Thursday, January 18, 2007

Naming and Necessity

That's the title of a philosophy book that I can never hope to understand. Since I can't understand it, I am instead using the catchiness of the title to refer to the naming of offspring. (How banal!)

Some of you know me in real life, and you know that I have a very, very boring name. All three of my names are common. To provide some context, at nearly every place I have ever been educated or worked, there is someone else with my name - first and last names, and even sometimes first, middle, and last names. My name is the equivalent of, say, Emily Ann Smith.

At my first job, when I was a young professional, I once found that suddenly I was receiving no emails at all. What soon came to light was that a secretary in the London office had recently gotten married, and she had changed her name such that she was also now Emily Smith. The IT department had simply changed her email without checking to see whether anyone else already had emily.smith@thiscompany. I distinctly remember being on a business trip and calling the Help(less) Desk from a pay phone (this was before the days of widespread cell phone usage; I am old), trying to get them to change her email to something else, and they kept trying to tell me that I had to change my email now to emily.a.smith@thiscompany, which resulted in my blurting out, venomously, "But she's a secretary!" Yes, I sold out the sisterhood. I am not proud of this. But I got my email address back and she had to be emily.a.smith. Ha!

I didn't change my name when I got married. I wasn't inclined to do so to begin with, since even though my name is dull, I was rather used to it. Also, I often sign my emails with my initials, and I identify with those initials - some people even just call me by my initials. Moreover, my husband's last name, while less common, isn't really any more exciting. It's no Spinoza or Slater or Del Toro, no Hamburger or von Trapp or Boutros Ghali. His whole name isn't much more thrilling than mine - and he's a Junior. His mother tried to lobby us to name our little fellow the same name, and I didn't even pretend for a moment to consider it. I may have even said, Pish-tosh! or Poppycock!

What I'm getting at is that I feel a burden to name our son something interesting. But then I am afraid of naming him something too interesting, since that isn't my style, either. We've bounced around a few candidates, all of which will remain secret until he debuts (knock on wood). There were a couple of names that looked particularly promising - slightly left of center, just like us.

Well, in the past three weeks, friends of ours have stolen our names! (Okay, "stolen" isn't the right word, since we uncharacteristically hadn't breathed a word of our ideas to anyone, but you know what I mean.) First, my husband's ex-almost-stepsister named her son one of "our" names. Of the two names in question, this one struck me as much more likely to become fashionable, so I rolled with it. But then today I learned that our across-the-street neighbors (and fellow IVFers) named their son the second name, which I thought no one would ever come up with. All this goes to show that we are all breathing in the same influences, I suppose, and that resistance is futile. We will just have to pick a name we like, even if that means "taking" a name someone else has already used. (But, for the record, note that I would never steal someone's, like, family name or really unique name or anything like that.)

What are your thoughts on names (your own, your existing or prospective children's, or other people's)?


MSF said...

if it's purposeful theft, it should be severely punished. colic might be appropriate.

as for the junior smith here, i think you guys should throw caution to the wind and name him what you've been calling him anyway. that would rock. and no one else would have that name.

Heather said...

BigP and I have very common names (first, middle, and last). My maiden name was hard to pronouce. Which was nice for weeding out telemarketers but I hated that everyone I knew struggled with it. So, I took his name.

The names we have come up with for our someday kids are all very common names... We thought a few were creative but now they are commonplace. That is ok with us. I'd rather have a name that people can pronounce and spell.

statia said...

We're the same way. We REFUSE to breathe a word of our names. I had an ex sil steal my girls name 7 years ago, and I don't want to go there. Plus there's that aspect of people shitting all over a name you love and making you hate it. Had that happen too.

I just think after going through IVF, my legs were wide open for everyone to see. I'd like some element of surprise.

TLB said...

Because our children, IVF or otherwise, will not be 100 percent biologically "ours," I've always felt that a family name is not just a good idea but necessary to let the child know it will always be a part of the family, no matter how it is (eventually, goddammit) born.

Though I don't know about a Junior Husband III. I'm with you on that one.

Hopeful Mother said...

We have had our names picked out for a long time... and now that we're doing IVF we even have twin names ready (as IF we could ever get that lucky!)

But we won't breathe a word of them to anyone... want to keep the element of surprise, don't want any poo-pooing of our choice, and don't want anyone "stealing" them."

Gallaudet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ceylon Sapphire said...

A name that you have considered carefully will be the first gift you will ever give to your son. Its going to hold all the promises and hopes you have for his future in it. What a privilage we have naming our children.

I adore my daugthers name and one day I hope she loves it as much, although every child goes through a phase of hating thier own names - dont they?

Anita said...

I'm with statia on this one. I have had names we have chosen made fun of and belittled to the point that we no longer like it.

Last spring we decided on a girls name that was not common and we both loved. Unfortunately I miscarried and we did not get to use that name for our baby.

Skip forward to fall and my BIL/SIL are expecting a girl. The name they chose ... you guessed it, the one we had chosen 5 months before. While they have now chosen a different name for the baby it still hurt to hear.

This time around we are not telling anyone what our choices are.

Churlita said...

Anymore, it's hard to tell what names will be common or uncommon. Since my daughters are half-Mexican and half-Irish, we only used family names. My girls just happened to go to a grade school in Iowa City that is very ethnically diverse and there were even a few girls in my youngest daughter's class who had her same, very Spanish name.

ellie said...

Names are a tough one-- we don't really talk about it much but since we have yet to actually get pg- that is proably why. We have one or two we picked out awhile ago when we first started IVF and were more optimistic. We don't mention the names because we'd hate to have to hear it if someone should pick it up and we would then be reminded of it for a lifetime with we are not sucessful with our own...

Jane said...

It is funny how some names just seem to be "in the air." I remember a few years ago thinking that "Henry" would be a cool name for a boy, and then found out that it was becoming trendy. A friend of mine named her daughter Ava a couple of years ago, thinking it was an unusual name. Now it's like the tenth most popular in the country or something.

We didn't tell anyone what names we were thinking of ahead of time, and I heartily endorse this approach. We also didn't really think of our girls by their names or call them by them in-utero. The one time I did, it felt strange, and rather like bad luck.

It's been fun having the names gradually "fuse" more and more with the girls over these past three weeks, so that they're really starting to feel like their names are their own, and couldn't possibly be anything but what they are.

Lara said...

I love eleanor, Ellie for short, plus I also love Zoe (pronounced Zoey) And for boys, I love Gabriel. My sister named her son Jackson and their best friends had a boy already named Jack. It was the same but different enough and noone seems to care. I say do what you gotta do if you really love it.