How I Named My Baby: Rozella Jayne
Author Georgia Clark and Lindsay Ratowsky, founder of Brightside and co-founder of Esther Perel Global Media, live in Brooklyn. They welcomed their daughter Rozella Jayne Ratowsky-Clark on February 27, 2022.
We spoke with Georgia, whose sixth novel, Island Time, was released on June 14. Below, she shares Rozella's name story with us.
Tell me Rozella’s name story!
Rozella’s name is in honor of her great-grandmother. My father-in-law’s mother was Ryzella, and she passed away when he was a teenager. My mother-in-law was unable to meet her, but Ryzella was famously an effervescent, fun, wonderful woman and artist. We have one of her paintings in our house. The whole side of the family is artistic as well.
The origin of the name is Lithuanian — Ryzella and her brother Fred were born in the US, but their parents emigrated from Lithuania. We changed the Y to an O also because it’s sonically resonant to rosella, which is an Australian reference.
I’m Australian, and rosellas are a common, colorful parrot. It’s also the name of a fruit that my mother Jayne makes jam from every year. Rozella’s middle name is to honor my lovely mum.
One thing we really like about Rozella is the nicknames. If you go to Australia, Australians will give you a nickname no matter what your name is. Rozella has a lot of nickname potential — we’re still deciding between Rozie (rhymes with cozy) and Zella. And depending on what kind of person she is, there are a lot of different ways you can go with the name, like Ro or Roze.
Was Rozella always the name?
It was always the name. We had no other contenders, and we had the name before we had the baby. My wife takes a little bit longer to make a decision. She was open to other ideas, but nothing else came along that was even close to as meaningful.
We feel like Rozella is feminine. It’s a little bit edgy. It’s flexible! We did want to give our child a unique name but not so unique. We pranked my brother, whose greatest fear in this world was that I would give my child a “weird celebrity name.” We told him the baby’s name was Parsley Jazz.
How does naming a baby differ from naming a character?
When you’re putting together character names, they have to be different from each other. You don’t have three siblings with names that end in -ie, unless you’re making a point that they were named similarly. You want to have different sounds and vowels and consonants.
I never put temporary names in, because temp tags will become the character names. You never want to say, “Let’s just call him Adam for now and I’ll think of the name later,” because instantly that character will just become an Adam. You won’t be able to see it any other way. If I’m writing and I don’t have a name, I’ll put an X or something that you just can’t use.
What do you think of your own name, and how did that influence your choice?
At the time in Australia, Georgia was a somewhat uncommon name. There were no other Georgias in my life. Now, it’s more common. My niece has a friend named Georgia.
I remember asking my mother about the origin of my name, wanting to have a cool story. Kind of like what I’m giving my daughter. But the story was simply, “There was a girl in my class at school called Georgia and I liked her.”
I like my full name, Georgia Clark. Georgia is sort of unusual and Clark is strong. Especially with an author name, you want to have a good last name.
We’re double barreling Rozella’s last name. Rozella Jayne Ratowsky-Clark. We didn’t want to go down the path of choosing either of our names — we want to have an equal relationship with her.
Of course, there’s the other option of changing your last name. I have friends who have done that. But I’m an older mom and later into my career. We never really went down that path.
Childhood really affects your thinking on things. My next-door neighbors growing up were the Holiday-Smiths. I never thought of that as being an unusual name or hard to say. Ratowsky-Clark feels the same to me. I don’t think it’s so much of a mouthful!
What was it like to bridge Australian and American name sensibilities?
There are a lot of similarities between the naming traditions. In Australia, one of the biggest differences is the nicknames. You will get a nickname. We always wanted a name that we liked the nickname, whether or not we even gave the child that nickname. We were on board with what was eventually going to happen. Especially as we spend time between the two countries.
I’ve been here thirteen years now, and I still have very strong ties to Australia. At first, I didn’t really identify as strongly with my Australian heritage. I moved here in my late twenties. I think I was looking for an adventure and didn’t really care about where I came from. As the years went on, the pull to home was stronger and stronger.
I wanted a name that was able to bridge the gap and would be something that Australians would enjoy. I’m curious to see the reaction, because rosella is such a common word, as the bird and the fruit. It’s not a name that Australians would give to their children.
