😉 What I Now Know about baby names
As a Sunday school teacher I often find that I learn as much (and often times even more) than the young people in my class. This week was a perfect example of that as we took out our “God goggles” and looked at “naming” and more specifically the difference between good and bad naming. Who knew that so much could be wrapped up in a name? And as I studied the lesson a couple of things stood out to me. First of all, the idea that naming is Biblical. It was the first job that God gave to man. You might recall the story in Genesis where Adam was called to name all of the creatures. The second thing that kept coming up was just how powerful a name can be…which led me to this post.
When my husband and I found out that we were expecting we tossed around several name ideas. It was fun, light-hearted and a learning experience as we discovered that we had very different ideas about what makes up a good name. Soon after finding out that we would be having a boy, we began to narrow our focus. I wanted Matthew or Thomas…family names. Steve wanted to name our son Jacob or Calvin. Family members and friends weighed in with their ideas. Before long we had a long list of possibilities–none of which we were really crazy about or could agree on. Then someone threw out the idea that we should have a backup name for a little girl…just in case the doctors were wrong. Yikes! Like a lot of couples, we finally got serious and bought a baby name book–and the real trouble began!
If you’re ever looking for a good chuckle, look up your name in a baby book. Better yet, look up the names of family and friends. Very entertaining. The baby book we chose (from Motherhood Maternity) was particularly golden as it had a subsection under every name that detailed celebrities who share the same name as well as a sentence or two that describes how the general population feels about the name. Priceless. For example, my name–Anna–means graceful, however, the general perception of the name Anna brings about images of a hardy, pioneer woman. Let me just say that I am anything but a hardy, pioneer woman. I would have DIED on the prairie! If I couldn’t pick up my food at a grocery store or through a drive-thru window, I wouldn’t eat. Nevermind the fact that I can’t stand to be cold (or hot). I need climate control, too!
This newfound information made choosing a name even harder. Through laughter we eliminated many names and with awareness added many more. Finally, we found a name for our son where we least expected it. In a conversation between my husband and I (about an old Air Force buddy of his) we settled on the name Sean. Our son would be named for a friend. The baby book confirmed our choice as Sean means “God is gracious.” It was perfect. Still I couldn’t help but look at the two little sentences at the end of the entry…Sean is typically a well-liked man who is debonair and sophisticated like Sean Connery’s James Bond character or he is an intense, moody (yet talented) character like Sean Penn. Chuckle, chuckle. (If you know my Sean, you know exactly which description he favors.)
My daughter’s name came about a little differently. Armed with knowledge (veteran parents now) we set out to choose a name for our little girl. Many of the girl names we liked just three years before didn’t makes sense for this new bundle of joy. I started at the beginning of the baby name book and went about choosing a name methodically. This became a bedtime ritual for me. When Steve would finally settle in for the night I would toss out a few names. He was great at pointing out potential problems with little girl names, things that I had never thought about. The list of acceptable names was short. I found myself drawn to one name in particular and offered it up for opinions. Bad move. Let me say that again…baaaaad mooooove! Turns out people have very strong opinions about little girls’ names. Our mothers were not impressed with this name option. Oh, they were polite about it…but “umms” and “wells” can surprisingly speak volumes. I was at a loss until I started the name game fresh again…back to the beginning of the book. I came upon the name Casey. It was a sweet Irish name that meant “brave.” I liked it and before I knew it, I LOVED it. This was the baby’s name. This time when we announced our name choice there really was nothing anyone could have said that would have changed our minds. I think that’s how you know when you’ve come across the right name. You just have that gut feeling and won’t be swayed any other way (which is good, because this one wasn’t an immediately accepted name choice either.) I especially loved the short little sentence at the end of this entry. Casey is an outgoing, friendly brunette. You just can’t go wrong with an endorsement like that!
So, both children ended up with wonderful, well thought out Irish names (did I mention I’m nothing close to Irish?) And here’s What I Now Know about baby names:
1. Naming requires time and consideration. Many times we overlook the significance of a name and forget to weigh our decisions. A cute name today can easily become outdated. An old-fashioned name may require a lot of explaining for years to come. An unusual spelling is unique, but can be problematic down the road.
2. Family names can be tricky. I have mixed feelings about family names. I don’t mind the idea of Junior, the Third, the Fourth, etc., but when you have a family name chances are someone is going to nickname your child. Don’t consider it rude, it’s just that differentiating one person from another is often a necessity for a family. Be prepared to offer your own nickname. It can save you a lot of trouble.
3. Step into the role of a class clown or bully. This tip probably seems odd, but it has a serious place on the list. For example, I really like the name Ashley. But it was quickly pointed out to me that this name is gold as far as teasing is concerned. Also, if you child has trouble pronouncing the name Ashley, there’s another opportunity for poking fun. Kids have enough going on these days…don’t add to it by giving them a name that someone else can easily exploit.
4. Tread lightly where initials are concerned. I used to think initials were cute and don’t get me wrong, they work for some people. But overall, I wonder whether using initials is a disservice to the child. Look at it this way…when you go by your initials it’s somewhat of a shock to people when you use your real name. And you’re going to have to use your real name at some point. I remember someone who went by his initials. Honestly, it was years before I knew what his name actually was.
5. Keep the name to yourself…at least for a while. Let it grow on you. Walk it around a little bit. Consider it from all angles. How does it sound for someone at age 5, 10, 15, 50? Does it still sound good to you? When you finally decide to share your baby name–be prepared. You will get feedback! It’s not like you have to defend your baby name, but if you’re dead set on it you should be ready to back up your name choice. Ultimately the decision is yours, but I remember in the name announcing process not really being prepared for some of the comments I received.
6. Think of your child. It’s their name, not yours. Sure you like it, but think about pronouncing it, spelling it, hearing it chanted at a football game, read aloud at an awards assembly, with the words Mister or Madam President in front of it. Look at the name’s meaning and significance. You shouldn’t base your name on some celebrity, but it doesn’t hurt to be knowledgable about whether or not the name will bring to mind a famous person. And lastly, pray that you will give your child a good name…and when you do, use their name well. How quickly a name can go from good to bad based on tone and inflection. Build your child up by using their name with love and never in a negative way. Have you ever seen a child cringe when their name is called out? Make it a practice to use their name with respect, after all you’re naming a child of God.
All in all, I’m happy with our baby name choices. It’s been fun to share with the kids the stories about how we chose their names and what their names mean. I love to hear how others have arrived at their child’s name choice as well. There’s only been one hiccup to Sean and Casey’s names…over the phone (especially) people often as me, “Are your children boys or girls or one of each?” Yes… I thought that I had considered every aspect of their names. Apparently, I had overlooked gender neutral naming. LOL 😉
A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. Proverbs 22:1
😉 What I Now Know (W.I.N.K.) is a recurring entry on this blog. The idea of WINK as an acronym popped into my head the other day while I was doing laundry. You see, aside from being a slave to housework I actually have quite a bit of knowledge filed away in my overworked brain. While I don’t claim to be an expert on anything, I know something about a few subjects that just might be worth sharing. And just like that this new blog idea was born–WINK (What I Now Know). I hope to share a little bit of what I’ve learned as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother and all-around regular, ordinary girl. Look for ongoing posts, but What I Now Know (as a busy wife and mother) is not to promise weekly entries because life happens– and it usually happens when I want to blog! (Here’s where if I could wink at you, I WOULD.)