Memory Lane: The Name Game

In honor of all the soon-to-be Twitter parents I know who are picking a name for their first or second or fourth babies.

Picking a name for a child is fraught with the possibilities of familial conflict. I must say that Dan and I were (are) pretty lucky. Although my MIL had names for all her grandchildren picked out, she knew full well that her children and children-in-law were going to name their kids.

(To wit, here are the names my MIL picked out: boy names were John Phillip and… ah! I can’t remember; girl names, Savannah and Philadelphia (yeah, IDK). Then she met my grandmother, and decided either I or my SIL had to have twin girls that we would name Olivia and Olympia.)

Obviously, none of these names came to pass. If my own parents had strong opinions about what we should name the children, they never told us.

When I was pregnant with Gabriel, Dan and I did not find out the sex of the baby. (I suspected he was a boy from the get-go, though.) When we talked names, I said if L’il Bean was a girl, I wanted to name her Flora Marie or Maria. Flora was his grandmother’s name, and Marie is the middle name of all the first-born girls in my family. I don’t remember any of the boy names we talked about; we didn’t pick Gabriel until we were in the hospital.

So: Flora became Flora. We went to Dan’s father when we found out she was a girl and asked for his blessing. Flora was his mother’s name; she died when he was 5 years old. We didn’t want using the name to be a source of pain. Of course, he was honored that we asked him, and said, “Of course.” (Looking back, I suspect that if I knew using the name would’ve caused a problem, I would’ve avoided it.)

When I was pregnant with Kate, and we found out she was a girl, I told Dan I wanted to use my father’s mother’s name (Kathryn). I said using it as a middle name would be fine.

But we couldn’t decide on a first name. I wanted to steer clear of very Italian sounding names because we already had one of those. I would’ve loved a Colleen or Irene (or Noreen or Maureen), but it was too rhymey with our last name. We briefly discussed Aubrey and Audrey, Gianna, Siobhan, Giada, and more.

Then suddenly, we realized that we were facing (another) induction, I distinctly remember turning to Dan and saying, “We need to pick a name!” I don’t remember who thought Kathryn would be a great first name, but we agreed on that point almost instantly. I think I proposed another family name (passed from his maternal grandmother down to his sister) that sounded perfect with Kathryn, plus we’d be keeping up with another naming tradition.

(My mother at first was not very fond of this choice. “That’s not a name!” she said when we told her.)

Also, Kathryn became Kate within about an hour of her birth.

And then our pregnancy with Le Bud. One of the reasons I was so happy he was a boy was because I didn’t think I could come up with another girl name. (Mentally, I put Danielle and Gabriella on the list.) When we first talked about names, I thought Michael was too “common”. I wanted Nathaniel, but we both thought that was too long (again, I don’t know). My brother and SIL (who have four boys) had taken up a lot of boy names! Dan’s other top pick was David, which I didn’t like for our son at all. (Again, don’t ask me why. M’s got two Uncle Daves, so it’s not like I dislike the name in general.)

Obviously, in the end, I came around to Michael. It was my Pap-pap’s middle name; Dan has an uncle and a cousin who are named Michael, so it straddled both families. We used my dad’s (and my brother’s) first name as a middle name.

In contrast to Kate, Dan and I continue to call him Michael, although we recognize that others do (and will) call him Mike. People call Kate “Katie” too. I mean, what are you going to do? Protip: Think of possible nicknames and initials before you name the babies! Poor Flora doesn’t get a nickname, although my brother is working hard to get Flo to stick.

During the process of all these name games, I think Dan’s favorite thing to do was to read baby name books. He had a blast sitting in the midwife’s waiting room reading out names and their meanings. We also loved watching sports (football and hockey, mostly), and trying out some of the more outrageous names with our last name. Ultimately, though, we never really fought about what to name our kids, and, as I said, our families never appeared horrified with our choices.

How did you/are you picking names for your offspring? Traditional, family, saints or sports?

18 thoughts on “Memory Lane: The Name Game

  1. Wow… you almost really HAD a N’at! (IE the perfect Pittsburgh name)

    “How many kids do you have?”

    “Oh, I have 2 girls N’at.”

