Category: talking about names
Question of the week: How do you feel about your own name?
This is a topic that has been brought up in the nameberry forums, with opinions ranging from love to how could my parents do this to me? What we’d like to know now is:
What is it that you like or dislike about your name? Do you feel that it fits you perfectly or not at all? Have you ever considered changing it?
Has it affected other people’s impression of you? Positively or negatively?
Has your feeling about your name changed over time, perhaps as it has become more or less stylish or trendy?
How has your attitude towards your own name affected your approach to naming your own children? Would you choose something similar in style or popularity or one that’s diametrically different?
On this 98 degree day, I’m doing the only chore that makes sense: cleaning the basement. That’s how, deep in a dusty box, between my now adult daughter’s kindergarten drawings and my ancient college essays, I found a draft of the proposal for our very first baby-naming book.
What struck me most about our early work was a list of rules for choosing the perfect name, as relevant today as they’ve ever been — and will continue to be. Whether your taste in names tends toward the traditional or the trendy, whether you’re picking between a few finalists or still playing the vast field, these guidelines should help:
1. Start Thinking of Names Early — Make some tentative decisions, and live with them for a while. If you’re tired of a name after two months, imagine how you’ll feel after 20 years.
To guest blogger Kaitlin (Greyer) and others who share her synesthesia, every name has a distinctive color, shape and texture; a fascinating condition she describes for us here.
It seemed an unlikely place for this to happen.
As I recall, I was fifteen years old – sitting in the booth of a local Burger King with my mother as we picked at our burgers and fries, too hot to really eat anything; it was mid-June or July. I had just begun to dabble in my name obsessions, collecting baby name books when I could find them cheap and carefully recording list after list in blank notebooks. It was no surprise to my mother, then, that the unique name of the clerk – Turquoise – had caught my eye. The sound of this name sent a jolt of crimson color straight to my brain. As we sat in the back of the store, talking quietly, I turned to my mother and said:
“Mom, do you ever, like, see a color in your head when you hear a word or a name?”
She paused. Then: “Yes,” she said. “I named you Kaitlin because it’s bright yellow and it makes me think of sunshine. It’s a happy color; I wanted you to be happy.”
“But Kaitlin isn’t yellow,” protested my fifteen-year-old self. “It’s pale lavender and grey, the color of a pearl.” She nodded. “I guess our colors are different.”
This is how it began. We started with her name, my name, the names of my father, grandmother, grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins, comparing our respective colors for each. Mom told me about the colors of her current favorite names and the colors of the names she’d considered for me. It developed into a special connection between us, as well as a sort of game: whenever we checked out at a department store or restaurant, we would make special note of the name tag of the person waiting on us. As soon as they were out of earshot, we’d each blurt out a color. “Jane” was chartreuse or eggplant, “Michael” pumpkin or scarlet. Gradually, we discovered that her colors were just that – colors, as though suspended in water or hanging in the air. My colors, on the other hand, had depth. I have a sense of whether a name moves left or right, up or down in my head, or whether it is static. If the name has a dimension, I can describe that, too: some names, like Ella, are two-dimensional, a sheet of colored paper. Others, such as Oliver, are domed; some are even complete spheres. Most names have a texture, often best compared to fabrics, but Christopher is smooth and shiny like the skin of a fruit, and Lydia is sandy and cratered, akin to the face of the moon.
WHO DO YOU TALK TO WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT NAMES?
Today’s question is: where do you turn when discussing your name choices? These days, when picking the perfect name can seem to be a minefield of do’s and don’ts, many if not most parents-in-waiting turn to others for guidance and opinions. How about you?
– Is your partner your principal sounding board and if so is finding a name a primary topic of conversation?
– Do you talk about names with your friends (pregnant and not) – and how honest do you really want them to be?
– Do you find that talking with your family—especially those of the parental and grandparental generations—is trickier than talking to friends—and if so, why?
– Have you made virtual friends on message boards whose opinions you value? Have you become part of an online community that has raised issues of interest to you and that you might not have considered before? Have they helped you in arriving at a decision?
Tell us about your name community!
One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is an ancestral name, one that forms a strong link to his or her past, and more and more parents today are searching and researching their family trees to find names that have personal significance as well as style. And with genealogical websites like ancestry.com, it’s now possible to dig deeper into the roots of the tree to find forgotten nuggets, maybe an unusual middle name of a great-grandmother, or an interesting maiden name that could work as a first.
Using the name of a living or fondly remembered relative has the satisfying benefit of conveying the essence of that loved one, in the hope of bestowing their admirable qualities on your child. But even with a more distant forebear whom you might not have known, family stories of that person’s achievements can come alive again through the name, providing your child with an immediate and precious legacy.
I myself have not been able to trace my family history back more than a few generations, and for the most part the names reflect the Jewish immigrant experience: the expected Sarahs, Samuels (many), Sols and Sauls, Rachels, and Rebeccas, but there were a couple of more unusual, untranslated from the Yiddish, exceptions:
NAHOMA (called Nelly)
From my husband’s more mixed background (English/Guernsey French), we’ve found:
LOL (male, probably a nickname for LIONEL — in the days before laugh out loud)
I’ve used my father’s name Sam as the inspiration for daughter Chloe’s middle name Samantha, and Pam has incorporated one male ancestor of hers (a grandfather’s middle– Owen) and one of her husband’s (Leopold, which became the middle name of son Joe).
On the Name Talk forums you have already posted some wonderful family names of your own. (unicorngal put together a fascinating compendium a few months ago at http://nameberry.com/nametalk/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=2690&hilit=ancestor), including such gems as :
But I’m sure that’s just the tip of the iceberg (to further mix my metaphors), which led me to think of this as a perfect crowd-sourced blog topic.
So let’s hear your own favorites from your family tree. Have you incorporated them into your child’s name? Do you plan to in the future? Does you family have any particular naming traditions?