Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stuck in the Middle

"Don't call me Nymphadora, Remus," said the young witch with a shudder. "It's Tonks."

"- Nymphadora Tonks, who prefers to be known by her surname only," finished Lupin.

"So would you if your fool of a mother had called you 'Nymphadora,'" muttered Tonks.

- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

If you belong to Facebook, you can find out how original your parents were when they named you. My grade is listed below, along with the link*. Yesterday’s name post made for fantastic comments**, most of which made me laugh, and gave me more ideas about names.

My mother apparently thought long and hard about naming my sister and me. Not only did she give me an Italian name, while bestowing an Irish one on my sister, but she split her name in half – my sister’s middle name is the first part, while mine is the second part.

I HATED my middle name, which even upsets me more than my possible nickname. My first and last name scream Italian saints.

I confess that I have done something similar with my own children. The Jewish religion has a tradition of naming children after deceased relatives. Most of the closest ones on my husband’s side had already been accounted for, and if I did that on my side, I’d be giving my kids Christian names. Besides, it takes the fun out of naming (I know, I’m a bad Jew). My compromise was by giving my daughter the middle name, Rose, thereby using my husband’s and my maternal grandmother’s name at the same time.

Since my spouse doesn’t have a middle name and I hate mine, we decided to skip a middle name for my son. But it bothered me after I gave my daughter one, so I resolved to add one later, which is my paternal grandmother’s maiden name, Walsh. (She’d already given two of her children her name and her husband’s name, so John and Grace were covered. Young Grace was called Gracie, while young Jack was called Jackie). I haven’t done it legally because I’m lazy and have yet to figure out how to do it.

My maternal grandmother was pushed by her mother-in-law to name one of her first-born twins, Vincenza, but she wasn’t having it. She compromised with, Vivian. Instead of giving any of her four girls her exact name, for one she chose, Rosemarie. Who knew she was a Catholic, Italian radical? But when she had a son, there was another Anthony/Tony, just like her husband. Some habits are hard to break, I guess.

Tradition aside, as girls or teenagers, I think we females know what we want to name our children someday.

Sometimes tastes change. (Was I really considering naming my boy and girl Macon and Muriel from, The Accidental Tourist?)

In other instances, we’ve used them for pets, so it seems strange to reuse them for human beings. (My friend called her cat Sadie, and them mournfully realized she couldn’t use it again.)

We can even get burned out by our name choices. (For about a year or two, my daughter named every stuffed animal, Lily, swearing it would be her girl’s name one day. But I haven’t heard it much lately.)

My husband and I decided that our first-born would be Aaron if it were a boy, and Hannah if it were a girl. Unbeknownst to me, Hannah wound up being the most popular name that year, so I’m glad I had a boy. When I was twenty-weeks along, they did an ultrasound, but the fetus refused to cooperate, so the sex couldn’t be determined.

When I was past my due date, the doctor asked if we wanted to know the sex during another ultrasound. It was already too late to avoid getting mint green and yellow everything, but I was anxious to know because if it were a boy, I’d need to have a bris (ritual circumcision) in my house eight days after the birth (Ugh). We were both sick of the previously picked boy’s name, so we chose one of our alternatives, and when we met the little man, his father and I knew we’d made the right choice.

I met someone who’s a single mother, and she said that she found being the sole namer of her son an awesome responsibility. In fact, a year after he was born, she decided that she’d made a mistake, and began calling him something else (I wonder if that confused the boy). She never had it legally changed, so the schools still have the other name on file.

Choosing a name with someone else is all about compromise. For my daughter, my husband and I quickly found a boy’s name we liked, but my husband only wanted, Zoe for a girl. I wasn’t feeling it. I chose three girl’s names: Bella, Chloe, and a third choice. Then I asked my three-year-old which name he liked best. He picked one, and at twenty-weeks, when the ultrasound revealed that I was having a girl, he began calling my belly that name. Since it was two against one, my husband gave up. (Wait, is that a compromise?)

Since I’m not birthing a boatload of babies and I had to negotiate with someone else, I’ll never get to use all my favorite names on actual people. Being an aspiring writer often makes me fraught with frustration, but one of the parts I enjoy about it is naming protagonists, antagonists, and all the rest. Although I use a lot of names to fit the characters, I also make room to use names I love. Getting to choose my favorite names for my characters just gives me added incentive to get these manuscripts published.

"Get it - get it better or get it worse. No middle ground of compromise."

- Henry Ossawa Tanner

* Here's the link:
Your parents get a C- for originality

Ranking - 'Theresa' was the 53rd most popular girl's name in your birth year.

Rarity - 59% of girls had rarer names that year. (Grade: C-)

Peak year - 'Theresa' peaked in popularity in 1961.

