Category: bird in hand
Novelist Christina Baker Kline, whose wonderful new book Bird in Hand comes out this week, writes about how even someone who names fictional people for a living can make mistakes when naming real live babies. Like when she named her three sons: Eli, his brother William, and his other brother William.
You’d think that someone who spends her days creating and naming characters might have gotten the hang of it by the time she had to name some actual humans. That’s what I thought, at least. In fact, I was rather smug about it. A novelist spends a lot of time, over the course of writing 300 pages, with the characters she names, so you learn to choose carefully.
Names can instantly reveal a person‘s class, age, social standing, and even race. They have positive and negative connotations. And the wrong name can be disastrous. For example, a friend of mine named Brandy is an award-winning journalist who has had to battle people’s preconceptions all her life about her name. I would never do that to a character!
So why did I do it to my kids?
(I‘m charitably saying “I,” but for the record my husband was an equal and willing partner in this.)
We named our firstborn William Hayden Baker Kline (yes, four names – bear with me), after my father, William Baker, and a whole lot of Hadens — we added the “y” — in my husband’s family tree. We signed the birth certificate, sent out printed announcements, and received everything from picture frames to baby rattles to blankets with “William Hayden” and his birthdate inscribed.
But over the next few weeks, we began to second-guess. This child was round and jolly, with curly red hair: a baby leprechaun. The princely name of William just didn’t fit. But Hayden – yes! He was definitely a Hayden, a hobbity child of the heather-grown hills. It was the perfect name for him, and, we thought, relatively undiscovered.