thinking surely there wouldn't be other Abes around. Then we came to the Central Valley of California where it is a sort-of popular name among Spanish-speaking families. We never woulda thunk it.

My name is Ana, spelled the Spanish way but pronounced the English way. It confuses people somewhat and I do spend some time explaining that I was named for a little girl my mother taught on her mission in Ecuador. But I always think it's a cool story to tell, and it doesn't bother me.

5/06/2005 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

McKay -

I never told you this, but the first time you introduced yourself to me I thought, "Wow! She must have parents who are really into the Church!" And I remember being really surprised to find out you converted. So much for making assumptions about people!

5/06/2005 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Bryce said...

We named our first son Stanley, after his grandfather. We figured it was slightly square, but solidly masculine. Now it seems like we run into Stanleys everywhere we turn.

We're expecting our second son in a week or so. Any suggestions?

5/06/2005 02:15:00 PM  
Blogger dede said...

Heather, I am trying hard not to be offended by the Ryan thing. I have a daughter named Rian and I call her Ri-Ri and Ribug. I think it is an adorable name for a girl, and is even listed in the name books as boy or girl. So back off! :^)

5/06/2005 02:20:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Random thoughts:
I cursed all my children with my own curse -- know how many Melissas there were growing up? or now in the whole bloggernacle? too many -- my second's name is Caitlyn and the first question when people find out her name is: "How do you spell it?" Our youngest has a traditional enough name -- Alison -- that I think she might escape without too much attention.

My dad worked with a guy whose name was Barry Christmas and, yes, he did name his daughter Mary. Poor girl.

If we ever have a boy, DH is set on calling him George. How on earth do I talk him out of that one?? Everyone now: George, George, George of the Jungle...

5/06/2005 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

We named our first son Arlo (and gave him a generic middle name should he decide that Arlo's too lame), after the folk singer Arlo Guthrie. This next kid will have one generic name and one native american name (we haven't decided yet which will go where).

I went to school with a guy whose parents unfortunately named him Geren Tea (his last name is Tea). *sigh*

5/06/2005 02:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have a somewhat difficult last name Armenian/Ukranian orgin. We chose simple names on purpose - Jack and Kate (not Kathryn or any other derivitive). Our last name is distinct enough there was no need to give the poor kids fits trying to learn to spell both names.

BTW - I think Ryan is a boy's name.

Signed,

Ryan

5/06/2005 03:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

Wiz, sounds like you and me are twins when it comes to issues with names. I guess you could call us name snobs, and I honestly know I need to work on it. Why should I care what others name their kids --I shouldn't, but I really do. Working on it.

As several of you have expressed, I've always loved the old-fashioned classic names and am so sad that so many of them are so trendy now.

Oh and Wiz, I love that you have to meet your child first -- I am the same way. We had two names on deck with our son, but ended up naming him Nathan even though we'd never considered that and it's soooo common :(.

My oldest's name is Anna which isn't too commen, but my second'sname is Abigail which is pretty darn common. Also, even though I've loved that name forever I almost didn't name her that because I didn't want people to think I was going to have 12 kids with "A" names. I generally appreciate it when people stay away from themes with their children's names. (I know one family who had 5 sons all named after states - Dakota, Nevada, etc.) Again, none of my business, but....biting my tongue (fingers?)

I know, I know, I have issues.

PS Melissa I love George, but I don't if I could use it as a first name yet, maybe I'll be brave enough by my 6th child, if not for sure middle name.

5/06/2005 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

Count me in with the name snobs. It's a personality flaw, I admit, but as far as first impressions go, if I meet kids with names that sound completely made-up, my opinion of their parents goes down ever so slightly before I even meet them. It's wrong, it's prejudiced, but sadly, it's a bit automatic.

We tried to give our kids names that could grow old with dignity (although I'm constantly being asked, "Oh! Did you name her Phoebe because of Friends?!").

Bryce, forgive me, I wondered if Stanley was named for Stanley Fish. :) I like the name anyway.

