This 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
4. Apple & Moses
7. Scout, Rumer, & Tallulah
8. Hazel & Phineas
9. Moxie Crimefighter
10. Rocket, Racer, Rebel, Rogue & Rihannon