Apr 3, 2011

What's in a Name?

The other night, I gathered with some friends for a lovely dinner.  One of the topics discussed was names.

Our hostess with the mostest is dating a "Daniel", but we've all known him (since before high school) as "Danny".  His girlfriend HATES referring to him as Danny -- he is Dan.  Her reasoning?  It's hard to take a grown man seriously when they're using the diminutive form of their given name.  Joey for Joe, Nicky for Nick, Billy for Bill...

I completely understand.

Naming my kids was one of the hardest things to do.  I remember, when I was pregnant with my son, absolutely scouring the baby name websites and books.  I knew I wanted an Irish name and I knew I wanted it to be a strong name.  My rule was, you needed to say the child's name with "Attorney at Law" after it and not crack up laughing.

Try saying "Amber Destiny, Attorney at Law" and see if you don't crack a smile. (No offense intended to any of the Ambers or Destinys currently in the legal profession.)

Thus, one of my initial favorite names, Declan, was discarded.  I thought "Declan Sargent" sounded great... but "Deck Sargent" sounded like a porn star. (and someone, somewhere, at some time or another, would have shortened his name to Deck.)

Throw in things like avoiding initials that spell out something silly or rude (if I had married someone with the last name of Edwards or Evans, my initials would have spelled A-P-E).

Then there are the meanings... I considered the name Cameron until I found out the meaning was "crooked nose".  That pretty much ruined that.  Well, that and... I'm not a Cameron Diaz fan.

Which brings me to the next issue -- memories.  You can't name your kid the same thing as any ex-boyfriend or -girlfriend.  You can't use the same name as the 6th grade bully who made fun of your glasses.  The head cheerleader that you hated with a passion... these all go in the "no" pile.

Then there's things like family names.  Thankfully, I didn't get any pressure from my family (well, beyond my mother proclaiming that one of our name choices, Griffin, sounded like a dog's name) but I know of a lot of friends who dealt with unwavering pressure to name their little bundle of joy after Aunt Mildred or Uncle Eugene.

And, when you are pregnant, EVERYONE wants to know the names you are considering because EVERYONE has an opinion on what you should name your child.  And what you should not.  So, while you may absolutely love the name Grace or Cooper, someone will tell you about the Grace that tortured them in elementary school or the Cooper that stole their bike and tell you what an absolutely awful choice that would be to name your progeny. 

This is why I also know a LOT of expectant parents who refused to tell people the names they were considering.

Then there is my personal prejudice against "E" names, what I refer to as cheerleader names.  Now, before all of you with names that end in the "E" sound get your panties in a twist, let me explain... ;-)

There was a time in my early 20s where every single girl friend I had was this adorable, teeny, happy, fashionable, former cheerleader with a cute little "E" name: Becky, Traci, Stacey, Darci, Jenny, Cindy, Ashley, Mandy... you get the picture.  Every damn one of them.

And then there was me, with my heavy, plodding three syllables...

An  Dre  A.

Now, don't get me wrong... I've always liked my name.  But when faced with the overwhelming perkiness of all those "E" names, I felt like the baritone in the all-soprano choir.  And, while I indeed had the option of becoming an "E" name myself and going by "Andy". I don't think that would have made me any perkier... it just would have made me boyish.

One would think that since I felt so odd-man out with my non-"E" name that I would want my children to fit in and would purposefully name them an "E" name.  To them I say... you don't know my contrary nature.

So, a strong name. No diminutive.  No funny meanings. No bad initials.  No "E" names. No weird family names...

Now you know why I thought this whole naming a child thing was hard.

Eventually we settled on "Quinn" for our son.  And we used my maiden name as his middle name.  It's a strong, one syllable name (thus unable to be shortened) that means "wise" and his initials don't spell anything.  Perfect.

Quinn is ten now and would you like to know what his very best friend in the whole world has called him since he was three years old?  "Quinnie".

Quinn and his best friend


  1. I have the same issue with my own son Tyler. I did not want his name shortened to Ty. Isn't this something you do with shoes? I'm sure there is some perfectly good people named Ty, but I don't know any of them. I did like Tyler though and so I went with it. I did swear in the hospital room that the first person to call him Ty I would strangle. So now I go to school and meet his classmates and what do I hear come from his friends mouths when they call him...Ty. Can I strangle children though?

  2. @Chris: since "Ty" is also something to be worn around the neck, strangling seems perfectly apropos. ;-)

  3. This was funny because one of the requirements for our baby's name would be that when shortened it would still be cool... hence, Jed, Jedi, Jedidiah are all good names, but don't ever call my boy J.J.

  4. When and if I ever had kids my son would be Nick, this came from the movie "a sure thing" where John Cusac said, "were gonna name him Nick!, hes a guy you can trust, a guy that doesn't care if you puke in the back see of his car" or something very similar. Mackenzie on the other hand is named after Sara Mackenzie from Doug's favorite tv show JAG. I sure didn't want people to shorten that up to Mac so we quickly nick named her Kenzie. What is funny is that when I was pregnant for her there were no Mackenzies in my life, now they are everywhere. oh well.