Week 14: The Name Game

One of the most fun parts about being pregnant is coming up with baby names. I can spend hours on the subject with my friends, debating the benefits of “Emily” versus “Emma” or “Carter” versus “Connor.” For a guaranteed laugh, flip through the baby name books for the outlandish entries like Caradoc and Sachaverell.

And there’s all sorts of fascinating trivia related to names. For instance, it may interest some people to know that my mother visited cemeteries for ideas of what to christen her children. Sounds morbid, but she wanted traditional New England names, so where better to look than the final resting place of a bunch of old Yankees? And, while Abigail wasn’t even in the top 25 in 1974 when I was born, it now ranks among the top 5 most popular names for girls. Who knew?

Unfortunately, the one person who doesn’t find endless enjoyment in the name game happens to be the only other person whose opinion really matters – my husband. He’s a bit of a procrastinator, so it’s no real surprise that he’s not itching to get started on a task that, technically, could wait another six months. Still, his reluctance to participate is annoying.

It usually works like this: I’ll suggest names I like, and he wrinkles his nose in disgust, repeating the name with the most unflattering pronunciation possible. “Cuh-LAIR? Are you kidding? Claire’s a fat girl’s name.” (Turns out he was quoting from “The Breakfast Club,” frequent movie quotations being another annoying husbandly habit.) Sometimes, if I wear him down enough, he’ll toss out a couple suggestions of his own – Seamus? Deirdre? Franz? – which I inevitably hate. I’m not even sure if he’s serious half the time.

It doesn’t help that his last name is a big part of the problem when it comes to selecting the right name. It just doesn’t sound right with a lot of names. Since it starts with “F,” forget Phoebe or Finn or anything else starting with F. The kid would spray spit everytime he said his name. In fact, anything with a “v” sound in it is pretty much out, too. Then there’s the issue of mixing nationalities. C. has a very Irish surname. It sounds good with nice Irish names like Colleen and Danny. But tack on Greta or Irina and you’ve got a cultural mishmash on your hands. Might as well name a kid Boris Garcia or Keiko Schwarzkopf.

Thinking it might be fun to research ancestral names, I browsed the family history my grandfather put together years ago. He traced relatives back to the 1800s and mapped out our whole family tree. Turns out, lots of folks hailed from the South – hence the predominance of Ida Maes and Earlenes. To be honest, there were only a handful of palatable choices in the whole bunch. (I thought Gracie Lee was kind of cute. C. refused to even consider Daisy or Jasper.) I know old-fashioned names are back in style, but there’s no way I’m naming my child Edna Maude, family name or not.

Speaking of family, ours was only too happy to jump in with suggestions – especially what names NOT to pick. My mom started out by saying, “Whatever you choose will be wonderful” before adding, “I just hope you don’t name the baby George. There are way too many Georges in the family already.” Then she went on to disparage the perfectly acceptable name Noah before suggesting – with a straight face – we might name our son Deke. DEKE!!

The problem with opening up the whole name issue to other people is that they feel free to tell you every bad association they have with every name imaginable. One person knew a bratty kid in school named Kyle. Another hated an aunt named Eileen. Yet another has heard of more than one pedophile named William. And once you’ve heard these stories, you, too, will forever make that same association with the name.

The other snag we’re running into is that all the names we like are already taken. If not by someone else’s child, then by someone’s pet. I kid you not. I really liked the names Sadie and Alexis until I discovered those are the given names of a relative’s dogs. Big deal, you may be saying. But do you want your child to be humiliated at the family reunion when someone shouts, “Sadie! Did you make this puddle on the floor?”

If C. and I ever do manage to agree on a name that’s not already taken by someone’s pet ferret, that’s not associated with a hated teacher or convicted felon, that sounds good with his last name, that has the right number of syllables and the correct cultural connotation, I’ll let you know. At this point, it’s looking like the child’s going to be named “Baby X.” Though that could cause some problems for him or her at job interviews someday...

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