I have been anticipating writing this post for weeks (ever since writing this one). I have been making mental lists of all the facets of our baby name style and system. I have been soul-searching on the topic of “what really matters” in a baby name. I have been *so* excited to read what Trevor’s going to write today (I got to see his notes last weekend: I hope he shares all – you’ll be in for a real treat.) And yet, as I sit here, I have no idea what to write. Trying to contain in a single blog post all the hopes and dreams that are tied up in choosing a baby name for me… well, it’s a little like asking a theologian to write a 300-word essay on God. I shall do my very best to be succinct, but I’m not making any promises.
I think what I love most about names is their inherent accessibility. Any person can choose any name. There are no price tags to consider, no fat content or carb grams to worry about, and (as long as you’re blessed as we are to have family members who more or less keep their opinions to themselves) it is a decision for just two people to make with very little red-tape. I just love to imagine that the very best name for each of our children is out there, ours for the choosing, and we have only to find it and fall in love with it.
But with each new baby we name, there seem to be more strings attached, for better or for worse. Could we name a daughter Ann after naming her sisters Philippa, Romilly and Beatrix? We could, but mightn’t she feel her name is just a little bit plain? Or mightn’t they wish for the simplicity and ease of her name? It wouldn’t be perfect, in any case. Likewise, we could name her Katerina, but it would be obvious to us (although possibly not to everyone else; I realize no one thinks about this quite as deeply as I do) that while her sisters have British-flavored names, hers is a bit more exotic and European. Not perfect.
Boys’ names pose a different challenge to us, mainly because we’ve never had to use one. We’ve never really had to pin down exactly what our boy name style is, and I think it could be quite different from our girl name style without seeming too out of step. We could stick with longer, more unusual British names, sure. We could also just as easily go with sturdier, more classic names for boys, and they’d still fit in just fine. I think we could even go with underused Bible names for boys without anyone thinking, “Wow, didn’t see that one coming!” (Incidentally, we have had a different boy name chosen for each of the girls, and our current frontrunner is different again. Aren’t we fickle?)
So while the baby name world is still our oyster, the definition of perfect has become decidedly narrower with each baby we have named. Our task now is to decide which rules or patterns are worth following, and which ones are better bent (or thrown out entirely) to accommodate a name that we both truly love in spite of its imperfections.
I am guessing Trevor’s list of rules will be rather longer than mine. He tries to sneak new ones in all the time when he thinks I’m not paying attention. The most recent is that “if a name has a nickname it should be the default full name for that nickname”, thus he will not consider Ted as a possible nickname for Edmund because “Ted is short for Theodore.” He has titles for all of these rules and tosses them around as though they should carry sufficient weight to end the discussion of a given name on the spot. I draw your attention to this fact because I think some of our friends and family may be under the impression that I am the driving force behind the insanity of our name deliberations. Not so. My husband (who, admittedly, was largely trained in nameology by me) is by far the more neurotic one when it comes to sticking to the rules. At least when it suits him.
If it were entirely up to me, these would be my priorities:
- We have to love it. Plain and simple. It’s sometimes hard to keep this a top priority, but it really does trump everything else.
- A name must have a solid history of use and be spelled correctly.
- A name should have a British vibe and/or a history of use in the UK.
- It should be at least fairly uncommon, although not necessarily as uncommon as the names we have chosen so far.
- It has to have accessible nicknames (the more options the merrier) that are not too much of a stretch from the full name. (I’ve heard of a Pippa whose full name was Epiphany… that doesn’t so much work for me).
- At least one name (first or middle) should be connected to a family member or have other special meaning.
- It must be free from issues either with initials spelling unsavory words or with bad flow with our last name (names ending in -ia, like Amelia, tend to be a little problematic, for example).
- It would be really nice (although, I’m beginning to acknowldge, not completely necessary) if it started with a different letter than any of our other kids’ names and maybe even than our names. I know. It’s ridiculous. But we’re both scientific types, and, mathematically speaking, if the names are to form a perfect set, they must be either all the same or all different. One of those ships has already sailed (thankfully… can you imagine if we had Pippa, Primrose and Patience?!?), so… well, I’m just saying it would be nice if it worked out that way.
If I sit here long enough, I will keep adding to this list, and that really wouldn’t be helpful at this point, so I’ll stop there.
So, if you feel like a challenge (and I hope you do!): Now that you have read our criteria, what names for each gender seem absolutely perfect for our family?
(Have you read his yet? Go read, but don’t forget to come back and leave me a comment!)