Baby story, part 1: Name
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but between the baby, relatives, holidays, and Skyrim, life has been hectic. I changed the layout and blog name. Expect more changes to the site over the next few weeks. Transitioning from a WoW-focused blog to a personal blog requires time, a commodity I sorely lack these days.
I have a big post brewing about our babeh’s birth adventure, but in the meantime, enjoy this post on how we decided our little one’s name.
Nobody told us picking a name would be so hard.
We never got into names before we got pregnant. We would muse about a name if we ran into a notable one, but never in-depth thoughts or discussions about what we would name our children. We named a dog and two guinea pigs, so we had some practice in the Name Another Living Thing department. But people are different. Names have powerful effects on people. They are part of your identity, they give you an identity, a personality before you establish one. People react to you differently based on your name. Naming a child is a huge responsibility, and we took it very seriously.
Funny story: My father-in-law told every woman on the first date that his first son would be named Damon, and, if they didn’t like that name, there would not be a second date. My mother-in-law confirmed this.
First rule: Nobody but us would know her name before she was born. People could offer suggestions, but we didn’t want people vetting our name choice. Several family members work(ed) in schools, so they have seen lots of kids. We wanted to avoid the “You can’t name your baby X because there was this X who was a real brat!” problem. Yes, this ruffled some familial feathers. No, we didn’t care. This is our child, not theirs.
Funny story: To tease our parents and subtly/passive-aggressively tell them to butt out of the child naming process, we told both parental unit pairs that we found the perfect names: Einar if male, Gidget if female. These were randomly selected from names that we both considered comical, neither Kellwin nor I knew an Einar or a Gidget, pure fun and games. This went over…well, not so well with my mom…
Mom: So, any more on the names?
Me: (deadpan) Yes, actually. Einar if a boy, Gidget if a girl.
Me: You disapprove?
Mom: Einar is okay. Weird, but it’s your child. But not Gidget. Besides I thought you weren’t telling us the names.
Me: We changed our minds. Why not Gidget?
Mom: Well, growing up my mom [who was not the nicest person] encouraged my reading and allowed me to read anything, even adult fiction. But she absolutely forbade me from reading the Gidget series. So of course I did. They were the only things I ever hid from my mom. One day, she found them and yelled at me, “Why are you reading this garbage?!” I said, “I know they’re garbage, but I kinda like them.”
So go me for opening old scars via innocent joviality. This is up there with a conversation I had in gchat in <E X A L T E D>… “I feel sick.” “Pregnant.” “No, I had an abortion last month. It’s not that.” No, seriously, ask Kellwin. She was there. Who’s got two thumbs and felt like the biggest d-bag ever? This guy. Luckily for me, my mom and the woman both forgave for my trespasses; how was I to know mom had a weirdness related to Gidget or the woman had an abortion the previous month?
Second rule: The criteria…
- Unique but not obscure, known but not trite = We wanted a name that people knew, but was not the nom du jour; something in the top 250, but not the top 50.
- Not a family member’s name = Our families are not large, so repeating a name would be awkward.
- Clearly pronounceable upon reading = As lovely as Caelan or Masiela are, the average American doesn’t know how to pronounce them. That’s a problem, one with which I am intimately familiar (though it bothers Kellwin more than me.)
- Gender identifying = No Pat’s or Chris’s.
- Common spellings = No Meshyll or Ribeckah’s.
- Preferences: Classic, elegant with fun nickname possibilities
During the pregnancy, we ran through thousands of names. Both of us had baby name apps on our phones and would periodically scroll through a couple hundred. With so many names, if we didn’t immediately love the name, we skipped it. Seriously: if a name wasn’t a 9 or better, we moved on. Luckily girl names are better than boy names (mostly because there are so many girl names than boy names), yet selecting the qualifiers was difficult.
Aside: Boy names are underwhelming. We found a few candidates, but both of us were unpleasantly surprised at the quality of boy names compared to girl names. Girl names derived from anything and everything: Biblical and historic persons, flowers, virtues, gems, goddess, colors, and more. Boy names, however, seemingly all derive from Biblical or historic persons. Every language has their variants of John, Paul, Peter, and Alexander. Throw in a few culturally unique names and there’s your set of boy names. Lame. My name? As far as I can tell, my parents made it up. I like it.
In August, we had our list narrowed to about 10 semi-finalists. We test-drove each semi-finalist by referring to the baking bun as that name for a week. Some names lasted the whole week, some lasted a few minutes. We winnowed the list to five finalists:
Kellwin and I were stumped. We liked all of them equally. They all test-drove well, they met our criteria (except one, more on that below), and they even passed the yell criteria (scream the full name as though the child had just broken a vase.) So we broke down and asked for familial assistance. I know, we’re weak, but we just couldn’t decide on our own. We needed help, guidance, anything to push one ahead or below the other names. We polled our two sets of parents and my bro- and sis-in-law. The results, in short: everyone liked all the names, Eleanor was a near-unanimous top choice, Freya was questioned and ranked low by most, the other three were muddled.
So what’s up with Freya? It violates three of the criteria. The name is rare/unknown to most Americans, pronunciation is not immediately inferred upon reading, and there are several spellings. I’ll admit, it was my favorite, which is why it made it to the finals. WoW fans will scream “You must really love Ulduar, Lyr.” And while they would be correct, that’s not why I like it. First, I think it’s pretty. Second, Kellwin and I knew a Freya in college, so we’re familiar with the name; it’s not unknown to us. Plus, it’s one of the most popular names in Britain. In addition, we live in mini-Scandinavia (aka Minnesota.) If any state in the union is going to be familiar with the name of a Norse goddess, it’s going to be ours. Third, our little one was quite feisty during her gestation and I thought she might be war-like when she grew up. Why not give her a name to match her personality? Fourth, imagine this scene…
Little girl 1: What does your name mean?
Little girl 2: “Pretty one” in Spanish. And yours?
Little girl 1: That’s nice. Mine means, “Little rock.” My parents said they loved Arkansas. What about you?
Freya: I’m the goddess of love, beauty, war, and death. KNEEL BEFORE MY AWESOME!
So although it broke some rules, Freya had enough inherent win to overcome those problems and become a finalist.
After tallying the votes and enjoying our fathers’ interesting and amusing comments, we had a leader—Eleanor—but weren’t ready to commit. We wanted to wait until we saw her before making the selection final.
Not that seeing her mattered. I mean, I suppose some babies look more like one name than another, but babies look quite similar to each other. Only until later in life do we look like a name.
An aside: How weird is it that people look like a name? I worked with a person once named Sarah, but everyone in the office said she looked like a Kim. Sarah even mentioned that people often told her she looked like a Kim. What does a “Kim” look like? How did we in the office—and we had very different backgrounds—all think Sarah looked like a Kim? Where is this archetypal Kim that we somehow all knew? Do I look like a name other my own? Sarah seemed accepting of her name doppelganger, but how must she have felt to know she didn’t look like herself? Just a strange concept.
But we waited, much to the chagrin of our families. We waited a day so Kellwin wouldn’t be as loopy. We went over the finalists one last time before making our decision.