Hi everyone…..With two members of my staff pregnant this summer (with a girl and a boy), talk of baby names has been rife in my office. Well, actually, not really baby names. The naming game is one that I am VERY familiar with. With 9 kids, we struggled through that several times, finding just the right name, and we still like the ones we chose. (My kids are all in my dedications, so you’ve probably seen their names many times before). And every time I start a book, I pore over all my old baby name books, to find just the right ones for the characters. It’s amazing how a name can sometimes portray the personality of a character. Sometimes I’ve used complicated ones, and at other times simpler ones, and often foreign ones.
Recently, all of my kids inform me that the trend now is to unusual names, the kind people used to use in order to use a family last name as a first name, or their mother’s maiden name. They always had the ring of history, and sometimes made for interesting names for children of either sex. But they can be heavy handles too, and are androgynous. Sterling, Whitman, Ellsworth and Hornby, it’s hard to turn those into cuddly names, they all sound like bankers to me, and should be born with briefcase in hand, or a loan document, or legal brief. They sound like the partners in a law firm and often were named for people who had been. They are impressive, but always sound a little serious to me. (Although I wanted to use a family last name of my husband’s family, Teal—the famous designer Teal Traina. My husband didn’t like it as a first name, I did, so we used it as a middle name for one of my daughters. And he always wanted to name a son Steel, which just sounded too hard to me). But nowadays, people seem to be using those same names, but with no family association. Bixby, Thornton, Wildman and Hartley, a multitude of last names used as first names, for boys or girls, not related to anyone the parents know or are related to, but just because they like the sound of them. They seem a little no-frills to me for a girl, and don’t make as much sense to me if they aren’t a relative’s maiden name. But that is apparently the hot name-trend today.
And then there are the ones who are really out there with flights of fancy. The trailblazers for that were in the 60’s, and I remember those names too, Bird, Chirp, Peacock, Rainbow, Waterfall, Leaf, River, Mouse, Thunder, Spring, Bluebird, Eagle——birds were a big feature then, and you could name a child pretty much anything, and still can. And that trend is going great guns again too, with names like Ocean, Firefly, Butterfly, and Tree. And Demi Moore and Bruce Willis named their daughters Rumor and Scout, which startled me when I met them with my kids, and they are both lovely girls.
I have to admit, I’m not ready for those exotic names even now. I like names that I recognize as names, not so much objects or animals that I’m fond of, like Strawberry, or Quince, Pomegranate, or Poodle. I don’t think I could face a child I had named Chihuahua, or Pineapple, Blueberry or Grapefruit. Asparagus? Artichoke? Rutabaga? They might be really mad at me one day….or Hawk, or Blue Jay. But what do I know? Maybe I’m old fashioned. Jewel names also come in and out of fashion, Pearl, Ruby, and Emerald. The possibilities are endless.
There is no moral to this story. You can name a child anything you want. But given the fact that through the generations, ‘kids’ eventually blame their parents for something, and our sins and failings come home to roost sooner or later, I wouldn’t want to face a child who was furious with me for naming them Kalamazoo, Okefenokee, or Typewriter, tempting as that may be at times.(One of the illustrious Gettys named their child Gramophone, which was certainly creative). Personally, I was named after a famous French actress my father had a crush on, and my mother threw in a second part of it that I never liked, to wind me up with Danielle-Fernande. I never liked it, and it was a big handle for a little kid. I always wished I was named Veronique/Veronica, or Alessandra. A lot of people don’t like their names, but it takes a brave kid to start out life and continue down the path as Rattlesnake, Whirlwind, Tarantula, or Pancake, because their mother was addicted to them while she was pregnant…..maybe today’s new Moms and Dads need to give a little more thought to the names they give their babies…..because one day they may have to face that child and do some serious explaining about the name they were given……in fact, to me anyway, Isabelle, Charlotte, Alexander, Simon and Sebastian are sounding better and better……but what do I know….maybe one day a whole generation of children named after cooking implements or geographical locations will think it’s fine. I’ve always loved Xenia, India (which my father almost named me until he remembered the French actress from his youth), which seem more exotic…….maybe one day I’ll have a grandchild named Vino Bianco, or Mosquito, or Stiletto……I’ll let you know when that happens.