By Claire Shefchik
My parents have been in the same house for 25 years, and I’m not a famous enough writer (yet) that my personal papers have been auctioned off at Christie‘s. So when I got that inevitable command from my mother to “clear out your junk or else,” I dove into my childhood closet for the first time in years, getting rare access to the inner workings of my 6-year-old mind via battered college-ruled notebooks circa 1992.
What stood out most are the names, of course,
Whole lists of them. Hundreds. I must have just sat for hours, listing names as they popped into my head, one after another. Names of future children were just for starters. I needed names for puppies and kittens and ponies (both real and fictional), names for villains and princesses and orphan girls, names for when I grew up and renamed myself.
Some names were scribbled obsessively over and over again in the margins and across the covers; some appeared just once. Sometimes they’d be slapped next to the drawing of a character; sometimes they sat alone on the page, their intended purpose lost to time. They appeared in the first chapter of an epistolary “novel” about Arioiown, Princess of Devinshire (sic) and Lealiana, Princess of Chutnik, in the tale of a superstar poodle named Cora Deany and her friends Leo and Juniper, and in the family album of two sisters named Bertha and Anna Snobby.
So, can grown-ups learn anything about names from the sugar-addled brain of a 6-year-old? Sure we can!
1. Never use one vowel when six will do.
2. Hyphens are your friend. Two names are always better than one.
3. Just heard a word for the first time and don’t know what it means? Never fear! Words make fantastic names, the more inappropriate or misspelled, the better!
4. Use your imagination! Existing names are just jumping-off points.
5. Heard or read a name you like but don’t how to spell (or pronounce) it? Don’t bother looking it up. You get more creativity points that way.
6. Clearly, the letter O is the most mellifluous letter in the alphabet.
7. Always keep middle names and surnames in mind. Vary syllables to get that perfect rhythm.
Brenda Withdee Wathe
Christal Mernia Larsh
Emily Reae Shick
Imogine Jathela Ling
Shwinalin Wocamee Pert
8. Forget about the negative connotations of the past! You just don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t love having the name Herman.
Bottom line? Naming is important, but it does NOT have to be the deadly serious business many of us take it to be. As your kids will probably tell you, strict rules for naming are just no fun. Sure, given some of these suggestions, maybe only the truly brave would let a first-grader name his or her new sibling. But when you think about it, is Amadaea really so different from Amiyah? And I sure didn’t know anyone named Ivy back in 1992, but today, it’s at a staggering #129 on the charts, all because open-minded parents were willing to reconsider a fusty classic.
So far, I haven’t had any flesh-and-blood children to name, but when and if I do, I hope I remember to keep my childhood sense of experimentation alive (even if I ultimately stop at three vowels instead of six).
Did you keep notebooks full of names as a child? What were your “rules?” Would you borrow any naming “rules” from your own children?
Claire Shefchik is a freelance writer and editor now living in Minnesota; she has contributed to PopMatters, AOL, USAToday.com and The Budget Fashionista, and is working on a young adult novel. Find her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/pub/claire-shefchik/18/15/601 and Twitter @clairels.