On the Naming of My Children

image courtey babynames.blogspot.comThis time I’m referring to my children’s real-world names, not their blog names.  And I still won’t reveal them.  But I read an interesting little article at Christianity Today online about whether there is spiritual impact to giving children biblical names.  The research (such as it is) says, “No.”  It did bring to mind the weighty decisions we made in naming our children, though.  Naming a child is not just a deeply personal decision, but a deeply personal story – like giving birth.  I can’t count how many times I’ve been in a gathering of women and had this subject come up.  We mothers love to talk about how our children got their names.  Do dads do this?  I just asked Mr. Right and he says they don’t.

I’ve always felt strongly that names should mean something – that when a child asks, “Why did you give me this name?” the answer should be more than, “Because it sounded good.”  Our children’s name come from a variety of sources, but they do all have significance.  AND they sound good.

Without revealing their names, I can tell you this:

Baph’s first name is taken from the Bible, and from a specific story that had meaning to us when we were trying to get pregnant.  His middle name is taken from one of my favorite actors.  I’ll tell you that it’s someone from Hollywood’s Golden Age, so no, it’s not Vin or “The Rock”.

Striker’s first name means deeply loved in her home country.  I found it on a list of Indian names and thought it was b-e-a-utiful.  Her middle name is the name that she had in the orphanage.

B. Lake has not one, not two, but three names, not counting our surname.  His first and second name are the names of Mr. Right’s favorite poet.  His third name, or second middle name, is his birth name.  But not the name he was called in the orphanage, where for reasons no one could explain, he was called “George”.

Cheesy’s first name was chosen quickly, almost on a whim, because we didn’t know it would stay with her.  She came to us as a foster child, three days old, and with no name.  Well, that couldn’t stand, could it?  Even if she was only going to be with us for a week or two – that was the plan, after all – we weren’t going to call her Baby Girl the whole time.  The first day with Cheesy, while I fell in love with her, Baph found a baby name book and started looking for inspiration.  He found a name that meant “girl with dark hair”, according the book, and it was a cute name and seemed to suit the baby with her fluffy black hair.  Her middle name came later, when we knew she’d stay.  It’s the name of a biblical character I very much admire, and also the name of a great singer.

Finally came Bee.  Her first name comes closest to having been chosen just because it sounds good.  Mr. Right and I knew that this would be our last chance to name a child, so we took the process very seriously.  We each made a list of 25 girls names that we liked and after trading the lists, we began the elimination rounds.  I’m not sure what happened, but somehow my entire list was eliminated.  Bee’s first name came off of Mr. Right’s list, and while it had literary pedigree, I didn’t fall in love with it immediately.  I can say with completely confidence, though, that it’s the perfect name for her.  It is short and sweet, and so is she.  Her middle name, on the other hand, was my choice.  It is long and elegant and a little grandiose, but it was chosen for meaning – a declaration I made to myself while still pregnant, that this midlife surprise would be a blessing.

I loved naming our children.  The power to name is enormous.  Aside from my life, my name is the one thing my parents gave me that I still carry with me, unchanged, every day.  It helped to shape my perception of myself as I grew up.  On the one hand, I always liked the fact that I was named after Jesus (sort of).  The phrase Rose of Sharon is used in Song of Solomon, and has been interpreted to refer symbolically to Jesus.  Remember Rosasharn from “The Grapes of Wrath”?  Well, I just got the Sharon part.  On the other hand, it was not a fashionable name when I was growing up.  I was not a Jennifer, Melissa, Kelly or Michelle.  I was Sharon, a name that had passed its prime a good ten years earlier.  I consoled myself with the knowledge that had I been a boy, it would have been even worse:  my parents had planned to name me after their pastor, which would have made me Hugh Colflesh.  Ugh.

