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Baby Name Choice: Ryder– A name ahead of its time

April 1, 2014 Linda Rosenkrantz

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.

Name selection, challenging for all new parents, felt even more daunting to me.  As someone who did not love her own name, Gay (I will save that story for another time), the importance of a name felt even weightier.  Also, the sheer volume of names left me feeling overwhelmed.  It seemed I needed a system or a place to start and I finally hit upon one that worked for me.  My name only has three letters, as did the name of the father of my children.  Why not only consider names that had three letters or less?

This system offered many advantages. First of all, it was in keeping with the family tradition of short names.  Secondly, with far fewer names to choose from, I felt less overwhelmed.  And finally, having a short name would make that early academic achievement of writing one’s name an easier task for my kids.  Only a nursery school teacher who had witnessed the struggles of the Louisa-Carolines and the John-Patricks of the world, would have an appreciation for this aspect of the “three letters or less” rule.

So armed with these parameters I set out to find names that I did not already associate with one of my students and that fit the short name rule. While this tactic accomplished narrowing the field, it was almost too limiting. There are not that many names with only three letters, or should I say not that many that appealed to me… Art , BobPat,  no way.  But I liked the strategy enough that I kept at it and finally found the name that I loved for my first born, Ry.

I had always been a fan of the musician Ry Cooder, since his days with Taj Mahal and the group “Rising Sons”. (I’m also a huge fan of the musician Taj Mahal and the number of letters in his name were right as well, but I did not like the idea of naming my child after a mausoleum in Agra, India).  Ry on the other hand seemed perfect: short and original. There was also the bonus of some visual symmetry in that choice. His last name was Henry, so …  R Y HEN R Y.

Then the idea came to me, to consider giving him a longer name so that he might have the choice of which to use as he became older. But what would Ry be short for? In Ry Cooder’s case, Ry was short for Ryland, which I did not like. And, I definitely did not like the name Ryan. So, somehow I hit upon the name Ryder. Was it the Ryder truck company?  Maybe, though that is not a conscious memory.  What I do remember is that once it occurred to me, I had total clarity.

Another thing that I loved was the sort of cowboy-ish feel it had.  When Ry was a baby I used to sing to him a little ditty that I made up… “Ry Henry, Ry Henry, King of the wild, wild west!”  I was quite surprised recently to see the name Ryder trending on a list of “cool” guys names. Ryder became a Top 100 name for the first time just last year, given to 3,781 baby boys, whereas it wasn’t even in the Top 1000 until 1994. My wonderful twenty-eight year old son did not grow up to be a cowboy, but he is certainly original and cool, and he has the name to match!

Gay Cioffi has been the Director of the Little Folks School in Georgetown, Washington D.C. since 1980, and has been the recipient of two Wolf Trap Outstanding Teacher Awards.  She is also an accomplished painter and photographer, whose work has been exhibited extensively.