Thursday, March 19, 2015

How Babies' Names Are Chosen


Almost anytime Claire and I had a sleepover, we would get out our name books (we each had one; mine was called From Aaron to Zoe; hers was Beyond Jennifer and Jason; the title of her book was most fitting because we certainly ventured beyond the most common names of the day) and would name our future children. I believe both books were ones our own parents had used in choosing our names and those of our siblings. Sometimes we would do this when our other friends were present as well, but not often, as they quickly became bored with the activity. We never did.

It's not as though we would be in need of the names at any time soon at the time we started devising the lists. I don't think it would have been anatomically possible for either of us to bear a full-term child much before either of us turned nineteen.  Still, we were  proactive, well-planned, prepared sorts of individuals. Had we needed the names, they would have been ready. A few of the names actually did get used on Claire's cats, if I recall correctly.

My taste in names ran from relatively conventional to hard-core Irish to Americanized Irish, with one brief thematic deviation. Claire's names tended to be  dependent upon the theme on which she was obsessed or the boy on she had a crush at a particular moment. For example, I'll give you one of her lists (we both recorded both of or lists in composition books; someday her parents will come across hers and wonder what in the hell it is) from when she had a thing for a Japanese-American boy. I won't divulge his name, but it would be considered about as Japanese in origin as Andrew or Jeffrey would be.

Claire's Name List from October of  2009                           
Boys                                  Girls
Samaru                              Makiko
Toshi                                 Midori
Chihiro                              Tamaki
Sadaharu                           Chiyoko
Yukio                                 Kimiko

Claire went through a brief and unexplained phase of fascination with Hawaiian names a few years later.

Claire's List of Hawaiian Names
Boys                                  Girls
Tanieli                              Kanamu
Kekoa                               Makeila
Makani                              Keala
Kaleo                                Alihi
Kapono                             Kanoi
Nikono                              Liliukalani

Claire also went through a few different Biblical phases. I won't recount them all, One version listed the twelve tribes of Israel, feminizing half of them. I was really glad that she got through that phase long before her child-bearing years, as those were some ugly girls' names. She went through a heavy Christian martyr saints' name phase as well. I'll skip that one, too. you could guess if you tried hard enough, anyway. I will list the straight biblical list with which she came up. It lasted longer than the other religious lists,         anyway, if my recordings are correct.

Claire's List of Biblical Names
Boys                                  Girls
Matthew                            Mary
Mark                                  Elizabeth
Luke                                  Martha
John                                  Ruth
Adam                                 Naomi
Gabriel                               Eve

I would like to think that one of her later lists was entirely in jest, but I don't know for sure. Claire was mildly fascinated with the American gypsies featured on the TLC programming, and compiled one of her lists using their names. The women featured most prominently in these shows, but Claire watched enough even to know the men's names.

Claire's List of Gypsy Names

 Boys                                   Girls
Stanley*                              Nukkie
Heath                                 Ninnie
Pookie                                Mellie
Henry                                 Jettie
Gus                                     Lottie
Albert                                 Dallas

*Stanley was actually the major family surname of the group featured in one of the TLC programs, as opposed to a male character.

I should not let myself off totally Scot-free in this naming debacle. I, too, compiled lists, and they weren't necessarily comprised of names by which my parents would have been proud to introduce their grandchildren. I briefly toyed with a theme of musical terms to name my children.

Alexis' List of Musical Names

Boys                                    Girls
Basso Profundo                    Allegretta
Fortissimo                           Sonata
Adagio                                Cantabile
Giocoso                               Mezza Voce
Presto                                 Triste
Vivace                                 Appegiatura

Sometimes my list of Irish names was relatively hard-core Gaelic, as in names not all that often heard in the 

Alexis' list of Semi-Hardcore Gaelic Names
Boys                                     Girls
Amhlaoibh                           Aisling
Declan                                 Mairead
Enan                                    Lasairiona
Colm                                   Caitriona
Riocard                                Saoirse
Sleibhin                               Roisin

I should note that in regard to some of these names. I hadn't a clue at the time, or do I necessarily know now, how they are correctly pronounced. I just liked the way they looked.