While I realize that names are subjective and people have many reasons for the names they give their children, I do think some people make objectively bad choices.  I knew a boy in high school named Russell Carrs, and yes, his family called him Rusty.  That’s not funny, it’s just obnoxious.  More subtlety goes into another bad name I came across.  I was volunteering in Baph’s class many years ago and I kept hearing a little girl addressed as “Tyranny”.  Appalled is not too strong a word for my reaction.  I can still remember thinking, “Dear God, why would anyone name their child Tyranny?  What kind of future dreams do the parents have for that poor girl?!?”  You can probably guess that I was off on the spelling.  I finally saw the little girl’s name in print:  Tierney.  And yet, I swear, it was pronounced “Tyranny”, and I still think it was a poor choice.

Some names are ruined by people, and some are redeemed.  That the name Adolph was pretty well done in by Hitler is old news, but many of us have names we would never use because of some bully from grade school or the first boyfriend that dumped us.  Conversely, a fabulous person can completely remake an otherwise unpopular name.  I had a friend in college named Martha.  I am old, but not so old that the name Martha was in style when I was in college.  No, this was the mid-80s and Martha seemed like a strikingly old fashioned name when I first met her.  But then…well, Martha turned out to be spectacularly funny, boisterous, brilliant, the kind of person who made life technicolor just by showing up.  She changed my perception of the name Martha forever.

Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing to hear – that someone had come to love your name because they associated it with you?  Maybe that’s what I should hope for my name, which I still don’t especially like.

What about you, dear readers?  Any stories about how your named your children?  Or any unfortunate names that you’ve run across?  What do you think of your own names?

And just for a little bonus fun, can you identify which celebrities gave their children these names?  I’ve chosen only ones I already knew, which tells you that I sneak too many peeks at People magazine in the checkout line.  Guess away, people.

1.  Sosie Ruth
2.  Piper Maru
3.  Harlow
4.  Apple & Moses
5.  Wolfgang
6.  Coco
7.  Scout, Rumer, & Tallulah
8.  Hazel & Phineas
9.  Moxie Crimefighter
10.  Rocket, Racer, Rebel, Rogue & Rihannon


About Sharon Autenrieth

Wife, mom to 5, homeschooler, Christian Education Director, idealist, malcontent, follower of Jesus.
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16 Responses to On the Naming of My Children

  1. HP says:

    As one of the lucky readers that actually knows the real names of your children, this was nice to read. Also, great job on the naming. 😉

    I was named after my uncle and my grandfather, which is kinda weird for a girl. I have an uncle named Holly Shawn. No surprise, he goes by Shawn. My grandfather was Albert Francis, so I am Holly Frances. I never loved or hated Holly when I was a child. It was a pretty popular name. 33 years later, people still spell it wrong, which always baffles me. I hated Frances. Frances was some old lady with boring brown hair and glasses. As an adult, I have learned to like it.

    The Firstborn was named after my favorite person in the world, my Grandma Lu. She died while I was pregnant. The Starter Husband (aka my ex) didn’t like it as a first name, so we agreed that her middle name would be Lu Ann. I don’t really remember how we chose Autumn for the first name. We had a list going and the name won. We call her Lu Ann or Lu at home. Friends and teachers call her Autumn. Poor kid answers to anything.

    The Middle Child got her middle name from my bestest girlfriend, Melanie Joy. Her first name The Man and I decided on together. So she is Madeline Joy. After 7 years with this child, I am certain that we made the perfect choice. We usually call her Maddie. One night, when she was an infant, she was crying a lot and The Firstborn said, “Maybe you should have named her Happy.”

    With The Baby, we picked Erin right away. It’s short and cute and Irish. I read in a baby name book that it meant peace and was use in poetry to mean Ireland. I loved it. The middle name we had picked was Leigh. My mom’s name is Rebecca Lee. This is her fifth grandchild and I thought I should use her middle name. She liked the idea but thought we should spell it right for a girl, Leigh. While I was in labor, my mom fainted. My midwife tried to get her to go to the ER to get checked out. She refused to leave the room until her granddaughter was born. The first time I held my little Erin, I looked at her little face and thought, “I’m going to name her Rebecca.” The Man agreed and she was named Erin Rebecca.


