Thursday, February 7, 2008

What's in a name?

My critique/writing partner Joan blogged recently about naming characters for her next manuscript. How if you name a character Caitlin, she’ll be a different personality than if you had chosen to name her Martha. I agree wholeheartedly.

One of my favorite names of a book character is Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird. Not that I was tempted to name my child that, (maybe if I were Demi Moore) but it’s a great name for a character.

In my manuscript, Mary Kyle was an easy choice for my main character’s best friend. Because the story takes place in a small Alabama town, she had to have a name that fit that part of our country. When I lived in Decatur, Alabama, I met several women named Mary who had masculine middle names, sometimes their fathers’. For example, across the street from me lived Mary Stuart Rowe and Mary Allen Barthel. I also met a Mary Frances and a Mary Scott. I’m pretty sure a Mary Kyle lived in Decatur, but I think she was a small child when I was there. The name came to me very easily, so I’m sure I heard it somewhere.

My name is certainly dated. I’m sure if you look at the most popular baby names of the past 20 years, you won’t see Pamela anywhere. Although 40-45 years ago it was fairly common. As was Julie, Kelly, Lisa, etc. Recently I read in Austin Family magazine some names of kids in area preschools: Boys—Beckham, Casper, Dason, Enzo, Finnian, Mix, and Tal; Girls: Azra, Conleigh, Harper, Koral, Mirabelle, Pepper, and Wren. (Need I say Austin prides itself on being off-beat?)

When it came to naming our children, we picked Jacob in honor of my great-grandfather, and Benjamin’s middle name, Wilson, is my mother’s maiden name. Ben was named for Ben Hogan and Ben Crenshaw—great golfers. (Maybe we should have nicknamed him Tiger?) Mia is actually Amelia Marie, a version of my sister’s name, Amy Marie. Ben chose Mia, but we wanted her to have some options in case she decides later that Mia sounds too youthful. “Introducing, your honor, Judge Amelia Hammonds” sounds better to me if she wants to be taken seriously. On the other hand, should she become a pro soccer player, Mia will work just fine.

How about you? How did you get your name or what process was involved in naming your children? Please share your stories….Sonya especially has a great one about how she and her sisters were named. I’ll let her share it if she will.


Anonymous said...

As your sister (with the same grandparents) I too did some naming after Grandpa Wilson. My first son is named Samuel Wilson (I love the name Sam). My second son is John (after grandpa) Patrick (his father), but we call him Jack. While pregnant with him I was talking with someone on the phone named Jack whose given name was John. He and I had not met yet, but I felt comfortable enough asking him about what it was like going through life with a nickname like Jack (he liked it). My last son was going to be Charley after a childhood friend, but Sam, Jack an "Charley" didn't have quite the same "flow" as Sam, Jack and "Will." So he's named William Francis (middle name after his paternal grandfather).


Anonymous said...

I have to say that all of my children were given the traditional southern "double- first names". Hannah Elizabeth, Mimi Amanda, Abby Grace, and Molly Kate. However, the older they get, the second name just gets dropped like a hot potato. Mimi was named after both of her grandmothers. Hannah was named by her grandmother! The last two were just names that we loved.
Jennifer've had some great blogs lately!

Wila said...

I knew on a first hand basis the joys and challenges of growing up with a unique name. My father had been married before he met my mother and had a son named Wiley Jr. My mother wanted a child named after him, so when I came along they chose the name Wila. As a child I tired of correcting people (no, it is Wila not Willa) and vowed to give my own children familiar names that would allow their own character shine through. But as time went by I came to believe I am who I am and my name is part of that. So my husband (Bert) and I looked for names that we loved and that our children could make their own. Our son is Armand Joel and our daughters are Rigel Rae (Rigel like Nigel, not Riggel like Wiggle) and Zoe Anna. As you can see, we gave them more familiar middle names to use should they find them more comfortable - my parents must have felt they same way. My full name is Wila Joan.

Joan Mora said...

I always liked my name because it was not very popular. The only other Joan I knew was my best friend's mother, and she was very cool. Two of my sister's have great names, but I don't think they ever liked them: Adrienne and Madelyn. My oldest sister, Ellen Sue, was nicknamed, "Yellin' Sue by my father so she dropped the Sue pronto.

When we were naming our son, my husband fought my choices: Oliver (naming your son after an orphan is not a good omen), Oscar (say it with my last name and you'll see the problem). He gave in on Austin because it was a great name, but being an Aggie, he took a while to convince.

Kendra said...

You don't hear my name too often. I think my parents just liked the name...and it was a "K" name like the 3 before me. :) When it came to naming my children: I always liked the name Reese, thanks to Reese Witherspoon. We couldn't find anything that flowed well with Reese as a first name. Ryan really liked Samantha, but, again, Reese Samantha didn't flow. Samantha Reese sounded much better so that's what we went with. I'm sure it will be confusing at some point for her, but she definately is a Reese and not a Samantha. When it came to namimg a names were so hard for us. We actually found "Creed" (means strength) in a baby name book and that was it...I LOVED it. Middle name...we had Matthew and Fisher picked out and decided to wait until we saw the little guy before we chose....when we had Creed, we knew he was a Creed Fisher. Since we didn't know what we were having either time, we had a second girl's name chosen just in case...Merrick.

Elizabeth said...

For our son, we had a list and all that fun stuff first time parents do, but it was Jacob first, last, and only for my husband, and the rest was just humoring me. How am I certain? Although Ethan, Campbell (his grandmother's maiden name), Sawyer (huh?), and Garrett were "on the list," the official second choice name was "RatBastard." So...Jacob, or RatBastard. Not a tough choice.

And his middle name is my grandmother's maiden name.

With our daughter, it came down to two choices, and both were for his recently deceased grandmother. Sarah Evelyn, or Daphne Claire. We went with Sarah, about an hour before she was delivered. And almost from the first moment, I knew it was wrong. I debated and agonized for three days--and then changed it! (A bit confusing for two year old RatBastard.) The Social Security website helped; Sarah was I think the number three most popular girl's name, and Daphne something like 532nd. The serendipity of Medical City's fax machine being broken was helpful too. (They were faxing in 2000; can you believe that?)

And she is definitely, definitely a Daphne. I figure, too, it's a great name, whether she wants to be a stripper or a lawyer. That Claire gives the whimsy of Daphne some gravitas in case she's ever nominated for Supreme Court Justice.

Though if you knew Daphne, you'd probably agree that stripper is the more likely future career.

And ultimately, both kids are named for two great grandparents. Claire was my grandfather's first name. And the J in Jacob is for my husband's grandfather Joseph.

trawir123 said...

Britt and i had a hard time with Morgen's name. I wanted Elle. we both liked bailey but too many people had dogs with that name. then we saw the movie Signs. the little boys name is Morgan in that. we like the idea of a name that can be for either sex, as both our names are. decided we wanted it spelled unique though. so substituted the "a" with an "e". for lily was much easier. had a feeling she would be the last one so named her after family. my grandmother is Lily and his grandmother is Mae. so, Lily Mae.

TeamH said...

OK-my dad married later in life, almost 30, when he wed my mom, ten years younger than him. So cosequently he had a few loves before he married, and he wanted to name his daughters after them; Sonya (me), his first love from high school (who supposedly named her first son David, my dad's name); Ursula, a girlfriend while he was stationed in Germany and Priscilla, from Denmark (I think). Needless to say, my mother is a very supportive wife and agreed. They are still married, over 40 years.