Friday, January 29, 2010

What's In A Name?

“Who are you? ” said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation.
Alice replied, rather shyly, “I--I hardly know, sir, just at present--at least I know who I was
when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”

I grew up in a family with four children- 2 girls and 2 boys- and we all have unique names. My parents gave us all just the right mix of creativity and normalcy. We don't have bizarre spellings, we don't get "Your name is what?" from little old ladies, and our names seem to fit our personalities rather well. Our names can either be used in full or shortened to a nickname. We are all individuals with the names to prove it.

I think this sense of individuality has given me a mild complex about naming my future children. For a long time I thought I knew what I wanted to name my kids... and then I learned that both of my favorite Girl names were in the Top 10 in America for the last few years. And then I met at least 3 couples expecting little girls with plans to give them My Favorite Name. I was enraged. That was MY name! How dare they? And my Boy names too?! The horror!

And then I met Curious George, who hated My Favorite Names. What? How could this be? These names were perfect. They were just the right length, they were classic, beautiful... these were my babies he didn't like. When I brought up names for our children to him he looked at me like I was crazy.

"You've already named our children?" he asked, "Don't you think that's a little premature?"
"No!" I argued, outraged, "It's not premature. With all the babies being born around us we need to stake our claim on the good names, let people know that they belong to us."
"Well, what about family names?" he countered.
"I was planning on using family middle names," I replied, with a bit of a pout.

So my name list changed. And grew. And evolved. And now we have some of the most beautiful names picked out for our daughters, some of the most dashing names for our sons. All of them fit with our last name. They are individual, poetic, and they are my new babies... until I have some real babies to give them to.

Our names help shape who we are. They carry us through our lives and they give us our first sense of self. Whether using our given names, or renaming ourselves later in life, our names are our sole claim on who we really are.

So, I would counter Juliet's argument of "What's in a name?" with one simple word: Everything.


Lena said...

I agree. We put a lot of stock in names, as women. And as mothers that is our claim to the world. Our children are what we put out there with our stamp. And they can live up to the names we give them. Loved this post.

Momza said...

I just wrote about this too, but have yet to post it. The name-game has gotten pretty ridiculous...I wonder if parents understand that they are giving a name to a divine being with heavenly roots and not a Build-A-Bear.
Well said!

Hilary said...

I think and rethink the baby names thing, and all the possible damage I could be doing to a kid, for approximately 9 months :-) It's stressful! :-)
Of course, due to your overwhelming endorsement, I'm now considering Jesus Abraham Lincoln Ghandi if it's a boy :-)

wonder woman said...

I have a name that didn't become popular till I was a teenager. I loved being the only one I knew. My husband has a bit of an uncommon name, too. So I like the more uncommon but not weird names.

I have two sons and will have my first daughter in about a month. We are still SO STUCK when it comes to a name! Most of the names we both like are on the top 10 list for the past 5 years, and all the other names he likes are popular from when we were kids.

I'm hoping this baby comes out with a birthmark that says her name.

Nik "the BoyWonder" said...

good post pippi!!


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