Confessions of a Name Heretic–or, in defense of Jayden

September 19, 2012 Linda Rosenkrantz

Watch out, Berries–today’s guest blogger, Claire Shefchik, has plenty of bones to pick!

Since the age of six, I’ve loved names.  Back then, whenever I renamed myself, I was Crystal (spelled Christal) and later, Jordan.  These days, I prefer Presley to Penelope, Jayden to Jasper.  In the novel I’m writing, two of the main characters are Dempsey and Vaughanfemale characters. Eek!  That’s right, I am a name heretic.

When, a few years ago, I came across the Nameberry-led community of Internet naming enthusiasts, I thought I’d found heaven (sorry, “nevaeh”).  But I found myself, more often than not, at odds with my fellow “name nerds.”  Many claim to be open-minded and liberal, but are much more rigid in their approach to naming than you’d think, especially when it comes to names popular with, as one poster put it, “the WalMart set.”  Another poster declared her goal was to encourage “classically-named babies,” which let’s face it, is just a euphemism for “babies with names of which I, as the self-appointed arbiter of taste, approve.”

One “rule” I quickly ran afoul of concerns unisex names–which, I’ve often been informed, don’t really exist.  “Unisex” just means “boys’ names on girls.”  Even if this is so, I fail to see the problem. Like it or not, the sexes are perceived differently, and choices like Dempsey, Vernon or Monroe are so clunky that I would never even consider saddling a son with them.  But for some reason, slap them onto a pretty girl and presto.  Magic. That’s how the mermaid in “Splash” single-handedly started the Madison phenomenon, and I guarantee that if you’d been sitting in that movie theater back in 1984 (or were),  even you would have thought, “Hmm, on her, that’s actually kind of pretty.” So why the gasps of horror when I say I would consider naming a future daughter Harrison?  These are the same people who have yearly panic attacks when they see names like Mackenzie and Marley inching up the girls’ popularity list.

Which brings us to Jayden (and for that matter, Ryker, Colt and Ace).  Two words: Smokin’ hot.  But I’m 26.  When it comes to choosing between Jayden and a name-nerd hero such as, say,  Atticus,  my thought process is still, “Which one would I rather date?” instead of “Which one would I rather pick up from preschool?”  I tend to go for bad boys with girly good looks,  and I just know Jayden will be skinny and grow up to get tattoos and wear his hair long, whereas Atticus, to me,  screams “sweater vest.” Granted, I’m picturing an adult,  not a kid, but isn’t the one piece of naming advice we can all agree on is that you should name a person, not just a baby?  Seriously, parents, your child will one day be a lovelorn young adult.  Give him a leg up in the dating world, please.  Anyway, when someone knocks Jayden, what they’re really reacting to is not the name itself, but the “aden” rhyme epidemic, of which Jayden just happens to be the most successful product.  Don’t hate him because he’s beautiful.

I’ve considered that I’m stuck in the naming equivalent of a rebellious stage, and this is all just a result of some unhealthy obsession with nonconformity. It’s the only explanation I can think of for my strange affinity for Hortense.  But remember, there’s a difference between actual nonconformity (naming your daughter Hortense) and what sometimes passes for nonconformity on Nameberry (naming your daughter Hazel, along with four other couples on your hip urban block).  The ugly truth is, those blogosphere darlings I’ve noticed popping up over and over again–Barnaby and Beatrice, Esme and Ezra–are just as trendy as the so-called “trendies.” The only difference is that these trends are smaller, so people can follow them and still feel superior.

All that said,  for me, marriage and kids are still a long way off.  My whole approach will probably change once motherhood is nigh, and the unnamed in question are my own children rather than fictional characters.  More than likely, the ‘berries’ will have the last laugh when I end up with Olive and Milo rather than Jagger and Pilot.

Claire Shefchik is a freelance writer and editor now living in Minnesota; she has contributed to PopMatters, AOL, and The Budget Fashionista, and is working on a young adult novel.  Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter @clairels.

So, Berries, how do you respond?



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