    • See, I just love these stories!
      FYI, one of my good friends in high school was named Frances. She was half Filipino and all crazy, so that name never seemed old fashioned to me.

      Cheesy’s “first” middle name was Joy. When she came with no name I thought of this poem:

      ‘Infant Joy’ by William Blake

      “I have no name;
      I am but two days old.”
      What shall I call thee?
      “I happy am,
      Joy is my name.”
      Sweet joy befall thee!
      Pretty joy!
      Sweet joy, but two days old.
      Sweet Joy I call thee:
      Thou dost smile,
      I sing the while;
      Sweet joy befall thee!

      When the time came for adopting Cheesy, though, I switched her current middle name – although Mr. Right would have been happy if we had left it “Joy”.


      • And I still cry EVERY SINGLE TIME I read that poem, because it makes me think of that first day with Cheesy.


      • HP says:

        That’s so sweet! I am going to have to copy this poem!

        It also reminds me of my friend’s babies. She brought the first one home from the hospital with no name at all. The second got a name just before leaving the hospital. I can’t even imagine how you go through life as a girl with no baby names picked out. They are now called Geetanjali Naomi and Priyalakshmi Ruby aka Geeta and Priya. (American Mom, Indian Dad)

        Joy would have been a good name for Cheesy. 🙂


  2. June says:

    The time has come to tell the truth. Although, there was not a vote taken I remember campaigning for you to be called “Sherry”. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been glad my opinion was not taken seriously as I’ve always thought Sharon was beautiful. Now I’m off to my birthday book to remind myself of the kids middle names.
    Very bad with celeb. baby names but did recognized Bruce Willis, Johnny Depp, and Gweneth (sp?) Paltrow.


    • I toyed with the idea of going by Sherry a few times, but it never took. And never felt quite right.
      You’re right about Bruce Willis and Gwyneth Paltrow, but Johnny Depp’s kids aren’t on the list. Thanks for trying, though! 🙂


  3. Hollie says:

    @ Holly – I am also Holly but with the -ie…and no one ever ever spells my name right. I was frequently called “Hollie with an IE” in school…and you would be surprised how many times it is still spelled wrong by people who know and love me….Thankfully not my hubby or parents..hehehehe. I remember having holly as a spelling word as a child and having to really think about spelling it right.

    I wanted to name our daughter Bethanie with an -ie of course…but dh was having nothing to do with that…not Bethanie…or the -ie. As it was she was not officially named until the next day.

    the first born was not to difficult to name. But the middle was Timothy James for twelve hours…and then the next morning – dh decided he liked his current name better. I didn’t care at this point.

    As you can see….naming is not easy for us…hehehehehe.


    • I thought of you when Holly-with-a-y said that people misspell her name. Why? It’s the normal spelling? You’re the one whose parents made things difficult. 😉

      I also think it’s interesting when I hear of people who didn’t decide until after the baby was born – or change their minds. Very different from our experience. Maybe if you have more kids it will get easier? I think you should try and find out.


      • Hollie says:

        ummm..I have to respectfully differ with you there. Each child was more and more difficult. But of course, I did not know you when I was pregnant…maybe you would have been able to help…hehehehe


    • HP says:

      I get Hollie or Holley. I don’t know why people mess it up. When people forge my name, the women call me Heather or Kelly and men call me Molly. I’m 33 years old, I’ve stopped correcting people. lol.

      Love that you used “DH.” 🙂

      If anyone needs a baby name, hit me up! I am done reproducing and I have a lot of good names left!


