Posted by: Ingrid | March 5, 2009

What’s in a Name?

Years ago I memorized T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Naming of Cats.” This was long before I learned to love him for his “Four Quartets” and “Ash Wednesday” and I went around with His ineffable effable/Effanineffable/Deep and inscrutable singular Name rolling off of my tongue. The words tasted so nice together you couldn’t help but smile when you said them.

All that to say, I was thinking of his poem this morning because it starts off with the line, The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter/It isn’t just one of your holiday games. With our big ultrasound coming up next week there is a big part of me that excited to figure out whether there is a he or a she growing in my body. On the other hand, I have been able to make it nearly half way through this pregnancy without thinking of names. If the naming of cats is difficult, try naming a little tiny human individual with an unknown personality who you’ve never met.

The pressure of that totally freaks me out.

Not only is there pressure to pick the “right” name, but after 29 years of life and voracious reading I have known real and fictional individuals who are all tied to names. Suggesting names to me is like playing a free association game – lots of fun but not terribly helpful. There is nothing new under the sun, and I’m bound to find one negative association that trumps the good ones.


The Grouch.

Meyer Wiener


Not that I would ever consider the name Oscar, I’m just giving you some idea of what runs through my mind. Then there’s the alliteration aspect. Not only would Roger Reynolds Rothell make me simultaneously think and Hammerstein/Jolly/John Mark/plastic sandwich wrap but the alliteration alone would drive me nuts. So there go all the R names.

Then there’s the fact that so many people started having babies before us, that it almost seems that they’ve laid claim to certain names (read ALL OF THE GOOD ONES) and unless we’re prepared to move out of state, we can’t have them.

I never liked picking out names during those late night slumber party what-will-you-name-YOUR-six-kids-moments. In fact, if I remember correctly, I never participated, and there were always enough talkative girls who had 7 middle names picked out for each child that I was able to listen in silence. I do remember desperately wishing that I could change my name to Victoria Paige Montague when I was ten and certainly no one with those leanings should EVER be trusted with naming a baby, even twenty years later.

Names are just so… important and meaningful that I feel at a loss trying to come up with one that means something, sounds good, doesn’t remind me of the bully in first grade, and doesn’t turn into any horrible nicknames. I’ve had a reprieve for 18 weeks, but the knowledge that I will have to actually open and read something like “1,000,000,000,000 of the Best Loved Baby Names Ever” almost makes me want to go with something nice and generic like Baby Rothell #1.



  1. imho, you can TOTALLY use a name a friend has used. I mean, there are thousands of names, but then there are really good names. And – I say this as someone who had one of the most popular names of her birth year – you really can’t have too many Elizabeths, say, or Peters. No one can really claim exclusive use for a name. Pray about it, find one with a good meaning, find one that feels like it fits the little on inside of you, and once you’ve found it, use it no matter who else has a child with that name.

  2. I agree with Jessica. We named Jonathan even though I have a brother named Jonathan, and Libby was dating a Jonathan…talk about a name already used! It felt slightly awkward but we went ahead anyway and no one seems to have freaked out over it. šŸ™‚

    Gabe and I had a hard time choosing names because I do the same negative association thing that you do. We ended up going with names that meant something and focused on that and on how they sounded together.

    Oh, and we played the “what will grade schoolers make fun of” game, too, just to be on the safe side. šŸ™‚

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