Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Evolution of Naming Babies

Once upon a time, back before electricity and the internet rotted our brains, little girls gathered together in stereotypical gender specific groups  to play gender specific games. In this case, the game was House; we imitated what we saw at home each day.  The little girls would gather, their little 'babies' cuddled close, while the imaginary husbands were off working at imaginary jobs, and all would share similar aspirations for the future, such as living in a castle and being a princess and having babies.   Later, the not so little girls would gather in a corner of the play ground at recess.  The games no longer involved carrying actual baby dolls, or chattering on about imaginary husbands, but it was House, nevertheless.  We were more sophisticated, and by that age, we all knew what the future was supposed to hold for us: Marriage and children. Since our own mothers were stay at homes, we had no reason to expect that  our own lives would end up differently.  So we boasted of marrying doctors and lawyers, and our children would all be smart.

In junior high, the girls who-were-not-quite women would doodle in the classroom, pretending to be married to some famous heartthrob.  Mr. and Mrs. Leif Garrett, or Mrs. Bobby Sherman. We would still get married, we would still have babies. We were still playing House.  The baby names, however, had become a bit more unusual, with different spellings the norm. such as Cyndi. Because Cyndi was a fun name for a fun girl; Cynthia might be smart, but Cyndi would be the one invited to the dances. I stuck with the name Michael, too timid to throw random vowels in the mix.  I was mocked a bit for my timidity, but even then I felt that there needed to be some thought placed in naming babies.    Everyone would expect a Cyndi to be perky and bubbly with that 'y' in her name.  That's a lot of pressure on poor Cyndi--what if she was an introvert or a tomboy?

The girls at my high school were independent, intelligent, and too busy dreaming about having it all to think about family.  These were girls who did not for one moment believe that they needed a man to pursue their dreams.  They were going to do it all and have it all.  Nobody asked about children's names there.  Then I went to college, where my roommate had a book of baby names.  She had a boyfriend, and she was on a schedule to be married the second she graduated, so she wanted to have a handy list ready to refer to while she was in labor.  If Cathy's future kids couldn't have riches galore, at least their names would be interesting.   She sat for hours, pairing up first and middle names, copying them all down in her meticulous handwriting.  Occasionally, I would look through the book, because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.   

My point is that I've had lots of time to consider baby names, even before there was a boy to name.  Over the years, I  have formed several 'rules' regarding baby names:

First, no juniors.  I have enough trouble remembering my husband's first name now, and if he and my son had the same name?  It wouldn't make things easier, that's for sure.  You'd think that it would, but you would be wrong.  My head would explode. 

Second, put a rhythm to the name.  Mix it up--if the first name has only one syllable, the second name can have two, etc.  Give the name some rhythm, just for those days when you've yelled your child's name at least 5 times that hour.  Zane's name has a nice rhythm, and if you say his full name repeatedly, as I do, you could probably dance to it. 

Third,  that name needed to have a bit of pizzazz.  A normal sounding name, but not the same name as every other kid. I didn't want to yell my son's name and have 300 other kids with the same name come running. The name Zane is unusual enough, but there are very few kids with that name, unlike the 14,000 girls around here named Madison, Madysin, Madisyn, etc.

Fourth, keep the oddness to a minimum.  Weird spelling? Nope. I did not want my son held back in Kindergarten because he was unable to spell his own name. That would just be cruel.  Zane is a simple name.

Fifth, ask the question:  Will my child get beaten up for having this name?  Naming your kid Chastity?  Vanity? Destiny? Kiss of death, socially.  I used to get picked on; the kids would call me "teeny-weeny", something I would not wish on my child.  Or would I?  I had a heck of a right hook, the benefit of learning to defend myself.   

Sixth, consider sports or clubs.  Will your child's name sound great on the PA system?   If not, you might want to reconsider naming your child Worthington Codrup Johnson Smith III.  My kid's name will sound just fine on the PA when he walks up to get his high school diploma.  

Seventh, is there meaning in the name?  Zane is supposed to be a derivative of the name John, which means "God is gracious" in Hebrew and "Godly light" in Hindi.   And Zane is indeed a godly, if energetic, light, and God is indeed gracious for giving him to us.  Now, if only he can live up to all that hype. 

Mama’s Losin’ It

Mamakat's prompt:  5.) Share how you came up with your kids names!


  1. What a great post. So true of my generation too. We had a tradition of having the middle name start with the initial D. But is stopped with DD2, I just couldn't match it up with a D-name, so it stopped with me.

  2. Okay, your rules are my rules except for my first born's name is Schafer and well, the variations of spellings could be a problem, but he is good speller thus far. My extra rule would be no weird initials like ASS cuz, well, you get why.
    I am an 80's child and I talked of dreamy boys and marriage, but rarely about babies. Usually, Barbie had a kid or two with an 8o's name like, Stacy. LOL. Love your post!

  3. The flow of first and middle names were very important to me when picking out our kids names! It has to have the right rhythm, and yes, I did practice yelling it before they were born. Both names sounded good whispered in love and shouted in warning!

  4. For us we wanted the name to be unique and not a name everyone had. But also a name they can be proud of.

  5. I appreciate your list of rules. I can't imagine a preschooler trying to figure out apostrophes and randomly capitalized letters. I chose this prompt, too, and it is so interesting to read the stories behind all these names.


I welcome comments, but reserve the right to correct your spelling because I am OCD about it!