Naming your Child without Losing your Sanity

Judy at GoodyBlog meme-tagged Thingamababy with a query: What is the meaning of your child’s name, and how or why did you make that choice?

Thanks for stirring up the memories Judy. Naming my daughter was the most perplexing issue I faced as a dad pre-birth, or as we refer to it now, "the before time."

All of the physical issues my wife faced in her pregnancy paled in comparison for me—even her gestational diabetes and pre-term labor. Sure, preterm labor is scary, but it’s a procedural circumstance. There are textbook ways to handle the situation.

But baby naming? Forget it. You have to identify a word that doesn’t engender gut-clenching bowel-releasing revulsion in your spouse. Oh, and this magical word will define your child for the rest of his or her life.

Books didn’t help me. The Internet didn’t help me. Friends and relatives tried to help me. Oh yes, they tried, but it was of no use. Simply being told names, and the meaning behind names, did nothing for me. And I had no direct pressure to choose an historical family name.

Looking at naming web sites filled with thousands of ideas was the most boring task in the world. I needed a word that grabbed me for some special, magical reason.

I relinquished the task to my wife. "Give me a list that you like," I told her, "and we’ll go from there."

My one direction was for her to collect unusual selections because our last name is too generic. The How Many of Me? web site indicates there are several thousand folks in my country bearing my first and last name. I even have a doppelgänger in my community, and he was born here, so I can’t exactly send him packing on the next train out of town. When someone sees my name in print, I get an e-mail or call asking if I’m the same fellow that attended XYZ high school or college or who used to work at Acme Corporation. I did not want my daughter to be generic.

This fervor spurred me to inquire about the procedure of changing our last name to something uncommon. I turns out that it’s free for your spouse to adopt your name at the time of marriage. For both of us to acquire a new name today would cost close to $1,500 once you consider the double application fee, double court fees and double newspaper classified public notices. Bzzzt. Government bureaucracy nixed that idea.

So Future Mom drew up a list of 50 girl names. I looked through them and picked the one and only name I liked. It caught my attention because it’s also the name of a fictional character in my favorite defunct TV comedy-drama series. There are reportedly fewer than 20 women with my daughter’s first and last name.

There you have it; the task was accomplished. When people hear the name their reaction is generally one of pleasant surprise.

As for the nickname Little Miss, it was the name given by a family friend who drove five hours from San Francisco and stayed over helping around the house our first weekend home.

Now that I’ve had a few years to think about it, if we have another daughter, I’d fight to name her Cosette. And a boy? Huck. I’m a sucker for fictional characters. Mom seems to think Huck is a bad rhyming name.

We still have a brainstorming sheet my wife wrote up before we knew our baby’s gender—not the final 50 girl names, but it’s still something. Here is that early list, which does include my daughter’s name.


Amy / Emma
Betsy / Elsa
Vera / Very


Hye (Hi from Raising Arizona!)
Quincy / Quentin

I’ve love to hear what process everyone else went through, or is going through, to select a name.


11 Responses to “Naming your Child without Losing your Sanity”

  1. judy says:

    I was right! Don’t you think it’s easier to name a girl than a boy? I can think of tons of girls names I love but very few boys names. I think you have an excellent future list though. You could easily have about 44 more kids! (I do agree with your wife about Huck—though it’s a super cute name)

    May 30th, 2007 at 4:16 am

  2. Randa Clay says:

    I agree- boys are hard for some reason. My husband didn’t like ANY boys names, and we looked at them all it seems. Finally, one day he said “how about Jack?”, and I instantly agreed because I couldn’t believe he finally found a name he liked!

    May 30th, 2007 at 4:22 am

  3. thordora says:

    Boys names were VERY hard for us-thankfully we had two girls. :)

    My first we named Vivian, mostly based on a dream I had where I was talking to her as an older child, and her name was Vivian. Her middle names are for her two dead grandmothers (Dianne and Sara)

    Rosalyn stemmed from my husbands desire to name her after his maternal grandmother, but he didn’t like Rose. So we dug around. I preferred Rosalind, but since I won with Vivian, I lost with this one. Her middle names are for also for her maternal grandmother and my father (Virginia and Frances) We liked Virginia, but not the virgin bit, as well as the two kids with a V name bit.

    We still have the list from Vivian (I remember Annika and Veronica were prominant, as well as Thurston for a boy) but we never had one for Ros. That one was quick.

    And we like older names. I also loved Beryl, Opal and Ruby, but got shot down. Quickly I might add.

    May 30th, 2007 at 6:09 am

  4. N says:

    Nice to know others have the same struggle. Choosing a name was the only thing we really worried about.

    We decided early on what the middle name would be, for either a boy or a girl. It was my dear Granddad’s middle name, and the one he used as his given name. It was also his mother’s maiden name, and since I was named after her, it seemed appropriate. After the kidlet was born, someone told us it was a Jewish tradition to name a child after a recently deceased family member, so that meant even my Granddad’s very WASP-y name gave a nod to the Jewish side of my husband’s family.

    We didn’t choose first names until week or so before he was born. Friends at the baby shower were so appalled that we hadn’t decided on names yet, they all gave us suggestions! We finally decided to each make a list of boy and girl names and then compare to see if any were the same, or if any were acceptable for both of us.

    I still have the list of name suggestions my mom sent me. They were pretty funny, especially combined with the reasons she gave for suggesting them. Like Cordelia, which was suggested because she was King Lear’s good daughter. (a nice name, just a funny reason)

    May 30th, 2007 at 8:35 am

  5. florabora says:

    We had a really hard time coming up with a boy name we both agreed upon. We ended up with 3 sets of first/middle names depending upon how he looked when he came out.

    we also had too much fun using the baby name inventor search at babyzone.

