Monday, March 23, 2015

What's In A Name?

As many of my friends are still having babies, I often see the "What shall we name the baby?" question circulating social media. Of course, there seems to be that standard set of unwritten rules parents check off the list while sounding out candidates.

Does it rhyme with a naughty word or a body part? Do the initials spell something unfavorable? Does the name carry a negative connotation (an infamous terrorist, say)? Do the names together create another set of words? (Ben Dover.) Is the name so unique or hard to pronounce phonetically, that others will always be getting it wrong? If yes to any of these questions, then a parent must consider the long-term effects the child's name will have on him or her.

In the past 20ish years, I've noticed this trend of bringing back old-fashioned names. Sometimes the media plays a part in this. Growing up with the name Emma, I can tell you that no one in any of the five schools I attended as a child ever had that same name. Emily was popular, sure. But not Emma. In fact, I often heard things like, "Emma? My grandmother's name is Emma." Once I even heard, "Oh fun. That's our dog's name!" What a compliment, right?

But then something happened. In 1990 the hit family comedy "Kindergarten Cop", featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, came out. In it, an adorable five-year-old Sarah Rose Karr plays a precocious character named, "Emma". You can check her cuteness out here:

Another of my favorite lines is when Schwarzenegger and his partner are teaching them NOT to talk to strangers. Little Emma blurts out, "What about kids? Can we talk to kids?" They respond, "Yeah. You can talk to kids, that's all right." To which she questions, "What about dogs...Can we talk to dogs?" Hilarious. I tell you.

Anyway, my point is, shortly after the weekend opener of that show, I'm hearing about all of these families naming their new baby girls Emma. It was weird. I was like, "No. Don't do that. They won't like having such an odd-ball name." But just like that, Emma became an instant popular name, an old-fashioned name made hip again.

We saw the same thing happen with names such as Isabella/Isabelle, Olivia, Mary (thanks to Mary-Kate), and Jasmine (thanks to Aladdin). Old-fashioned boys' names were also making a comeback. Names like George and Harry, thanks to the princes by the same names, and now we have Henry and Hank too. Biblical names have resurfaced and we now have lots of Isaacs and Noahs, among others.

I'm still waiting for what I call the "Frozen effect". How many baby girls have been or will be named Elsa, because of that movie?

When I first heard some of the name choices these new parents picked, I cringed and thought, "What were they thinking?" Now I think it's pretty cool.

My friend, Legend, once told me he believes that a person can make the name, and it doesn't always have to be the other way around. I've considered that several times since and whole-heartedly agree. The name Sherwin doesn't HAVE to mean the boy will grow up to be a wimp.

We each have the power to change what our name means to others. Case in point: While Alice might make some think "old maid from the Brady Bunch", it makes others think, "young, beautiful girl from Alice in Wonderland." So, it's up to the girl to own her name.

After all three of my children were born, I began to really get into my family history. I came upon lots of names I loved and I wished I had stumbled upon them sooner. I would have definitely figured out a way to incorporate some of these family names into the naming of my children.

Names such as Eli, Christian, Magdelena, Anna, Susanna, Jesse, Elizabeth, Hannah, Sarah Jane, Phebe, Hans, and so on. I, myself, was named after a great aunt & great uncle (my middle name is a derivative of his), and whenever someone asks if I was named after anyone, I answer that with pride. Knowing that I have a family name makes me feel part of something... special, something bigger.

My cousin named her son Leo, after an uncle. At first I thought, "Wow. That's brave, but also cool." And he's owned it. He is a cool kid and has made that a cool name. Of course Leo DiCaprio has a healthy influence on the coolness factor too, I'm sure. But, I'm proud of the fact my cousin gave her son that name. I only wish I had thought of it first.

My children were not named after anyone. My boys were given their names because, honestly, those were the only names their father and I could agree on. My daughter was given a name I made up, and her middle name is the same as a Italian city, because I love it. I truly love my children's names and I cannot imagine them with any other name. They pretty much rock their names and definitely "own" them. But I still wish I would have found a way to incorporate a family name in there somewhere. Somehow it feels like I would have been passing down more of a legacy to them.

So, now whenever I see the "What shall we name the baby?" post, I almost always respond with, "A name of one of your ancestors."

**If you've never searched your ancestral lineage, you can sign up for a free account here: {{FamilySearch}}

1 comment:

okeydokeyifine said...

I still like the name I named you. If I did not name you Emma, what name would you like, and why?