Category: family names
My husband and I have six kids. If naming babies were an Olympic sport, I’m pretty sure I’d medal. Not necessarily in quality or creativity but in experience.
When we had our first daughter in 2001, choosing her name literally took 5 minutes. My husband suggested Juliet. I loved it immediately but suggested the longer French version, Juliette, because I thought it made a better balance with our short, somewhat masculine-feeling last name. He agreed.
Her middle name was chosen before I was ever even knocked up. In 1998, I was visiting Ireland when a bomb blast in the Northern Ireland city of Omagh claimed the lives of 29 people. One of those souls was that of a little girl named Maura. I made a silent and personal vow to use that name if I were ever to have a baby girl. Also, Maura is the Irish form of Mary and we are Catholic, so it was especially precious to me. We never looked back or second guessed our choice of Juliette Maura.
Middle names are, in many ways, the place where you can get most adventurous with your choices.
Or are they?
What, in your opinion, is the best kind of middle name to choose?
A creative name that you might love but that you wouldn’t dare put in first place?
A name with important symbolism — the city where your child was conceived, the name of a personal hero?
Or maybe you see the middle name as the ideal place to represent family: to use the baby’s father’s first name, for instance, or pass down grandma’s maiden name or honor a family member who is recently deceased.
Or the middle name to you might be an opportunity to create flow and melody in a name, and so you look for a middle name with the perfect combination of syllables and sounds.
Weird Uncle Sebastian. Nice name, but not exactly the kind of guy we want our baby to emulate.
Grandma Hortense — sweet lady, yet that name….no.
It may be a name that’s important in your family but that you just can’t bear to foist on a newborn baby. Or maybe it’s a name you like of a relative you don’t. But some family names simply don’t make the list as baby names.
What name from your family are you NOT going to pass down to a child?
I love a family name.
It doesn’t matter if the family is the ruling house of a sovereign nation or the neighbors down the street. If you would like to tell me about the great names on your tree, I’m all ears.
So when my aunt mentioned that she had inherited boxes of old family photos from her mother, my grandmother, I immediately volunteered to sort through them and upload information to a genealogy website as we worked.
Aided by wine and technology, we delved into three huge bins.
It was thrilling to discover pictures of my ancestors – great-uncles and great-grandparents as children, other photos from so far in the past that we determine exactly who was in the picture.
But the biggest thrill for me was discovering so many great names. I’d always thought that there wasn’t much excitement, name-wise, on my dad’s family tree.
I was so wrong.
A name is not a small thing. I didn’t realize its full weight until I read Helen Keller‘s account of her genesis in the world of language and identity. In Keller‘s blind, deaf, pre-linguistic experience, there was only sensation. Keller tells how she was given a doll, and how her teacher attempted to tell her what doll meant. “I became impatient at her repeated attempts and, seizing the new doll, I dashed it upon the floor,” says Keller. It was later that same day that Keller discovered language in the experience famously captured in The Miracle Worker.
“Somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me,” recounts Keller. “I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. I felt my way to the hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance and sorrow.”
It was only once the set of sensations embodied by “doll” had a name that Keller experienced guilt. To dash the doll to pieces wasn’t merely changing the experiences: It was destroying its very doll-ness. To understand that identity could be more than mere sensation was the beginning of an entirely new world for her. “When I learned the meaning of ‘I’ and ‘me’ and found that I was something, I began to think,” said Keller. “Then consciousness first existed for me.” It is this process of naming and defining that creates the world of the conscious mind.
For years I worked to consciously create an identity for myself as Rob D Young. I created heavy self-perceptions, definitions, a brand of self. I established a reputation. I decided who “Rob D Young” is.
Then about six months ago I started seriously considering changing my name to Robert Blair in honor of my grandfather. Two years ago my grandfather started bleeding internally for no reason in particular. Not long thereafter he had what he dubbed “a bit of a problem with gravity.” I don’t know how people handle this process; I don’t know how to wait for the death of someone I love. There are so many ceremonies and processes and support systems for the passing of a loved one, but the gradual waning beforehand aches fiercely and we are given little else besides the ticking clock. We remind ourselves to remain grateful for whatever time he has left, and we try not to feel guilty for wanting him to stay around in a breaking body for even longer.