5/06/2005 03:58:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

Bryce, here are some boy names I liked and probably would've used if we'd had a bigger family:

Sebastian
Trevelyan (Trev for short)
Jordan
Samson
Van
Jackson

My friend named her daughters Piper and Dylan, which I think are cute names. My s-i-l named her son Noah, which isn't that common. I like the name Alain but I don't think I'd saddle a kid with it. Trevelyan is bad enough!

5/06/2005 05:52:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

I agree withthe name snobs, though I guess there is something to be said about creativity. Right? We have friends who named their girls Summer and Lake, and a SIL who named hers Gentri, Cambri and Kyli. Then there's Addaliese (another SIL). All a bit weird in my book. And something that I wouldn't want to saddle my kids with throughout their life. Same reason we didn't name our youngest Noelle (she was born in December). Thought she'd hate us growing up.

Andrea, George is okay as a name in books or in movies, but I just can't see calling a kid George. George is somebody old and English.

I love the name Gwyneth, but I'll never get to use it because of Gwyneth Paltrow. Sigh. Though how many Julias are named after Julia Roberts? And is it really that bad to be named after somebody famous (or fictional)?

5/06/2005 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Susan -- I could swear that my SIL Rebecca said she had a friend whose daughters were named Piper and Dylan. What are the chances you both are talking about the same friend??

5/06/2005 06:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

My friend's name is Jennifer, and she's not LDS, if that helps!

5/06/2005 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger the special one said...

Dh and I had a terrible time coming up with a middle name for our son. We knew that we were going to use Dh’s first name for our son because he was named after his grandfather whom he was really close too. But we didn’t want to use his middle name because that was his other grandfather’s name, with whom he had a very bad relationship with. We almost used Calvin, which I love, but his initials would have of been PCP, not a good choice in my opinion. So we decided on James, and now my mil calls him PJ which at first I hated, but now it doesn’t bother me. Oh and my parents used family names for 9 out of their 10 kids. Almost all of the boy’s names (first and middle) are surnames. But they didn’t give any of the girls middle names so we all have taken our maiden name and use it as a middle initial, just something different I think. Though DH and I did given my daughter a middle name, (Rowena) DH’s grandmother’s name, but most people assume it’s from Ivanhoe.

5/06/2005 06:48:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5/07/2005 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

My DH and I had a heck of a time naming our first daughter. Here's how it went: I came up with a whole long list of names that I liked and then he proceeded to shoot down every single one of them for a myriad of reasons. It was so frustrating. He never came up with one name that he liked. I guess he just knows what he doesn't like. He agreed to Lucy about 3 minutes before she finally popped out of me. But I think that only happened because I had been trying to push her out for about 3 hours and basically demanded it (it sounded like a good name for a stubborn child). Hard to say no under those circumstances I guess.

I think we might have had an easier time if we could have used family names but we aren't very lucky in that department. We got some winners including: Irma, Jonita and Gailen. As much as I love all of these people, I just can't do that to my child.

So this time around, I have mentioned a few names to DH that I like--just to get them in his head (and of course he hates them all). Then I think I will use the same tactic and ask for the name that I like when i am in the most pain during labor. We'll see if it works again.

P.S. The Wiz --I have 2 nieces named Madison

Sue: I have one niece named Emma who lives in Utah.

5/07/2005 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

I love the name Anne, which is my psuedonym on the Bloggernacle. It seems serene and wise and lovely, unlike my normal self. So far, I'm living up to my other psuedonym, Maggie (the big mouth bar maid).

When I was a girl, I loved Victoria Holt, who wrote a book called Mistress of Mellyn. I decided to name my daughter that. I met a guy who told me his first daughter's middle name was going to be Mellyn (I never found out where he got that from), and I married him. We never had a daughter, he passed away, but I have my Mellyn. I knew she was out there. Now that's she's 19, not my favorite person, but I have high hopes we'll get through this.

Oh, she's going to name her first girl Mary James, James after her brother, who she adored, my son who died. I think that's just wonderful. Mary James is so real to me, I'm already saving toys for her. Special things. Mary James, cool, huh?

Ryan could be a girl if you wanted. No offense to Ryan, the boy.

