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Friday, February 19, 2010

what if we had named you ______ ?



One of Magpie's Musings about naming children made me think about one of the favorite recurring dinner table discussions around my house.

What if we had named you _____?

Throughout most of my first pregancy, my son was going to be Nicholas. Wouldn't be called Nick. Would most definately not be called Nicky. Nicholas.

But then family members got wind and we started hearing about "little Nick" and "how's baby Nicky doing?" Face to face with the potential inevitability (oxymoronic, just a little?) of losing control over the child's name.

So we dropped Nicholas.

In favor of a name with low risk nickname potential.

Although it does have a nickname and I call him the nickname even though he doesn't like it now that he's a teen and has asked me not to call him that anymore. I try. Really I do. But it keeps slipping out. Moms are allowed to use pet names in the privacy of her own home, aren't they? I mean, aren't there some privileges earned for all those months of pregnancy? All those late night feedings? Diaper changes?

When my son learned of his almost-name, he made the ugliest face. Which, of course, leads to the suggestion, "If your name WAS Nicholas, you would have turned your nose at your current name." To which he defiantly says, "No I wouldn't. I'd wish you had called me that instead."

One for Dickens, I suppose. Ghost of Names Past.

Each of our kids, while not named directly after anyone, has a name that has some family significance.

My son's given name is a derivative of Ira. My husband's grandfather was Ira. A horse trader, Ira. When we saw that reference, we knew the name had to be.

Ira was the stuff of myth making. The man who lived the simple life. Cooked on a wood stove. Ate eggs fried in lard everyday but kept a rock hard belly. Sat on his front porch, his gallery in the hill country, and shot deer for his dinner as he rocked in his rocking chair. Ira who did time in the penitentiary for making moonshine during the depression. Story goes he didn't drink it himself. Sold it to feed his ten kids. When Ira was in prison, the moonshine customers came by the homestead with parcels of food for the abandoned family.

My son's middle name is one of the surames on my mother's family tree. I don't know anyone in my family with that name but I like to think he's named after warm, loving ancestors rather than someone reviled. The risk of choosing a name, any name, off the family tree.

I like the tradition of giving the mother's maiden name as a middle name. We played around with giving almost-Nicholas my maiden name (my kept name, as I didn't change my name when I married) as a middle name. But then decided not to blow the whole wad with the first child. First born children come into this world with so much gravitas. Let's save a bit for the second born. This was the plan for three years.

But then we found out we were having twins. What to do? One of them carries the Mom's surname and not the other? Distinct potential of coming back to haunt me in the favoritism accusations.

Both get the same middle name? A little over-the-top, if not George Foreman-esque.

So here's what we did. BabyA's middle name is a derivative of my last name (think John instead of Johnson). BabyB has my middle name.

It seemed like a fair divide. But in the end, nobody has my maiden name. Ah well. There's always hope for a grandchild? (Are you reading this, sweet children?)

As for given names, BabyA's name is a feminized version of her grandfather's nickname. And also a wild woman of west Texas.

BabyB is named after the county where Ira the horsetrader lived. Sam came up with that one. He first heard the name from the niece of a friend. Liked it. And it happened to be the name of the county where Sam has such fond memories of his growing up years.

So then it was settled. All the kids first names came from Dad. All the kids middle names came from Mom. We didn't set out to achieve this end. But there you have it.

And back to the dinner table discussions. My kids love to ask, "what were some other names you came up with?"

There was Audra, Maggie, Molly, Holly, Hunter, Richard. None are family names. Just names one of us liked. These almost-names are always met with some combination of fascination and repugnance.

All in all, I'm glad we stuck with the names we've got. And so are they.

How about you, reader? How did you come up with your kids names? What are your "we-almost-named-you" stories? Do you ever look back and wish you had kept a discarded name? Wonder if this child's life would have been different?


Update: My son read this post and later asked me, Mom! Why didn't you name me Ira?!

21 comments:

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Thank goodness my oldest son was a boy. If he was a girl he would have been named Katie--not Katherine--which was my favorite name since I was a little girl. She would have had the same name as every second girl her age.

sherry said...

I like the idea of conversations that begin with "what if we had named you _____?"