Does being a novelist influence how you think about baby names?
I like the idea of an unusual, interesting name. When I name my characters, I’m looking to evoke the person already in the name, which is so much easier to do than in life.
I wanted to invite the possibility of an interesting life for our daughter. We’re a non-traditional family, so I liked the idea of giving a name that was not so off-the-wall that only Grimes would use it, but still inviting good luck and the possibility of being a little bit different.
And if I think about it, if I was to meet someone whose name is Rozella Ratowsky-Clark, I think I would be expecting an interesting person. I remember reading psychology studies on how we assume interesting names mean interesting people, and we’ll make different choices when interacting with that person. I think it’s a really positive thing, because then you’re assuming someone is creative.
I write romantic comedies and one of the things that I’m wanting to create in a lead is someone that you’d like to sit next to at a dinner party. That’s how to create an appealing character, because you read a book to go along on their journey.
That part of the thinking went into naming our daughter. Someone that you’d want to sit next to at a dinner party. Someone who’s going to have an interesting life, and you want to find out what they’re doing next.
What is your favorite of your character names?
I have a character in my new book, Island Time, which is an ensemble novel set in Australia — my first book set in Australia centered around a queer romance. The queer heartthrob of the book is a name that I made up. Although I’m sure it exists!
It’s Liss — a nickname of Melissa. At one point, her lover reflects on the name. She loves the name — it’s only one consonant off from “kiss.” But then it’s also one letter off from “loss.” It’s a beautiful, mysterious, sad, funny, interesting name, and a little queer as well. And it’s such a great fit. I could really feel my character with the name Liss.
What are the cool things for parents to do in Brooklyn with their kids right now?
We’re lucky enough to live right near Domino Park. It’s the place to be — to see and be seen. We’ll go on walks through there. It’s where you see the full Brooklyn fashion parades.
The south end of the park is baby central in the morning. It becomes a hipster hangout later in the day, with picnics and booze and people hanging out. In the summertime there are beach volleyball courts. But before that happens, it’s baby time. That’s where we’ll be setting up camp basically every day.
What was your favorite baby gift that you received?
We were the last people in a lot of friendship groups to have a baby. Everyone just shipped us all their clothes! And we have stylish friends. We had so many clothes, we had to start giving them away before Rozella even arrived. She has a full wardrobe ready to go right now — she will be joining the Brooklyn baby parade.
My mother knitted us two mobiles. One is crochet jellyfish, hanging above the changing room table. That was really meaningful. The other one is pieces of sea glass — my wife’s family really likes collecting sea glass, so I feel like that’s a nice nod to them.
Will you pass down anything from your own childhood to Rozella?
I went back to Australia to visit a couple of months before the baby came — the last trip I was able to do on my own. I found a bunch of my old children’s picture books. As soon as I saw them, I had this sensory memory, like, “Oh, these books. I’ve read them a million times.” One is a classic children’s book called Possum Magic written by Mem Fox, which is a book that every Australian has. I have my own version of it that my mother’s written in.
I’ve managed to hang on to my teddy bear all these years as well. He’s sitting right above the bed, ready for his moment.
How would you describe your style beyond baby names?
We would describe our style as modern, creative, fun. The nursery was born out of the aesthetic of the rest of our apartment. We have a bright orange kitchen island and artwork and quirky knickknacks around. The nursery has a lot more soft furnishings, like a white shag carpet. It creates a very cozy cocoon in there.
I have a lot of feminist ideals around parenting, but my personal style is quite feminine. Parenting is an interesting juxtaposition of not wanting to gender an essentially genderless human at this stage in her life with my own personal love of cute pink things. My wife is slightly more of a tomboy than I am. We’re making it work!
What advice would you give to someone who’s just starting the baby name process?
Write down a description that you would most like your child to embody. That could be “creative wild artist” or “responsible, upstanding citizen.” Narrow down your best-case scenario. And as you start to think of names, choose ones that evoke those ideas.
That’s how I would name a character in a story. I’m in the name process right now for a character in my new book who is funny and relatable. I’m thinking of names that give you a good feeling and make you want to smile.
Pay attention and be open for the universe to whisper something in your ear and be receptive to it. You’ll be surprised what happens when you’re wide-open.
Thank you so much, Georgia!