A Day In the Life, Gripes

What’s In A Name?

I’m sure you know how the rest of that famous Shakespearean quote goes. As teachers, I think we have a unique perception and understanding of the power a name holds. At the start of the school year, don’t we all anxiously await receiving the ever important class rosters? We pour over them, imagining what the faces behind the names look like, trying to predict who the troublemakers will be, who the quiet ones will be, and who the teachers’ pets will be. We try to anticipate the nicknames we’ll have to learn, and who will want to be called by their middle name instead of their first. We may even have a few brief moments of panic when we come across a name we’ve never seen before, a name that we have no idea how to pronounce. We try it out a few different ways in our head. We repeat the different pronunciations out loud. We fear not only embarrassing the student whose name we mispronounce, but ourselves as well when the outspoken students rudely correct us, as they are apt to do. What’s in a name? A whole heck of a lot more than most people have ever considered.

My little one is due tomorrow. She’s currently nameless. I mean, she’s very, very nameless. We have no lists of possibilities, maybes or whattabouts. We’ve poured over baby name books, websites and apps, trying to find the name that sounds just right. The biggest obstacle we’re encountering in this seemingly endless name game is, in fact, me. Mr. Art Teacher will suggest a name, and I’ll immediately shoot it down because it reminds me of that student. Or we’ll both agree on a name we like, but I can’t bring myself to bestow it upon our daughter because it’s too trendy, popular and I have six students with the same name. I’ll veto a name just because it sounds… how can I put this without sounding politically incorrect?… because it sounds… oh, who cares, it sounds cultural. It sounds race-specific (“Honey, we’re not having a Hispanic baby!”).

I grew up with a name that, surprisingly, easily made it’s way into the jokes and puns of people with really poor sense of humor. I’m sure my parents had no idea when they named me that I would have to endure repeated ridicule and “good-natured” mocking whenever I introduced myself to someone new (fortunately as I entered adulthood, the jokes became fewer and fewer). I decided years ago that I would never set my children up like that. Unfortunately, that means I tend to over think and over analyze every single name I come across. How can this name be made into a joke? I think of students whose names immediately bring to mind female body parts (no, Jerry, not Mulva), venereal diseases and other unfortunate connotations. I actually know a girl (not a student) whose first and last name when said in combination, sounds an awful lot like the word genitalia. I often wonder, “How could parents do that to their child?”

As we get closer and closer to the arrival of our daughter, Mr. Art Teacher becomes slightly more panicked and eager to name her. I’m taking a more relaxed approach. Truth be told, I’m barely taking an approach at all. The fact that our daughter does not have a name yet (not even a middle name) does not concern me. There’s still plenty of time, right? Apparently not. I had my last (thank God!) baby shower the other night and was bombarded with name suggestions for two hours straight. I really wish I was kidding. Or exaggerating. But no, there I sat surrounded by six other women who were tossing out name after name after name after name. I thought it would never end. I’m not sure what they thought they would accomplish. As if I would magically hear a little gem of a name within their suggestions, stand-up with a flourish and declare, “This is the name I shall give my first born! Thank you, extremely dumb lady who was rude enough to ask me how much weight I have gained, you are my hero. My life saver. You, stupid lady who in all seriousness and complete oblivion adamantly expressed your extreme dislike for a particular name all the while you were seated right next to a woman, a friend of yours no less, with that exact name, you, dear lady, are my saving grace. I shall now have a name to write on the birth certificate for my daughter. I am so grateful to you.” Okay, so maybe I’m being a little ridiculous, but you try sitting through two hours of that shit and not get a little snippy after awhile.

So how did you do it? How did you get past all the prejudices you’ve developed over the years against particular names? What strategy did you use to name your children?

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10 thoughts on “What’s In A Name?

  1. haha, my husband and I are having the exact same problem finding a name for our little boy that is rapidly on his way. I have shot down name after name after name because of strong associations with students past and present. Right now he just gets called squirmy and we started telling people the kid will be named Jimmy Dean…just to see their reaction as my husband is a strict vegetarian.

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  2. I scared my then-16-year old stepdaughter, by telling her that, if the baby was a girl, I was naming her: Arabella Button (and our last name is Brown), and for short we'd call her Belly Button Brown. She was positively mortified – it was SO funny – she was trying to be so cool and this name was decidedly uncool to her; she totally believed me. 22 years later we still joke about it with her. But anyhow the baby was a boy and the name Benjamin was a huge compromise – I liked the biblical story and my hubby liked the name too. Not either of our first choices but a name that sounded nice and in the end it fits him and I can't imagine him having any other name. Good luck!!!!!!!!

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  3. We wanted a name that could be shortened to a cool nickname if she wanted it later. I always wanted that for myself! One of the requirements was that it could not be a name of any of my students or former students. Also, nothing common or plain and we had to both agree on it, obviously. My husband was worse than me, he shot down every name I suggested! So we chose Daria Jane. Could be DJ or Dar if she wanted. My next kid's name is going to be Arthur, if I have a boy. My grandpa's name was Arthur and he was a big influence in my life. Plus, I teach and love Art!

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  4. Anonymous says:

    You give another example of why I made my husband PROMISE not to share our possible names with ANYONE. ANYONE = especially family. He hated it, but I hate how people think their opinions of a name should matter to you. We also had changed our minds a few times, and my MIL would've gotten things monogrammed as early as 6 months into my pregnancy had I even hinted at any name!

    One possible strategy… pick out the middle name first. Anyone you guys want to honor? Anyone whom inspires your husband as a person? Honor someone with the middle name and find a name you want to be saying at all hours of the day for the first name 🙂 Good luck! ~K. Wray

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  5. When I was pregnant with my twins I taught HS art. You can imagine the names they up with! I called them Lulu and Otto until they were born. We did not want anyone to say something about “I knew a Sam . . . ”
    We ended up with Steven and Renee. Renee was always someones middle name but I thought it made a great first name. Steven was one of the few names that didn't bring to mind a student.
    Good luck-

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  6. SMGB says:

    I just started reading your blog. This touched close to home as I have a 7 month old. Think about things you are passionate about and use that as a jumping point. I love gardening so my daughters are flowers Magnolia and Dahlia or Maggie and DeeDee for short. Go to your favorite book and its characters names. Shakespeare's characters have beautiful names. Maybe there is a song/band you adore that you could get a name from. Is there a place you visited that you loved? Hope this helps.

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  7. When I was trying to think of names for my first I immediately would think of “oh I had a Tim and he was crazy, etc…” You just can't help it being a teacher. You always associate the name with the kids behavior. I found Julia's name in a baby name book and fell in love with it. We also had Isabella and Elizabeth, but the labor nurse made a face when I told her (our last name begins with I as well…) I'll never forget wanting to hit that woman while being in labor…some people have SUCH nerve.
    When Julia came out it was simple…she LOOKED like a Julia Elizabeth. Turns out my baby who was supposed to be born in JUNE, came in JULY (so close to Julia…we didn't even THINK about that!) (Turns out I also taught a Julia, but didn't even remember her, she was so quiet!)

    When I had my second I remember saying “I want to name her a name I have never thought of, something really cool”. I had a really difficult pregnancy so we named her Mia Victoria (my victory, in Italian)…of course, there are THREE Mia's in second grade now…so I guess not so original!

    Best of luck..you'll see that baby and just KNOW what to name him/her.

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