Current rank - 'Theresa' is currently the 852nd most popular girl's name.

Current name - Your parents might name you 'Kaitlyn' today (current #53).

** Yesterday’s post:


  1. Hi

    I loved how you named your children - especially asking your son what name he liked best for his little sister. That's really nice. There's so much riding on a name so your whole family picked theirs with such care and attention.

    I just keep thinking back to celebrities and the names they give their children. Posh and David Beckham named their eldest boy Brooklyn because he was conceived there. I mean, imagine if he was conceived in oh I don't know, Antarctica!

    Anyway, my parents got an F! Which is hilarious! Absolutely no originality whatsoever.


    Thanks for that facebook link -made my day.

    Take care


  2. Old Kitty, I never would've let him just pick any name (Pixie?), but having it be out of three it wound up being pretty controlled.

    Who wants their names to remind them of where they were conceived? Your parents got an F? I bet that you'd take your actual name over where you were conceived. I think my name would be Bermuda (Shudder).

  3. I loved reading this because I have been thinking about naming quite a bit lately. In fact, I just wrote a post on it (which I will be putting up tomorrow).
    Thanks for stopping by today!

  4. I do the exact same thing--give characters names my husband didn't like and we couldn't use.

    We were both named after relatives and decided early on that our kids would have completely orginal names. But I'm glad I didn't let my oldest have a say in naming her brother--she wanted to name him Cinderella. :)

  5. How interesting. My middle name is Theresa....
    First name:Barbra....I was named after my mom's two favorite saint's.
    Actually, a cousin named Barbara died (purely by coincidence) when I was born as well. Everyone assumed I would named for her. Whenever we get together I have to hear the whole story...death & all.....
    Aside from that, I believe we would have had the some name....

  6. Sarah, I'll keep an eye out for your post.

    Jackee, you just made me laugh!

    Barbara, my mother is a big name story teller as well, but (luckily) there was no death involved on my end. I actually should thank her for this post or I wouldn't know any of the family naming history.

  7. I loved reading this! I have many friends who've had babies in the last few months and it's interesting to see how the names are chosen and what concessions are made.

    I took the quiz and my parents got a C- for naming me Kathleen.

    I think the strangest celebrity baby name to date must be Pilot Inspektor (son of Jason Lee)...but maybe he'd get an A+ for originality?!

  8. Kathleen, in this quiz, if you get an A+, it means your parents were out there, so that may be as bad as getting an F-. Pilot Inspektor is bad, but I think that Blanket may be the worst celebrity baby name, though I don't know if that's his real name or a nickname. Either way.... Blanket.

  9. I love this post! I love seeing how people go about in the naming process and reading about names and meanings in general. When my husband and I decide to have kids, we'll have to pick a name that's easy to pronounce in Russian, English, AND Hebrew and has meaning in all three...easy, right? Since we already know an Adam and a David we can't go with those.

  10. Thanks, Vicki. I know a few couples that come from two different countries, but live in America, who are in the same predicament as you. Trying to find something that ties all three cultures together isn't easy. When it's time, good luck!

  11. I somehow missed this post when it was new... huh?

    I wanted all of my children to have strong names that were neither frivolous or flighty sounding for adults.

    My ex husband chose our 2nd daughters name but as it was a little girly we gave her Elizabeth as a middle name with the thought that when she grew up and became a doctor or lawyer she could use the 'grown up' name. Now it is quite popular, but at the time her first name wasn't so we were worried.

    My 3 youngest children have 2 middle names each. It just made sense in a weird way at the time and it still does. Thank Goodness since they are all in middle school now it's a tad too late to change now.

    I gave my kids names with positive meanings because the ones my sister and I got are well...
    Dawn and Starr? Really? Yep that's our names.
    And the kicker is... I met another Dawn with a sister named Starr a few years ago. I guess her mother was odd too.Or thought her girls would be exotic dancers someday. Whichever.

  12. Dawn and Starr? They do sound a bit like exotic dancer names when they're put together. I can't believe you met another Dawn with a Starr sister.

    I had a friend named, Erin. She said that movies about strippers always had an Erin. At first, I scoffed. Erin? But then I saw two movies that had scenes with exotic dancers, each had an Erin.

  13. I would love to try the name thing, but I refuse to join Facebook.

    I have two middle names: Scott Rae. -sticks out tongue- Each after a relative.

  14. Brooke, when I'm not at work, I'll take the quiz for you. I hope I don't forget!

    You've got a lot of 1-syllable names!

  15. Brooke, I forgot to return to tell you, I tried to find the quiz on Facebook, and it's gone. The link no longer works, and every combo I put in didn't bring it up. Sorry!