Wednesday, April 13, 2005


What's in a name?

Jen over at MUBAR has written a lovely story about how she chose her as-yet unborn baby son's name on the spot after being forced to provide a name to an airline reservation clerk. It's a cute story, you should read it.

I love name stories. We knew we would name our son Tristan long before we managed to conceive him. He is named after the hero in the classic story Tristan and Iseult, but it doesn't hurt that Brad Pitt struck just the right combination of sexy, wild and vulnerable as Tristan in Legends of the Fall (right, SnackMommy?)

Simon we had more trouble with, and although I liked the name all along, we weren't completely sure until we met him that we had the name right. And now that Tristan calls him Simey, I begin to second-guess our choice. Sorry to saddle you with that one, big guy!

If you like to play with names, check out the Baby Name Wizard. Just type in any name in the top left corner and it shows you its popularity through the last 100 years or so. Or, just drag your cursor around the screen and watch what pops up.

For us, the challenge was not first names but family names. When I got married the first time, aka "the practice marriage," I changed my name to his, and I think that's a huge part of the reason I cried for hours the night of our wedding. (I'll take "hints that maybe you weren't ready to get married" for $300, Alex.) Even before we split, I had begun thinking about taking back my maiden name. So when Beloved and I got married, keeping my name was a non-issue.

(As an aside, it amazes me that the majority of women continue choose to change their name to their husband's surname when they get married. I don't know why this astonishes me, but it does. My name is such a deeply ingrained part of my identity, I couldn't imagine giving it up.)

When we started talking about having kids, I was fine with the idea of having my surname as a second middle name, but as I got more and more pregnant, I became increasingly agitated at the idea of the kids not sharing my name. Beloved, on the other hand, was morally opposed to hyphenated names. It got so bad that we couldn't leave the hospital after Tristan was born because we weren't allowed to leave until we filled out his health card application, and we couldn't decide what his name would be. We sat in the hospital room with bags packed, baby dressed, and arms crossed, each not looking at the other until Beloved eventually caved and we hyphenated Tristan's family name. If they keep the applications on file, you can probably still see the tear stains from me trying to fill out the form while sobbing with relief.

So here it is, three years later, and every single time I have to spell out the whole damn name for a pharmacist, or to register with a city program, or just about any other time I give out the boys' names, I cringe. It's a lot of name. It's only 13 letters, but it's four bumpy syllables in unharmonious Dutch and French, and I'm starting to feel just a little bit regretful for saddling them with it. However, it's damn cute to hear Tristan pronounce it all.

Once the boys are of an age that they are using their full names regularly, I'll probably relax and let them use their paternal surname for every day stuff. And I'll just hope that when they grow up, fall in love and get married, they have the sense not to marry a girl with a hyphenated name who is as stubborn as their mother.

Do you have any name stories to share?