Allison said...

My mother wanted a nice quiet name like Charlotte (which I LOVE!) or Ellen. My father wanted Loretta Sue. Allison was the only name they could agree on but, in the end, they ended up calling me by my middle name, which is also my mother's maiden name. It gets a little confusing going by "A. Middle Last" especially when Middle is presently an up-and-coming trendy male name.

But then I realize it could be worse. I could be Loretta Sue.

hokgardner said...

We didn't find out the gender of any of our kids before they were born, which made picking names challenging.

#1 - first name is my great-grandmother's name, middle is a surname from my husband's family tree

#2 - I wanted to name her Tallulah, but I was vetoed by everyone. So her first name is my husband's great-grandmother's name. Picked the middle name because it sounded good.

#3 - first name is my f-i-l's name. Middle is my father's name. We call him by his middle name.

#4 - She complicated things by arrive 5 weeks early, before we had even come up with lists of names. First name is random and the only name we could agree on in the delivery room. Middle name is my middle name and my grandmother's middle name. My grandmother died the same week we found out I was pregnant, so it seemed a fitting tribute.

Allmycke said...

My son only has one name because his father and I couldn't agree on a middle one... we didn't agree about a whole lot of things, come to think of it.
My own first name is that of my maternal grandmother, my middle name has been in the family since the late 1600 and the one I go by. Lastly my father added Benita for some unfathomable reason that he claims to not remember...

OHN said...

Oldest son was going to be Andrew....till we saw him and thought he didn't look like an Andrew (whatever they are supposed to look like) so we picked another name....and it still fits.

Middle son, husband named him while I was still under the affects of heavy morphine from a torturous Csection. I still don't like the name. Neither does son. Too late, it's on his birth certificate.

Third son, got the name I wanted for second son. A little less morphine that time.

I was going to be named my name if I were a boy or a girl. It is used for both, so either way, I was going to be stuck with it forever.

PS: I found you through Chronic Indolence in case you wondered if I was a crazy stalker or something.

Jenn@ You know... that blog? said...

The Teen was going to be Meaghan (sometimes we call her that, just to play with her head - it's fun) but it didn't flow well with our surname, so we went with something else, and I think she likes it. Her middle name is Erin, because I'm Irish.

Wee One was always going to be what we ended up with, and her middle name is Jacklyn - named after my favourite grandfather, Jack.

Great post, made me think!

Lori said...

When my son was born, my mom & dad came to the hospital to visit. "What's his name?", my dad asked. Wesley Stuart. Dad cries, "STUUUUU!"

About an hour later, hubby's parent's come by. "What's his name?", asks his dad. Wesley Stuart. He cries, "STUUUU!"

Nough said.

Susan said...

Our kids love to talk about this, too.

My husband insisted that the first name had to go with Doctor and then have a nickname that would work for, say, a mechanic.

So the twins are Zachary (Zac)Thomas and Margaret (Maggie) Clair. I liked Jessica and Ben or Max, but they were getting too popular.

Second time around he rejected Cecelia and Carson and we chose Allison Sarah.

Mary said...

William for his Grandfather, John for his father, Adrian for my father.

Joseph for Joe ( a name we just loved and love) Campbell for my mother's maiden name.

Margot for my mother, Mary for me, Louise for John's close friend who died of cancer young.

We also loved Jack and Rosie as names!

phd in yogurtry said...

Jenn @ Juggling -- one of our daughters was given a fairly uncommon name. Not unusual, just not common. It's very close to a name that is VERY common, one that we liked but chose not to use for that reason. Well, of course, what does everyone mistakenly call her? The extremely common name. Argh. We deliberately chose the less common but she gets called the more common. Names!

sherry -- I find these conversations fascinating, too.

Allison -- I love the name Allison, it was one on my list, but hubby scrapped it (reminded him of someone he didn't like growing up, I mean, how many perfectly beautiful names were cast aside because some former unlikeable was given the name first?!) So yes, I'm with you. Much preferred to Loretta Sue!

hokgardner -- not knowing the gender sure would complicate the naming process. We found it such a challenge coming up with ONE name that we could agree on. Even our first born's name, husband was lukewarm about, but he caved once I had reached the 9-month mark. He figured I had earned it. Damned straight I did!

