Category: baby name choice
We may not control what race or gender we bequeath our offspring (unless, of course, we are utilizing a sperm bank in the Empire State Building for IVF), but we do have say over their names. If you play it safe with Bill or Lisa, it probably means your kids will be marginally more likely to avoid risk, too. If you’re like us and name them E or Yo, they are likely to grow up into weirdoes like their parents—or at least not work in middle management.
By Gay Cioffi
When my son was about to be born, close to thirty years ago, there were very few resources for parents-to-be to turn to for ideas for names. Nothing as wonderful as Nameberry, for sure! As a veteran nursery school teacher of ten years, I had the added challenge of having favorite names already taken by my many students. I loved the name Oliver, but I would forever associate it with one of the adorable boys in my first nursery school class. And as the youngest in a family of three brothers and a sister, my older siblings had also gotten to favorites of mine, before I was even of childbearing age. I will never forget the phone call from my mother announcing that my sister Ann had just delivered a new baby girl and that she was naming her Jennifer. I went completely silent as I stood in the hallway of my college dorm. “What’s wrong?” my mother asked. I hesitated, but finally confessed that I was hoping someday to have a daughter named Jennifer. Of course, when I reached my sister by phone later that day I had only enthusiasm for the news of a new niece and her beautiful name.
We’ve had second thoughts. Specifically, my lovely wife Cassandra has had second thoughts that were my first thought. Levi, which she thought was trending too close to popularity and therefore rejected to my great disappointment, didn’t become so popular and she thinks it might have been better than Laszlo, which is our son’s name.
He does seem like a certain type of Laszlo, but he seems perhaps more like a Levi. He didn’t turn out to be the Judah I pushed for – he’s fair and lanky and un-Macabee-like. He’s cautious and sensitive and pretty Levi-like.
Let’s imagine, for one shining moment, that your partner in baby-having says, “You pick the name, honey. I’ll be good with whatever you choose.”
Let’s suppose that this generous-minded partner even says, “You have such awesome taste in names, you can name all our children: First name, middle name — heck, even do the last name any way you want.”
You can name the kids after your mother, if you choose, or use grandma’s maiden name, and your partner won’t even lobby to slip names from their (see how I’m avoiding saying his) side of the family into the equation.
So….what do you do?
When I was naming each of my three children, I was overwhelmed (my family would say obsessed) with the near impossible task of encoding more of life into one word than seemed possible. My third child, a girl, proved an unprecedented challenge. My husband, mystified, would tell me to choose a name I just liked.
But my process was different, I insisted. There had to be an origami of symbolism! “You’re like Borges,” one friend told me, confronted with an ornate justification for the name May. I don’t think he meant it as a compliment. Assorted friends and family looked questioningly at similar extrapolations on favorites like Roxana, Inka, Frieda, Silvia, Maren, Louisa, and Judith (nickname Jude, what’s not to like?). Just keep thinking, my mother advised. And think I did, though with increasing guilty anxiety. Why was it so hard?