5/08/2005 07:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Sue said...

Gentri? Seriously? She named her daughter after the class of English landowners ranking just below the nobility? Only misspelled? Aye-yi-yi-yi-yi...

"It's a personality flaw, I admit, but as far as first impressions go, if I meet kids with names that sound completely made-up, my opinion of their parents goes down ever so slightly before I even meet them." Oh me too, me too. I try not to do it, but my estimation of their intelligence is impacted a little bit... I guess I'm a name snob too...

5/09/2005 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

I never thought of it as "snobbery", but I guess that is the right word. Names used to have meaning, now they're just a bunch of letters bunched together. It almost seems like the weirder the better.

I will work on it. And yes, all you with Madisons in your family, I will still like the Madison, (both my daughters have Madisons for friends)but I will never understand the motivation. As I will never understand the motivation to just make up a name.

5/09/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Seriously. And it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who thinks it's a bit weird that my neice is named after a social class. The really sad thing, too, is that she says she knows other Gentri's. What is the world coming to? :)

5/09/2005 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Matt Astle said...

Incidentally, the Social Security Administration released the top 1000 names of 2004 last week, where you can learn a lot about popularity of various names (for example, that Emma is the #2 name nationwide and the #1 name in Utah, and Madison is #3). For long-term trends and a better understanding of names, I recommend the website and the book Baby Name Wizard (where you can learn that Stanley reached its popularity peak in th 1910s, but today represents only 100 babies per million).

I'm a bit snobbish too--I prefer the middle-of-the-road names that you know for sure how to spell and what gender they are, but aren't overwhelmingly common.

That said, I grew up with one of the most popular names of my age group and I turned out okay.

5/09/2005 10:09:00 PM  
Blogger Bryce said...

well, the baby is here. his name is trevor shigeki inouye. pic here

no caps becase i'm holding a baby :)

5/10/2005 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

Congrats, Bryce! Soooooooo cute! Almost makes me want another one. Actually....not. Congratulations, and thank you for naming him sensibly. Trevor is a great name.

5/10/2005 11:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Mary said...

I went to high school in Oregon. There are lots of very "natural" people in the area I grew up in, so there are lots of kids I went to scohol with who had names reflecting those ideals, such as:

Ocean and her brother Forest
Willow and her sister Rainy
Riverrose
Cedar
Jonquil
And my niece, Iris Moon, and my nephew with middle name of Riversong

...and I'm sure there's more. I'm just not into themes, though it is fun for me to mentally catalogue all of the silly names there are out there!

5/11/2005 09:35:00 AM  
Anonymous N Miller said...

I know a family with the three girls named, Aspen, Feather, and Brooke. The parents were of the hippie generation and the name fits. More recently, my wife has an friend who recently named thier little boy "Guess". I think that is rude to the boy. When he is trying to make friends, everybody will think he is trying to be funny. "Hey, what's your name?" "Guess" "How could I know, what, are you trying to be funny?" Any ways, I think it is just a little weird.

5/12/2005 01:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan Max Wilson said...

Great Conversation.

Names can be powerful. My wife an I like names that tie our children to the gospel and/or to family.

We have two daughters. We considered the name of our first for a very long time before she was born and settled on the name Beth-el Marie Wilson. Beth-el means house of God and is significant to the covenant making of Abraham and Jacob. The dash helps people pronounce it the way we would like. It can be easily shortened to "Beth" if she wants a normal sounding nick-name as she gets older. Marie has been the middle name of the eldest girl on my wife's side for several generations. It is a name that ties her to her mother.

We had a hard time naming our second daughter. Nothing seemed right. Before she was born, my wife received a blessing that said that the baby's name would be given by inspiration. After praying several times we felt inspired to name her Eve Gethsemane Wilson. The name refers directly to two of the pillars of the gospel: the fall and the atonement. While LDS culture shies away from Gethsemane as a name, say it out loud: Eve Gethsemane. We think it is beautiful. Plus, I like the name Eve because it is a palindrome.

We look forward to the opportunity to find names for future children as well.

5/17/2005 08:03:00 PM  

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