Category: Family Names
Back in 2012, I heard about parents naming their babies Draper in honor of Mad Men. I remember thinking the idea was daring but a little silly. These people were taking the last-name-as-first-name trend to an absurd conclusion, I griped.
It had been a few years since occupational surnames like Cooper and Mason had become popular, and I worried that pretty soon every kid would be a Fletcher, Tanner or Jagger. Traditional names were a dying species.
Then I made a startling discovery.
Today’s Question of the Week is about naming a baby after an older relative or friend or hero.
Did you name your baby after someone in your family — grandparent, great-grandparent, long-ago ancestor, or maybe even yourself?
Or would you choose an honorific as a name for your yet-unborn baby, and if so, which one and why?
Looking at names that were popular in the early days of the U.S. gives us a chance to reflect on how much we have changed and evolved over the last two centuries. We are clearly more multicultural as a society in terms of how many different countries, languages, ethnicities and cultural traditions we draw from in choosing names for our children.
Most of the common names in the early nineteenth century in this country came from the British tradition, and in fact, the lists of popular names would be almost identical for England and America. And yet names were chosen from some of the same sources as today: family histories, celebrities, religious traditions and popular entertainment. The lack of variety or originality of the name lists from this period belies the fact that names were chosen to denote respectability rather than the individuality valued today.
If naming your first child is a challenge, naming baby number two – and maybe three and four – can start to feel like a puzzle. Should you repeat first initials? Should everyone share the same first initial? If your son’s name is a Top 20 standard, is it okay to give your daughter a name that’s never cracked the Top 1000? How about honor names? If your daughter is named after your grandmother, will his grandmother expect to be next?
There’s no right answer, but there is a right choice for every family. This week, sibsets were in the baby name news – and on my mind.
Blame it on a trip to the zoo. We’re lucky enough to live in the Land of Bao Bao, also known as Washington DC, home to the Smithsonian National Zoo. As we crowded into the panda habitat the other morning, parents called their kids’ names. Mostly Sophia, with Noah, Aiden, and Hayden tossed in for good measure.