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?