Thursday, October 11, 2007

What's in a name?

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

I’ve gotta say, I’m with Shakespeare on this one.

A Globe and Mail article earlier this week on the lengths parents will go to find the perfect name for their offspring leaves me bemused.

Bemused because I think parents who pay $99.95 for a 30-minute name consult (for real – you can’t make this stuff up!) are wasting their money on something that really doesn’t matter that much at all.

Now, I have to concede that there are a few names out there that you should definitely not bestow upon your bundle of joy, lest they cause lasting pain and irreparable harm. (paging Jason Lee, paging Jason Lee).

But for the most part, your child is going to grow into whatever name you give them and therefore define the name they are given, not the other way around.

Case in point: When I was about 16 years old, a girl my age who went to a neighboring school was the envy of me and most of my friends. With her black, cropped hair, sky-high cheekbones and huge, liquid-brown eyes, she was an exotic beauty the likes of which were not often seen in our neck of the woods.

Her name?


Now Helga may not be a name normally associated with stunning beauty, but for me that will always be its connotation.

Similarly, I have friends who have given their offspring monikers very different from ones I would ever consider. But as their children grow, it is impossible to imagine calling them by anything other than the name their parents chose. Just like the children, the names now seem impossibly lovely.

If I stop and think about it in a completely detached manner, I don’t actually like the names of most of the people I love the most.

And it just doesn’t matter, because I love them.

Choosing a name shouldn’t involve months of agonizing, meticulous research or a name consultant. If it does, parents may need to take a look at their expectations for the poor kid, as well as the level of control they expect to exert over him or her.

One of the baby name consultants actually told the Globe, "Some parents almost treat it like a brand decision. It's as if you're launching a little product out into the world."


I realize it’s easy for me to tell others not to give too much thought to their child’s name: it was pretty much a no-brainer for me. Graham is my maiden name and a fine name it is, so although I tossed out a few red herrings just for fun, I never really thought of naming him anything else.

I’m not sure which names I’ll consider if I have another child, but I’ll probably either name him or her after someone I love or someone who had a lasting, positive impact on me.

Or maybe I’ll just choose something that sounds nice.

What I won’t do is consciously choose a name designed to conjure up the qualities I hope the child will present to the world. That’s just asking for a karmic kick in the ass.

Nope. I am definitely not naming my baby girl Chastity.

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1 comment:

S said...

I couldn't agree more. People can't come up with a meaningful name on their own?