I should also note that, although we both always chose exactly twelve names, neither of us had any intention of giving birth to any number of children even approaching twelve.  Our thought was that multiple births sometimes happen even without the intervention of fertility drugs, and we wanted to be prepared in the event that it happened to either one of us. Our rationale was that with our practically nonexistent midsections, there was no way possible for either one of us to carry any more than six fetuses, if that many,  to viability. Since we didn't know the gender or genders of these sextuplets to which we might give birth, it made sense to come up with six names of each gender in order to be prepared for any outcome.  I believe the intent of each if us was to give birth to somewhere between one and four children.

Middle names were discussed but not usually recorded. Depending upon whom I was angry with at any given moment in time, my children's middle names might have been John, Steven, Matthew, Scott, Erin, Victoria, Jillian, Alex/Alexander/Alejandro/Alejandra (I could never decide which form of the name would sound best).

The last lists we came up with were during Christmas vacation. Claire spent a couple of evenings with me as I was recovering from the malady of the month. I won't share my list, as it isn't important right now, but I will share Claire's list, as it is evidence of a major paradigm shift.

Claire's Final Name List
Boys                                   Girls
Ian (her late brother's name)          Laurel (her sister's name)
Steven (her father's name)          Elizabeth (her godmother's name)
Bradley (her brother's name)                     Anne (her mom's and my middle name)
James (her godfather's name)            Aubrey*
 Evan (just a name she liked)                          Adele (a name she liked)
 Ryan (her grandfather's name)                      Stella (I think just a name she liked)

*Aubrey was the name my parents had chosen for me before I was born. Shortly after taking her first look at me, my mom announced that I was not an Aubrey. In some ways I resented for a long time that she changed my name. I thought it was because I was too ugly a baby to have a pretty name like Aubrey. (Two-pound-two-ounce babies aren't typically things of beauty in the eyes of anyone but God.) I've long since reconciled myself with not being named Aubrey, but maybe Claire thought she could somehow make things better by naming her baby Aubrey. I don't know, because we didn't talk about it.



  1. My mother named me Jennifer, which was probably the most common girl's name in 1972. I go by Jenny because it suits me. I hate it when people take liberties with my name and call me something other than Jenny. People do it, though, because they're lazy or because they're trying to be cool.

    I used to think of names I'd like to give future children. Now I can only name dogs.

    1. When it gets right down to it, naming dogs is important. If things go as planned, that dog lives with the name for a long time.

    2. Both of my dogs had other names before we got them. Zane was originally called Einstein (which he's really not). And Arran was called Marley and CD. He answers fine to Arran and I think it suits him.

      We didn't rename our dogs, Flea and MacGregor. I am sure Flea had another name before he was rescued, though I suspect he was a hunting dog. MacGregor was still pretty young when we got him, though the person who originally got him probably gave him a name.

      Our first rescue's name was CuCullain (CC for short). But he was called Bubbles and Sinatra before we took him in. He had bright blue eyes. Bill loves Irish literature and admired CuCullain, so that's why we gave that name to CC. We didn't have him long, though, because he got a mycobacterial infection. :( They are very rare in dogs and devastating. Hope I never have another dog with that problem.

  2. Love those hardcore Gaelic names!

  3. Aha! One of my "pet" topics. I too was given THE name of my cohort-always one of seven of such name in my high school class. That made me determined to not do that to my children. In consequence I was peeved when the uncommon name paying tribute to our joint Scottish heritage became trendy 10 years after our son was born.

    My other personal peeve is unisex names.

    We used to play a game during shifts in the ER of our Children's Hospital . From the name alone, guess the year of birth. Due to the demographic attending a fre inner- city Children's Hospital the names reflected the trends closely. We could usually get to within 2 years. Soapies have a lot to answer for!

    Just returned from a fabulous concert. Sarah Chang playing the Bruch Concerto and the Raveltzigane Concert Rhapsody. She sure knows her way around a violin. Hope you keep your violin up. It can bring so much pleasure.

  4. Claire's parents have given me her cello. I think I'll take it up out of obligation. certainly a lot of what I've learned from violin will transfer to cello, but the sound may still be painful for awhile. I'm leaving the cello at my parents' home for this quarter, so I won't really start until summer.

    Guessing years of birth by names in a hospital is very interesting. i can see how one could become quite adept at it after awhile. and you're right about the soaps' influence. I don't think the name "Kayla" existed in the US for practical purposes until the Kayla Brady character was introduced on "Days of Our Lives" in the late 70's or somewhere therabouts.