    As you know, I never had kids, but I’ve had the names to pitch for ages. Given my druthers, I’d call a boy Travis, after the protagonist of the Dean Koontz book “Watchers.” Travis was a man! Travis could handle anything. Travis could rescue the girl, kill the monster and teach the dog to read.

    For a girl, I wanted the name Lauren. It’s based on anyone; I just think it’s an elegant name and sounds good before the leading N of my last name.

    • Exactly. I’m always like, “Girls, let’s go! And Michael!” I *am* going to start calling him N’at.

      I like your names. Travis makes me think of a country singer, but it’s a very masculine name. Lauren is pretty, classic. You can’t go wrong with strong, classic names. You gotta work on your nieces and nephews, now.

      • Well, it looks like the run is going to end with my 2 nephews, who do currently have names.

        The funny thing is that the first-born, Daniel, no question would have been named Brooks, after Brooks Robinson, if they hadn’t already named the cat Brooks. (I suggested “Boog”, another legendary Baltimore name, but I was aggressively ignored. Who wouldn’t love a bouncing baby Boog?)

  2. Ooooh I so want to chime in with the names we have picked, why we picked them, and the process we came to picking them. But! We are keeping them a secret from everyone. Even the interwebs.

    • We also kept our names secret. People think they have a right to comment otherwise.

      Although, in our case, we had THREE names for each kid going into delivery and could’t pick!

      • If my mom had kept her name choices secret, I would be Caroline, not Katrina, because her aunt told her that my grandfather would hate me if I was Caroline because he had a cousin he hated named Caroline. Now, i love my name, but it sucks that someone convinced her to change it from a name she loved since she was young. One of the major perks of being the parent is naming rights, so I’m not sharing that with anyone!

  3. My first choice was Sabine, which was referenced in a song that my favorite (now defunct) local band The Nixon Clocks sang. My husband and every other family member hated it, unfortunately. I liked Arielle a lot (spelled like that, though inspired by The Little Mermaid) as well as Ariana and Adriana. Hannah and Grace were also in my top 10, but both awful with my husband’s last name. It did not matter; the hubby did not like any of those names. The only two names we agreed on were Hailey and Jordan. I preferred the former; hubby, the latter, and since I named the dog the year before, Jordan it was and is. I have no idea why we liked both of those names, though oddly enough I had a mini Cabbage Patch kid when I was kid whom I named Jordan, but he was a boy. Oh, and her middle name, Theresa, is my first name, which I don’t use.

  4. My husband took the lead on choosing names. I just insisted on veto power. The boy is named after his grandfathers. The girl is named after the lead character in Run Lola Run and Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in The Royal Tennenbaums.

  5. When I was born, my grandfather sent a telegram (olden days) jokingly naming me after my two great grandfathers. It read: Roscoe Oscar is born!

    Of course, today I think that would have been an awesome name.

    My mother always tells me that if I were a girl, I would have been Meredith.

    So, with all these awesome names, how did I end up with Tom? Lazy parents, I guess.

  6. I am a total name dork, so I love this post! I like how you used family names, but also names you LIKED. We are choosing not to use family names, but mostly because there aren’t great ones to choose from. Plus, since I took my husband’s last name, and the kids get his last name, my feeling is that’s plenty of names from his side of the fam.

    Our next baby names will be public soon enough! 🙂

    • Yes, there was no assumption or tradition in place that dictated we use family names, but we really did like all the ones we had to work with! And we couldn’t agree on others. I also wanted to name a girl Loretta which is my mom’s name. Ran out of babies!

      Can’t wait to hear what you picked! **hugs**

  7. Regarding nicknames: It’s funny, Liam doesn’t really have a short form of his name but we have called him Spud as an affectionate tern since his birth. Scot was the first one to use it and it stuck like glue. We still use it.

    Now, Jamie, on the other hand we HAD to pick a nickname and use it. I mean, come on. His first name is James and our last name? Uh, no. Scot and I both hate Jim and Jimmy but love Jamie and I refuse to give in to the girls who keep stealing all the boy names! So Jamie it is. I know that one day it will be different and he will likely choose something else or his friends will call him something else but that’s later and up to him. But to me (and us) he will forever be Jamie.

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