In June, I saw a former student of mine, Amy, who is pregnant with
her first child. As we were discussing childbirth and the long strange
trip that follows, the topic of names came up.
“We have a few names picked out,” she said happily.
“Don’t tell me,” I snapped. “Don’t tell anyone. Ever.”
Amy was taken aback by a tone I haven’t used with her since I was ranting about The Great Gatsbyin her English class. I apologized for my teacherly tourette’s but
explained my theory on baby naming. Everybody, especially your family
(and your friends), has an opinion on what you should name your kid.
Grandma will want you to choose a family name even if it rhymes with
asparagus; your mother will think her maiden name needs to be freed
from the darkness of male oppression; your sister will say you stole
that name from her; and your dad will hope you’ll consider his favorite
blues singer’s moniker as a possible candidate.
If you do make the terrible mistake of letting people know the name
you’re considering, they’ll pick at it more feverishly than a starving
vulture on a petrified boar carcass. They’ll say (insert your name
here) is too dull or too exotic. Your kid will be forgotten or teased
with a name like that. They’ll say it doesn’t sound right next to your
last name (which also sucks by the way). Your name is too long or too
short, too easy to forget or hard to pronounce, too girlish or boyish,
or contains far too many consonants or vowels. Your choice is too
Jewish-sounding for the Southwest or Arab enough to land him on a
no-fly list. Your kid will positively change her name when she turns
18. And hate you for naming her that to boot.
What happens is that once a name is attached to an actual kicking
and screaming baby, it adheres like gum to a shoe. This comes from a
man who named his daughter Poppy and son London. Although I’ve heard of
a few cases where parents have changed their child’s name a few times
in the hospital, once the child is named and presented to the world,
it’s pretty hard to switch. So my advice to expecting parents (and
veterans who’ve been burned) is to keep your baby label a secret until
you stick it to the kid.