    Where else can you find a boy’s name – Ynngsm?

    May 30th, 2007 at 10:35 am

  6. N1Nj4G1rl says:

    My partner and I are currently going through the name debate. We’ve decided on a japanese first name and probably the name of a famous musician for the middle (why? Because I am a huge anime geek, and we are both huge music geeks,and it’s different), and Keiko is high on the list! I totally agree that finding good boy names is way harder than finding a good girls name. I’m also trying to ensure that it will be easily pronouncable to americans, I just think of my parents saying it and I know whether or not it would work.

    May 30th, 2007 at 2:51 pm

  7. STL Mom says:

    My husband and I easily came up with a boy’s name we both liked. Then we agonized over girl names. We couldn’t agree on anything, and didn’t make our final decision until after our child was born. She is named after my husband’s late grandmother. My daughter loves being named after someone, loves to hear stories about that great-grandmother, and has a photo of her great-grandmother on her wall.
    I’m dreading when my son is old enough to ask for the story behind his name. “Uh, your dad and I both liked it….” just doesn’t seem to compare with my daughter’s history.

    May 31st, 2007 at 7:09 pm

  8. Jessica G says:

    When my husband and I got married, we decided we would have a red-headed little girl with blue eyes and her name would be Parker Lindsay (Parker after Parker Posey, the actress). My husband was named after Alan Alda. I was named after Jessica Walters … it was a theme. Lindsay is the first name of my maternal grandfather.

    Oh, and six years after stating our desire out to friends, family and the universe, we got a red-headed blue-eyed little girl … She was just waiting for us to get our act together before making her appearance. She is such a diva.

    Her sister, Paige Taylor, joined us in February of this year. I thought for sure I would have a Roslyn! I just knew when I found out I was pregnant that it was Paige though. Not named after anyone. Just loved the name. Taylor is another family surname.

    June 1st, 2007 at 1:12 pm

  9. Megan64 says:

    For some reason my husband and I always refer to everyone as Mr. or Ms. so and so, which we realized would make our decision to name our son Lincoln a little weird. We settled on Isaac but considered Carter. I love Hebrew names and wanted Zuriel or Hillel but my husband wasn’t up for that. “We’re not Jewish,” he would say. I found out early I was having twins (boy/girl) so we had the fun of picking out two names. The girl name was easier and it became a toss up between Vivian, Veronica or Beatrice. We nickname everything, so it came down to Viv or Bea. I liked the idea of calling her Viv with a little bit of a cockney accent but we settled for Bea, who is now referred to as “the Bea.”

    We made our own lists first, then read the other person’s list and crossed out the “no ways,” pleaded our case for the ones we wanted to stay on, and narrowed it down and down to three names each. We waited for the final decision until we saw them.

    It was never a torturous affair and I didn’t feel a whole lot of pressure about it. It was fun. Now I believe that we shouldn’t name children until they’re older, like three or something. That’s when their personalities are running full force. Although I don’t regret the name choices – I think they fit them just fine.

    June 2nd, 2007 at 4:59 pm

  10. Jim says:

    Wow. I didn’t see this before, but I just followed the link from Goodyblog (

    I have to disagree about one gender being easier than others. Our friends had easy times with girl names, but we struggled. We could pop boy names off the top of our heads all the live long day, but could come up with nothing for a girl.

    Complicating the fact was that we didn’t want to know the sex.

    Going into the birth we had a lock on a boy combination (we have the same problem with generic names), but had a so-so, at best, girl name. It was tough.

    Luckily we had a boy.

    August 10th, 2007 at 6:59 am

  11. Micaela says:

    One thing I like about this blog is the fact I can get to know other cultures. I’m Portuguese and I found this topic very interesting. So, I decided to tell my experience, though the topic is not recent.
    In Portugal, we have to register our babies when they are born. My daughter was registered when she was 3 days-old. On top of that, there are lots of names that are not allowed for Portuguese babies. For instance, you can’t name your baby boy Yannick, unless you are from a foreign country. The law only allows portuguese names.
    That being said, from the moment we decided to get pregnant, our potential baby girl name was set: Leonor. Ii’s a very ancient name. We have queens name Leonor since the XIIth century, although is a name with arab origins. It means “The Lord is her light”. When I was 6 week pregnant, I nearly had a misscarrige. My first thought was that I was going to loose my Leonor. Later, my OB thought we had a baby boy, during the ultra-sounds.However, at 22 weeks, my baby girl was confirmed!!!
    Later, we decided to name her Maria (the portuguese version of Mary) Leonor, to thank the fact she was born healthy to Our Lady of Conception, because we are catholics and we believe she protected our little girls.
    In Portugal, if the first name is Maria (very common when my mother was born and now very common again), we often use the second name. So, we call our daughter Leonor.
    We were very carefull picking the name: it had to be meaningfull, easy to spell, traditional (my husband is a Portuguese and History teacher, so he preferred portuguese kings and queens’ names) and it had to have a cute nickname (it’s Nono).
    My own name is not very common and it’s commonly used by portuguese parents abroad. The correct spelling is Micaela, but I spent all my life having to deal with “Michaela”, “Mikaela”,… and so on. I keep saying: “It’s a portuguese name and it was used very often by a famous portuguese writer, Eça de Queirós (one of my favorits, by the way).The good thing: since the name is not very common, I chose to use Micaela (my second name) at work. It is good marketing, since I am the only lawyer in my home town with this name ;)
    So we chose the name before she was born. The funny thing is that the name is perfect for her: she’s a very girly girl (a typical Maria) but she is very strong-minded, no-cryer, and decided little girl, our little Leonor.

    January 5th, 2011 at 4:50 am

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