What's in Your Name?

I have spent much more time thinking about names in my life than I ever imagined I would. Since MLW found out she was expecting again, the subject comes up all the time and we haven't even found out the gender of the baby, yet.

I never really thought that much about names or understood how many things needed to be taking into consideration when naming a child. I don't think my parents realized it at the time, but I was given two the five most popular names at the time-- Scott Steven. I have written before about how more than several of the guys I have been hanging with since Junior High share the same names-- namely (no pun intended) Scott and Steve. That was never a big deal though because I am a big fan of nicknames as I think they give you character and are more personal than your given name.

I think that it is interesting that, except for people at work, no one calls me by my formal name. My family still calls me Scotty and everyone else, that knows me well, calls me Skeetz. When you really think about it, how many people use their real names? Most that I can think of are usually referred to by a nickname, pet name, relationship name or title. I very rarely even call my son anything but Buddy (unless he's in trouble) or my wife anything but Babe (unless I'm in trouble).

This leads me to believe that the name that your parents give you are not that important because you, or the people around you, are going to, basically, re-name you and call you whatever they want. But, alas, this is not the way that it works, and many people (including MLW) think it is a decision that needs to be considered carefully. In fact there are more than a few things to think about when choosing a name:

Are you named after someone? There are two different kind of people that influence baby naming. One being famous people or characters. My Mom liked to use this one. My brother was named after Cary Grant, my sister after Heidi-- the little German girl played by Shirley Temple, and I was named after Scotty-- Spanky's friend on the early Our Gang series who wore a big sweater and his baseball cap sideways. 

The other would be family names. M3S was named after his Grandfather. If our second child is a girl she will be named after her Great Grandmother. This is why MLW is convinced that we are going to have a boy-- because she already has the girl's name picked out. Without telling anybody what it is (for many reasons, but mainly so nobody we know steals it) I think we can find a masculine version of the same name for a boy, but I don't think it would work very well unless we were in a Latin nation.

We talked about naming our first Son after me but there are several reasons I didn't like that idea, including it's my name, there are better ones out there and I don't want for him to have to go through life with anyone calling him Junior-- and I'm sure someone would. I have met people, however, with there Mother's maiden name as their middle name and thought that was pretty cool. Come to think of it, though, those people were all women, but maybe we can find a way to honor Gram some way like that with another boy.

I guess I should also mention that we get an extra name to work with. Our children have (or will have) two middle names, although most people just run the two together, assuming that's how it is supposed to be. MLW claims that she is, not only allowed but expected, to do this because of her Mexican/Spanish heritage but I think it is just her way to one-up our kids over others... and I'm not going to argue this point.

What does your name mean? This is a point that I am willing to argue because I think my wife puts too much emphasis on it. Unless your name is totally weird, who is going to ever ask you, "what does your name mean?" My name means Painted Warrior Crown. I didn't know this before five minutes ago and I am probably not going to remember it in five minutes more but she insists on looking up the meaning of every name we remotely consider on one of the many Websites or books dedicated to this subject.

Unless the name actually reads as something silly, like Harry Colon, Richard (Dick) Head or Lemonjello and Orangejello (all real names of real people) I don't care about the origins or original meanings. I don't think many others do either.

What does your name rhyme with and what do your initials spell? On a similar note, parents should do their best to not name their child something that will get him or her teased or beat-up for no better reason than the parents wanted to make a point. Celebrities are big on this with children named Apple, Racer, Eagle-Eye, Heaven, Rocket, Rogue, Rebel or anything close to Sarah Palin's kids' names. (Check out the Palin Baby Name Generator--pretty funny). Frank Zappa almost made an art of it naming his kids Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan, and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. Children have enough to deal with on the playground without having to explain that their parents didn't have enough forethought to realize that the initials PP were going to be a problem to a bunch of first graders.

How popular is your name? The only negative thing I can really say about my name is that there are too many Scotts. I have found, though, in my extensive research of names, that the popularity of names runs in cycles. In many cases the cycles are complementary with trends in pop culture and the famous (and infamous) in the culture.

Look at the name Monica, for instance, which was becoming more common before President Clinton and Monica Lewinski made headlines. Now you almost never hear of a newborn child with that name. If you look at polls of the most popular names in over a period of several years, you can find many more examples of names exploding up the chart with the popularity of a celebrity (Madonna, Michael Jordan) or falling of with the fall of someone (Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy). Compare the popularity of the name Britney with the rise and fall of Britney Spears and tell me it is a coincidence. 

There are even names that are completely forgotten after an event or person in history. Adolph was a common name before Hitler started his reign. Now, I imagine, you would have a hard time finding many in most of the world. The same can be said about Napoleon and Attila but, honestly, I don't know if those were unique names before or if parents didn't want their children to be associated with Huns.

Some biblical names have had some periods of popularity. Jesus, though, is a name that I can't quite figure out. I know the Spanish speaking cultures use the name, but I can't think of a single English speaking person, Christian or not, named Jesus. Maybe that's in line with one of my very few rules of baby naming: No Bible Names. My theory being, I could grow up thinking that I was going to be the most famous Scott ever--bigger than Scott Joplin, Scott Baio and Scotty on Star Trek. A child named after a person in the Bible-- especially a major player in the Bible-- Moses, Jonah, or God forbid-- the biggest player of all... Jesus, can never hope that of themselves.

Does your name match your personality? You know how they say that couples that have been together a long time start to look alike. I think this can happen with individuals and their names. When you hear certain names you just picture certain characteristics in a person. Think of the name Bubba, Junior, Martha, Lola, Chad or Marvin and tell me what you see. Different individuals may picture things differently but, generally, each name generated some characteristic and/or personality in your head, right?

Who's to say that a name choice that isn't assigned to a person doesn't play into that person's personality? Maybe it's the fact that when we hear a name we see a particular person or maybe it's that so many people see that particular person that they start to become that person... or maybe I'm thinking too much about this now.

We were lucky, I think, to pick the perfect name for our Son. It seems to match his personality almost perfectly. The choice, however, for my wife and I was a difficult one. We had almost definitely decided on the first name months before the birth but we went right up to the final deadline when we were just about to leave the hospital before we, finally, filled out the name portion of the birth certificate application and handed it over. MLW said it was so we could tell if the name we chose fit the baby.

I think we did a pretty good job but that is an idea worth considering. Why don't we wait for a few years, try out a few different choices, make sure there are no pop culture conflicts or too many other kids with that name in the world. We could take a little more time to match the name to the personality and even the looks of the child and then a little more to allow the youngster some input on his moniker. Then, at the age of maybe five or six we can have a coming out party and announce the little bugger to the world with the name that he or she will have to live with for the rest of their life... or maybe we should just pick one and move on with it.

There is a very interesting page on Wikipedia: List of unusual personal names, that I ran across while researching this article. Check it out and then buy some T-shirts. Peace.

1 comment:

Fun T-shirts said...

Well, my name is Pam (or Pamela), which I'm happy with as an adult. As a kid, I thought it was boring (which I now know isn't so bad!). My initials for my first & middle name are PJ, which I've been called by a few people, and I didn't have a problem with that. All-in-all... I have no complaints :)