Thursday, November 3, 2011

You Can Name Your Kid Whatever You Want, But...

A few weeks ago, I found myself chatting with the World's Cutest Young Couple who also happen to be expecting what you just know will be the World's Cutest Baby and inevitably, we meandered onto the topic of Baby Names. "Oh, we aren't really sure about that," the girl half of the WCYC said. "There are so many things to consider when you're naming your child. We need to think about it."

I didn't offer it at the time (I think a plate of food went by and I got distracted by the brownies around the edge), but after spending time working in a school, as a parent, and, let's face it, as a person with opinions, I have an abbreviated list of Things to Consider When Naming Your Kid. Here it is:

Spell the name out and take a good look at it before you sign the birth certificate. I have to believe that Mrs. Thorpe didn't take a lot of time to ponder what she was doing when she named her son Craphonso, since the first time I saw the All-American's name during a Florida State football game, I hollered, "CRAP-onso? Who names their kid that?" The men in the room quickly assured me it was pronounced Cray-fonso, but you can see where I was confused, right?  My own brother named his daughter (our goddaughter) Riane, pronounced Ryan, but everyone says Ree-ann when they see her name. Even I'm not immune. A few months ago I was at the doctor's office and the tech announced, "BRIG-ed?" I corrected her ("It's Bridge-id") she peered at my name on the chart for a few seconds and then chirped, "Are you sure?" And while we're on the spelling thing...

Avoid the Creative Spelling. This, I know all about. My own name?  Brigid?  It's the Irish spelling of Bridget, and it's been a pain in my butt ever since I can remember. I've been spelling it out and correcting people (don't get me started on telemarketers or customer service reps) my whole life. Thanks, Mom and Dad.  Our own daughter, Catharine, is named after my grandmother, and that little extra 'a' in there has caused her more than a little consternation. Those are sort of understandable. But what's with the random substitution of letters? You know what I'm saying, right? For example: "I want him to stand out," one mom who named her kid Awstyn once explained to me as I was filling out a discipline form for him after he'd taken an Exacto knife to the class photo and had bitten the teacher who was trying to stop him. I don't think she had anything to worry about, since the fact her kid is a budding serial killer makes him stand out even more than the spelling of his name. Well, wait--I guess the creative spelling will stand out on his Wanted poster on the Post Office wall, so, you know, bonus!

What's with the place names? A few years back there was an alarming flood of people naming their kids after state capitals. You know, Madison, Austin, Denver, Jackson. I once ran into someone who explained her daughter's name with, "We named her Madison because that's where we met and fell in love." My response? "We were going to name our daughter Glascott's Bar, but we thought it might be confusing for people." You know, "Where's Glascott's?" "On the corner of Halsted and Webster.... Oh, no, wait, you mean the kid.  She's down in the playroom doing quantum physics." We toyed with the idea of naming our kids Montpelier, Des Moines, or Sacramento (Sac, for short), then just decided to stick with Catharine and Joe.

Think about your kid's future, for goodness sake! Your name is the first impression people have of you, right? So think about what your poor kid's name says about him or her. Case in point: this clip from one of my favorite movies, "The Sure Thing."

Whatever happened to naming your child after a family member? Or a saint? I'm constantly amazed at the names people come up because they want to make some sort of statement or, see above, they want their kid to stand out.  Oh, please. My friend who's a teacher has lots of students with very different names with very different spellings, but the worst I've heard is Secret Box. Really, what's that poor kid going to end up becoming? Judge Secret Box Smith? Doctor Secret Box Jones? Another of our friends had a client whose first name was Bodacious, and I've always hoped I'll see him running for president someday.

Watch the rhyming thing. My oldest sister? Geri Barry. My sainted great-grandmother and favorite second cousin? Both are Mary Barry. The name Skoog offered lots of good possibilities when we were thinking of names for Joe, not the least of which were Boog and Scooter. (I also liked Skippy, because I have a thing for alliteration.)

The day the WCYC and I chatted about their new baby, the guy said, "Well, you know, the one thing about
actually naming your baby is that once you do it, nobody's going to say anything to you about it."

Sorry, kids. I can't promise anything.  But here's hoping your World's Cutest Baby has a normal name so I don't have to blurt something out that's going to make our relationship all awkward--I need all the cute friends I can get.