Posted by: Joy | January 2, 2009

musings on names, threefold

I am always interested in the topic of naming. This applies to names people chose for themselves and for their children, both first and last names, as well as the names that people want to be called by children. I think about this randomly, when my clients tell me the name they’ve chosen for their baby, when someone I know has baby, when I meet someone that has a unique name, when someone comments on my name, etc. Names are something we use everyday without much consideration, but the process of selecting a name is often more involved.

In terms of selecting names for our future children, I see it as a huge responsibility and take it very seriously (which is why I think of it so often and want to make sure we have plenty of time to decide). There are so many things that go into the selection of your child’s name and a great deal of it relates to preferences or aversions that often cannot be described or defined. C and I have different naming tastes to an extent. While we both agree that we want a unique name but what that means is up for debate. I like fairly “classic” and oftentimes even archaic names (Esme as an example) and names that have a recognizable meaning. I also think I’m willing to go a little farther “out there” than C will. C does not like names that are “too weird” and has a knack for thinking of ways that a name could be potentially embarrassing for a child.

Occasionally, C and I will discuss potential names for our future children, and while these discussions haven’t always been fruitful, they sure are informative of our divergent tastes and the fact that this process may take awhile. Some things that we are taking into consideration when discussing names are origin (we’d like our names to reflect our backgrounds (which can include Japanese, Taiwanese, Hawaiian, Scottish, Celtic), meaning, how it sounds with our last names and whether it fits into our family naming traditions. On C’s side there is a tradition of sharing initials, which means if we are to follow that tradition, then the first name has to start with C (luckily, the initial of my last name and her last name satisfy the other two initials). On my side of the family, there is a middle name for the first daughter tradition (my grandmother’s first name is my mother and my middle name) so if we want to continue that tradition if we have a girl, her middle name would have to be that name, which then impacts the choice of first name. It’s a lot to consider.

Theses name discussions are fairly sporadic but have happened a few times in the past year or so. When I was in South Africa I began making a potential baby name list. When we were on our honeymoon, specifically while in Dublin, I whipped out my moleskin notebook where I had been jotting them down, and while we were walking through the city I started reading out the list. As soon as I said one of the names C loved it and once we discussed the meanings we loved it all the more. The rest of the names that I liked, C said not so much. Oh well, we still have time.

So C and I already have our first choice in a “boy name” picked out, but we’re nowhere near deciding on girl names. We have one that we both like, but is most likely too popular and therefore not likely to become our future child’s name. I’m really glad that we’re starting early, because when it comes to choosing a name we hope our children will love and grow with, there’s a lot of pressure. Another reason that I like to discuss it periodically is that I don’t want to wait until I’m pregnant and then suddenly have a “deadline,” as I don’t really like deadlines.

Occasionally, I’ll look through baby name books, but there are rarely any that I love. I know some people use social security names list, which is something I’ve thought about doing. Also, since we’re not planning to find out the sex of the baby, we want to have a least a couple each of “girl names,” “boy names,” and gender neutral names. The plan is that all the names will be kept secret until after the baby arrives and then we’ll decide on a final name based on the individual that joins our family. Any names that we didn’t chose will be safe-guarded until baby #2.

The second major naming topic is that of last names. I’m interested in the various choices that couples, specifically same-sex couples, chose when it comes to the members of their family. For us, the decision was made when we got Kai. We had discussed it vaguely before that, but when we were naming Kai, and mainly when we were filling out vet paperwork, we wanted to decide on a last name for him. The decision was made to have it be my last name and C’s last name hyphenated and in that order. That then became the plan for what we would use for our children’s last name. While some people are opposed to hyphenation, I’ve had a hyphenated name and never felt it was a burden (although I mainly used my “first” last-name for social reasons). For us, works well and I made the decision to legally change my last name to that, which I did on our first wedding anniversary.

The third name related topic that I think of often is the names that parents in same-sex households go by, especially in two mom families. I am familiar with a number of different monikers that are common, and some that are not so common, that other two mom families use. I also know of families that just wait to see what their kids call them. I can definitely understand and respect that, but I also know that kids will pickup on what others are referring to their family members as and that if you intend to be called a certain thing, it makes sense to have that established and used from the get go. For us, we determined our preferences for this long ago and without much effort. I will be Mama and C will be Mommy.



  1. musings on names, threefold « MotherWilling…

    Occasionally, I’ll look through baby name books, but there are rarely any that I love. I know some people use social security names list, which is something I’ve thought about doing. Also, since we’re not planning to find out the sex of ……

  2. It is indeed amazing all the things to consider with the naming….I also love stories about how people picked the name they did.

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