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What’s in a name?

Paul Banas
Author Paul Banas
Submitted 18-08-2006

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 Gatsby in 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.


– Robert Wilder

Santa Fe, New Mexico



Robert Wilder has a monthly column “Daddy Needs a Drink,” in the Santa Fe Reporter. Daddy Needs a Drink is his first book.