Friday, September 18, 2009

The name game

Between Mel & Cassandra, I've commented on quite a few naming-related posts recently… & it occurred to me that I should share some of those thoughts in my own blog. I've strung together & edited my comments, so if you've been reading their blogs, this might sound familiar.

I've been fascinated with names ever since I was a little girl. My grandfather was a crossword puzzle aficionado, & he kept a massive dictionary that was (no kidding) about six inches thick (from Readers Digest, I think) sitting beside his easy chair for easy reference. The dictionary included small sections for basic English-French and English-German dictionaries, and a section on names -- male & female, their meanings & derivatives. I used to pore over this section & make lists of the names I liked best.

When I was about 10 & visiting a Coles in the city, I found one of those baby naming books & bought myself a copy. I eventually decided I would need to have 10 or 12 children in order to use all the names I liked -- half boys, half girls. (Oh, innocence!! Oh, irony!!)(I still like to peek at the latest edition of "Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana" in the bookstore.) Over the years, I managed to downsize my future family to a more realistic level (or so I thought) of at least 2 and possibly as many as 3 or 4, & my list of preferred names accordingly.

Katie was always Katie -- many, many years before I finally tossed away my bcp. It was just a name we both liked that seemed nice for a little girl (which we always knew we wanted), & it was also the name of my paternal grandmother, who died when I was 14. Whenever we talked about having kids, we'd always refer to "Katie," & the name just stuck.

So when I finally WAS pregnant & we were considering names, Katie was our automatic choice for a girl. Dh wanted her proper name to be Caitlin -- but that was like the #1 name for girls at the time, & I knew she’d probably be one of a dozen on the school playground, so I nixxed that idea. Katherine seemed a little “old” for a little girl -- so I suggested Kathleen, which is a family name on my maternal grandfather’s side — I thought he would get a kick out of that.

Dh is Italian and, traditionally, Italians name their first girl after the father’s mother & their first boy after the father’s father, the second girl after the mother's mother, etc. etc. Not as many younger Italian-Canadians follow this tradition anymore, but I told dh we could name her Maria -- I liked the name, & I knew his dad would be absolutely tickled if we did. But he said no, her name was Katie -- so we decided to use Maria as her middle name.

The result of the Italian naming tradition is (or has been in the past) that many cousins in the same family bear the exact same names. Dh has two other cousins with the exact same name as him (first & last); fortunately, they don’t live very near each other & all go by different everyday/nicknames, which makes it easier to distinguish them. (He also shares his name with a well-known local Catholic priest, & when we lived in the city, we used to get calls all the time asking for “Father B.” Dh said he had to bite his tongue not to answer, “Yes, my son?” lol)

He also has three cousins who share another family name. Two of them were in our wedding party, & a lot of people thought it was a typo on the program.

(At one point, early in our marriage, four of his female cousins were married -- every one of them to a guy named Tony. Eventually, that pattern was broken. I joked to my mother that if I couldn't remember a relative's name, I could just try Joe, Frank or Tony, and I'd stand a pretty good chance of being right.)

Anyway -- when we found out Katie was stillborn, we thought about using a different name & “saving” Katie for a possible future child, but we realized in about two seconds that we couldn’t do that, that she was & always would be Katie to us, so that’s what we named her.

However, she WAS originally going to have three names: Kathleen Maria Amanda, which was my great-grandmother’s name. We decided to save Amanda for a future daughter (which never happened). She would have been Amanda Claire.

A boy would have been Michael Vincent Neill — Michael because I like the name. The other two are family names (both dh's family & mine).

As for my own name -- I have made peace with it as I've gotten older. I went through a phase when I was about 10, wishing that I was named Laura instead (like Laura Ingalls in the little house books), or at the very least, spelled Laurie. I actually signed myself that way for awhile until one of my teachers made a comment & I got embarrassed.

Lori is such a '60s name, like Cathy or Debbie or Terry or Sandy. You just don't see parents naming their kids those names anymore. I was one of three Loris, two Lauras & one Laura-Ann in Grade 8. And when I was in high school, there was a girl in the next grade up whose name was Laura, middle initial also B., last name the exact same as mine (no relation, so far as we knew). The principal would call one of us to the office & we'd both show up because it often wasn't clear which one of us he meant, lol.

And of course, when I was in jr high/high school in the mid/late 1970s, "Happy Days" was a huge hit on TV -- & here was Ritchie's girlfriend named Lori Beth. I always used to tell people that I had the name first. ; )

My mother wanted to name me Julie Lynn & my grandmother wanted to name me Emily Pearl (!). My dad is apparently the one who came up with Lori; not sure where the Beth came from. If I was a boy, I would have been Brian.

What names do you like? Dislike? What do you think of your own name?


  1. I wrote of the names i like in a post in April.

    We also thought about "saving" Kaylee for a future child, but decided that was her name.

    For my own name, i hated it so much i went to court & had it "erased." But largely because of my unhealthy family & the poor image i had of myself as a child. I still can't here my full maiden name without shuddering. I was a "Cathy."

    And it worked. Since changing my name i've got a fairly good image of myself. Or, at least the things i don't like about myself are things i've done as an adult & are in my control. I had the entire name from my childhood wiped out. Also, i don't celebrate the day of my birth. I celebrate the day i went to court & changed my name & it became the birth of my new life.

  2. Oh, BTW, i read thru about 4 pages of comments on that article. I couldn't believe how unkind some folks were of the others who said that adoption was not a choice for them. What really gets me is the writer was trying to explain how hard infertility can be especially with others' reactions & she got more of it! People can be so cruel.

  3. We also had names picked out, sort of tentatively -- Jack for a boy, Michaela for a girl. These were our preliminary picks, though, and I'm not sure whether we would have ultimately settled on these or gone with something else! I know from our experiences naming our pets we usually start off with one name and end up with something completely different. ;-)

  4. We had the requisite list of names as well - 50/50 boy/girl! :0) There was only one that we actually used - Adam. The funny thing is - none of my kids "felt" like Adam until, well, Adam, even though he was my 12th pregnancy. He was the only and first kid that we knew his name prior to delivery and the only one dh ever put his foot down on.

    Lol on Joe, Frank or Tony! I have a sister in law named Julie and same last married name. When dh and I were newlyweds and I had ovarian cysts, one of which ruptured and spent five hours in the ER with. They kept sending sil my bills - despite our calling them repeatedly!

    As for my own name - I love it. Though, because I was named after a great grandma and had a aunt the same name, they always called me Julie or "little" Julie. After both of them passed away and I was college age, I started asking people call me Julia. I use to have to show people my driver's license to prove to them that my name really WAS Julia, even though they had been calling me Julie for 20 years!

    Great fun post!