Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's in a name

Last weekend there was an article in the NY Times about baby names. Anyone who has named a baby knows how stressful it can be. But it seems like parents today feel an increased pressure to choose names that stand out. Everyone wants to be unique. The first way to do this is through your name.

Living in Los Angeles, you can't help but come across kids with very interesting names. I know one kid whose name was chosen after his mother developed an incompetent cervix. His name is a tribute to triumph over obstacles. It's not a name you would associate with a cervix, but it's unique enough that you've got to ask the backstory (which I'm sure will change over the years as he begins to give the explanation himself).

My husband and I had names picked out years ago. But the funny thing is, as soon as I got pregnant they didn't seem right anymore. We didn't begin the name game until we knew what we were having. Then one morning my husband turned to me in bed and asked me to hear him out. He laid out a multi-point argument on why we should name our daughter the name he had chosen. He had a first and a middle name picked out and a very convincing rationale. When he was done, he left it to me to come up with a rival option, but I was convinced. No lists needed. No more discussion. Her name was chosen.

Reading articles like the one in the NY Times are interesting, because while I understand the desire to provide your child with a unique monicker all his or her own, my husband's reasoned argument was quite different.

I would say I have a pretty common name (one that apparently peaked in popularity around the time I was born). Despite this, the only other "Amandas" I ran into until my 20s were ones on TV. Amanda seemed to be the name they gave to rich, conniving bitchy characters with great fashion sense. Something I couldn't particularly relate to.

My husband has a very unique name. Even in France it's an odd spelling. So for most of his life he's had to listen to people butcher it. Every conversation with a new person starts off the same. "What your name?" "That's interesting. How do you spell that?" "What's the origin?" I'll admit, even I can't pronounce it properly. Only in LA can people come close to saying it right and only because there is the name of a local health food store pronounced the same way. As someone once put it - it's pronounced like Nowhere spelled backwards.

It was very important to him that our daughter had a "normal" name. Nothing she would ever have to worry about spelling. Something classic and easily pronounced. Something that would allow her to buy a personalized souvenir mug if she ever wanted one.

And so we chose Emily. Her middle name is the same as multiple generations of women in my familiy. Her initials are the same as her dad's, It's a super classic name. Sure it's found on the top 100 baby name list most years (#6 the year she was born). Sure there are two girls in their 20s in my office named Emily and two of my co-workers have ex's named Emily. But the funny thing is that with everyone else trying to find an element on the periodic table that they can name their kid after, it's possible she might be the only Emily in a class full of Mercurys and Silvers.

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