  4. Andrea Young says:

    Oh boy, I’m about to write my own blog on your blog for two reasons. 1. I LOVE this subject and 2. I loved your story:)

    I always knew I wanted my children’s names to be different. There was like a bazillion Andrea’s but I always wanted to be the only one! Seems that some people either feel this way or the opposite. I once heard that if you have a common name you’ll name your kids uncommon names and if you have an uncommon name you’ll name your kids common names… I dunno. Anyway here goes our stories.
    Number 1
    Aubrie is named after my great grandpa. I don’t remember him much but from all the stories he was one awesome dude. Also, my great grandma is still alive and I knew that naming my child after her precious Aubrey (yes, we spelled it different) would mean so much to her. So really I named my daughter after my great grandpa primarily for my great grandma! Her name is Silvia Opal and well…I just couldn’t! Although I’m not fond of her name she rocks my socks off! She is loud yet quiet, strong yet weak, loving yet firm, open and mysterious, perfect and not. Even though I don’t get to spend much time with her anymore and she tells some of the same stories over and over, she is amazing and I love her. There has been a couple of times in my life when she said something to me that carried me through. And although she probably don’t remember those times, I always will. Aubrie’s middle name is my own…yeah I always liked myself a little too much:)
    Number 2
    My husband came home one day right after I found out that I was pregnant and said he was praying on the way home and he felt like the Lord told him the baby’s name is Malachi. I said oh…well I sure as heck hope it’s a boy then! He was:) His middle name is Timothy because his dad is one stinkingly amazing dude!
    Number 3
    Judah Michael came at a time in our lives that ranks pretty high up on the sucky list! It was an extremely difficult time and the Lord showed me how to praise him through the storm. Without His timely revelation I would have surely DIED! So Judah Michael which means Praise for Who is like God is one if the great testimonies of my life. Even now as I write this, i’m completely overwhelmed by this statement. Judah is going through some stomach issues and we can’t figure out what is wrong. I get so frustrated and exhausted and yet God reminds me…Praise for who is like Me? Wow, i’m like preaching to myself or something. As i’m writing and tears are falling down my cheeks I’m amazed at how God works. Sharon, God just used your blog to get me through today and tomorrow and every day there after I will praise Him through this storm.
    Number 4
    All you other readers are like “crap, how many kids does this lady have!” Anyway, as you can tell meanings of names are really important to me. I’ve got to admit we struggled with this one. After months of baby names and a couple of name polls it finally came. During my prayer time one night I had prayed that God would help us find a name because I was really stinkin tired of looking for one! Later on in that time I was praying for our ministry here in Granite City. The Lord reminded me of a name I had read in a magazine earlier that day (that I didn’t like when I read it by the way.) It meant fruitful. I felt like the Lord said the He had made Timmy and I fruitful and blessed with many children and He was going to bless and make our ministry fruitful too! I was so excited I woke my husband up…it was about midnight I think. I said “hunny, hunny…the Lord just gave me the baby’s name! It’s Riam!” He was not amused. Not at the fact that I woke him up and not at the name either…he rolled over and went back to sleep! The next few days we decided to be obedient. And you know what a couple of days after that I suddenly LOVED his name. The middle name was difficult as well and we eventually decided to go with Charles, Timmy’s grandpas name.

    We get a lot of strange looks and a lot of strange pronunciations and a lot of people probably think we are cruel for naming our children such odd names but you know what I think they will love them. I sure do.


    • Admittedly, I’ve never heard Riam before, but I don’t think the rest of your kids names are odd. And Riam isn’t odd, just unusual. I like it. Beautiful names for beautiful kids.

      It’s funny how the name subject pops up over and over again. Yesterday we had a couple of church friends over to play. All of the kids started discussing what their names mean and Bee was getting teased over her name. It’s a diminutive of a name that means “harvester”. A certain older sister laughed and said, “Your name means that you’re a servant on a farm.” So I interjected myself into the conversation and told them about the “harvest being ripe” and God needing workers for the harvest, and that perhaps Bee would be that kind of harvester for God, and wouldn’t that be awesome! Then we went to the missionary rally last night and he preached on that passage.

      I love your stories, Andrea! I can’t wait to hear what you name the rest of your kids! 😉


  5. Andrea Young says:

    Oh, one more thing. I know a girl name Tierney that is about Baph’s age 🙂


  6. Pingback: About Those Celebrity Baby Names…. | Strange Figures

  7. God does not murder animals says:

    So, is striker’s name Preeti?


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