Anytime I need a good laugh I take a look at the “what to name your baby” websites.  I know that naming is a very personal thing and something of a minefield, so I will attempt to keep an open mind.  But here are a few things I’ve learned during my brief forays into the naming world:

– Some names simply don’t translate across cultures and languages.  Perfectly lovely names from Russian, Italian, Spanish, etc., may lose their beauty if regularly pronounced with hard Midwestern vowels or, say, a Brooklyn accent.  You can correct everyone you meet, or you can concede the game early on.

– Being a Faulkner scholar doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to go running to his books for baby names.  Eula, Bobo, and Sophonsiba, anyone?

– Boys’ names are incredibly susceptible to potty humor.  Half the standard names out there are ruined, meaning I will probably want to play the “Imagine you’re a cruel second-grade boy.  How are you going to torture this child, and how will his name help you?” game.  Sad, but true.

– Sydney snorted with laughter when I told him that “Erin Kay” sometimes translates into “pure peace.”  What, I’m not the perfect embodiment of tranquility? 🙂  We’ve joked about naming our kids something that means “fierce temper” or “stubborn.”  We’ve also thought about naming them something really dorky, since, unless our kids inherit some seriously recessive genes, they’re going to be sizable kids.  But then we’d be setting up pacifist Mennonite kids for a lifetime of playground fights . . .

– If an alternative spelling is possible, someone’s used it.  The more common the name, the more elaborate the alternative spellings.

– I didn’t know that we needed courts to prevent us from naming our kids “Satan,” but now that I do (thank you, News of the Weird) I’m glad they’re in place.

– People don’t always check the origin of names.  And even when you think you know where the name comes from, parents can always add their own twist to the naming story.  See the following article quotation:

“We knew we wanted to give our children unusual names from the start. My husband used to be a male stripper and his stage name was Romeo so we decided to call our first son after the three greatest lovers of the world,” Romeo Casanova Valentino.

Much to be said for the personal touch.


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5 Responses to Mirth

  1. Mother of the bride says:

    Working in the public sector, I am rarely surprised by the dozens of ways names can be mutilated – oops – alternatively spelled. Almost without fail, I find myself asking the spelling of even the most ordinary name.

    However, it is with much restraint that I have no comments on your discussion of names meaning “stubborn” etc. -:)-:) I’m just glad those traits don’t come from this side of the family…

  2. Lisa says:

    You’re pretty much inviting us to come up with really terrible names for Penner-to-be… but I’ll try to refrain.

    I could totally see you guys going with the “first name of famous person we admire” route. Little William or James… or Immanuel…


  3. highnegatives says:

    My favorite always has been, and still is: Moon Unit. Little Moon Unit Penner. It has a nice ring, don’t you think?


  4. Lisa says:

    Or maybe “Rennep” – then it can have a palindromic name. 🙂

  5. fustianist says:

    Given the popularity of “Nevaeh” for a girl’s name (“heaven” spelled backwards), you may be on to something, Lisa. “Nrobbuts” doesn’t sound quite right, though.

    Mom, that was the biggest lie I’ve ever heard from you; I have stubbornness coming down long lines from both sides of my parentage. That’s what makes me a good match for Sydney 🙂

    Heidi, the following thought did cross my mind: “If my kid were named Dweezil he would probably learn to develop a pretty good right hook!”

    Lisa, I’ll keep the “famous people” thing in mind. I had looked over my bookshelves, only to discover that over half my books seemed to be written by guys named John. Go figure.

    – Erin

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