Allmycke -- I love that you have a name that has been in your family for 1600 years! Wow.

OHN -- We'll have to ask the moms and dads of Andrew what their babies looked like!

Jenn@YouKnowThatBlog -- I love that you gave a name because you're Irish. The Irish have so many beautiful names to choose from. I've got cajun-French heritage. I searched and searched our family tree but couldn't find an appealing name. Cornelia was one. I mean, really?

Lori -- So funny that both sets of parents zeroed in on the Stuuuu! I can't stop laughing about that.

Sue -- Now this is a novel idea. And talk about a challenge. The whole Doctor but nickname in case of blue collar job, is just a crack up. Covering all bases, that's for sure.

Mary -- I am confused, you loved the name "Joe" but named him, and call him Joseph? Or is he Joe for short?

Anna Lefler said...

I love names! Everything about them - history, secret meanings, etc...

I had some doozies picked out for our kids, but the hubs stepped in and vetoed wit' a quickness.

Ah, well.

:-D Anna

Agent X said...

My story is fairly bad. My sons first name is a character on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His middle name is Lachlan which I saw in an article about a media tycoon's son and loved the name (not the tycoon). He is also "blessed" with a hyphonated last name. Once he can put them all together, he will be ready for college.

Melissa said...

I did the maiden name as middle name for both of my sons as I am the only child of an only child and there ya go. The mistake I made was giving them names with the same letter, thus giving them the same initials. I can't label a damn thing in my house. I color code.

~annie said...

I gave my daughter a name not easily made into a nick-name. She hates me for that.

Kathleen Scott said...

What do you think of the theory that we live up to our names?

Sounds like your kids have great heritage in their monikers.

I don't have kids but I had to name all the characters in my book, the book I'm almost finished revising! I considered cultural backgrounds and word meanings. And one character has my mother's maiden name because it's a good local name. The characters lived up to their names, sometimes in unpredictable ways.

Not the same as naming a living child of your body and heart, I know. But I understand how important naming is and why it means so much to you and your children.

Magpie said...

It all came down to Shakespeare.

Her last name is my last name (it was the prenup - boys would get his name, girls would get mine). Her middle name is my middle name, because it was also my mother's and her mother's and hers before that. It also happens to be my husband's sister's name.

g said...

We, like almost everyone in our pre-natal class, had "pregancy names" for our developing spawn. Ours was "Minnow." One couple called theirs "Gouda."

Our kid was named after a character in a children's book that my husband loved and remembered. He was a boy - the girl name would have been after my husband's mother, whose name, Patricia, is a perfectly nice name. However, I just couldn't warm up to calling my child Pat, Patty, or Patricia. So I'm glad he turned out to be Max.

g said...

Oh, and my husband's family uses "Alan" as a middle name for all its children. I have no idea why. But we did it. There's nothing weird about it until you meet all the other family members.

dkuroiwa said...

oh wait...how about adding the fact that our boys have both japanese AND american names!! in japan, how many strokes in a chinese character is very important...the number, you know. We also needed to pick names that were easy to say (for those crazy americans who can't for the life of themselves pronounce japanese words correctly!)
Issei was a name that my hub had always liked...for the middle name we tried all the men in my family..and a few old boyfriends!! finally kiyoshi came up with Alexander....which works great.
Koji was a name that I have loved for a very long time. I had a student one time by that name andI loved him, his brother, his parents..he was just a great kid! We had kanji picked out that included kiyoshi's father's character also, until he saw a commercial that had the japanese hammer thrower, who is also koji and his kanji is really nice...so, we chose that. koji's middle name is harrison....george harrison had died the year before and my husband was really sad, so in memory of a great musician, we chose his name.
i figure that if either boy goes to the states someday and wants to change their names (though, i love their names...even though at my dad's funeral, the preacher called koji "kujo"...yeah, that got some giggles from the congregation!), they can go by alex and harry...which sound good to me!!

by the way...i thought both of them were going to be girls....i had chosen emileigh for my great-grandmother, emily (my middle name is leigh)..there is even kanji for that name.
so sad. never going to be able to use it.

Great post by the way!!!

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