& thoughts on names

There’s always a standard list of questions that people ask when they find out you’re pregnant (or, rather, your wife is).

  • When’s it due?
  • Do you know the sex?
  • Do you have names picked out?
  • And for the more daring ones—was it was planned?

We’ve been getting those questions a lot, and our answers have become pretty standardized already. Early July. We won’t know the sex. Yes, it was planned.

And when we get the name question, we play it like coy assholes. Yes, we have names picked out for either a boy or girl, but we’re not telling anyone.

Some people get that. You have a name picked out that you like. Both of you think it’ll be adorable on your little crotch monkey. You tell someone what you’re naming the kid, and they make a face. “I knew an Adrianne* in middle school. She was a biznatch,” they say. All of a sudden, that name you had picked out is ruined.  And then there’s the other people who just think you’re a coy asshole when you don’t tell them.

*This is not one of the names we have picked out. Don’t try searching for clues. You’re not getting one.

So, even though we’re not telling anyone, I still wanted to talk about my baby naming theories. Because theorizing on unimportant stuff is just fun.

We know a whole bunch of people who have named their baby Jack in recent years. Or they named it something close and are calling him Jack. And I don’t think it’s because of The Incredibles. I’ve also seen several recurrences of names like Ruth and Esther and Henry and other names that we’ve normally associated with someone sitting in an outdated armchair, head back and snoring loudly while Matlock is on the television. And I don’t think this is on accident, either.

Why wouldn't you name your kid after this guy? (Note to self: See if the wife is cool with "Punky.")

I think these names are being chosen precisely because nobody knew a Jack in middle school who was a douchewad, or worked with some asshat named Ruth or Dorothy. To so many people my age who are now having babies, Henry was the nice old man on Punky Brewster. Ruth and Dorothy and Rose were the cool ladies on Golden Girls. Or even better, those people were our own grandparents or the kind older people down the street who gave us cookies and smiled at us on our bicycles. Those names don’t have the same chance to carry the negative associations that other names do—names that were popular when we were growing up. It’s more likely that we knew a shitty person named Jacob or Amber than someone named Jack or Esther.

It’s probably a similar reason that people give their kids weird unique names or awkward creative spellings of established names. Maybe the name Joseph reminds you of the kid who gave you a wedgie in the lunch line, but you never knew a Geosiph or a Joecef. And you sure as hell never knew an Apple or a Pilot or a Serenity. I don’t necessarily get this strategy myself, but hey, some people really dig that kinda thing. I think you open kids up for a lot of tormenting that way (which countries like New Zealand and Sweden agree with, and thus keep parents from giving their kids outlandish names), but their kids aren’t my problem. Not till college, anyway.

As a dad-to-be, it’s kind of interesting now to see what people name their kids. Last year, we saw the Freakonomics documentary that talked about the tie between names and eventual success in life, which kind of got our attention and led us to have a few rules.

  1. Nothing that could easily be the name of a stripper.
  2. Nothing that would make people laugh out loud if they saw it on a résumé.
  3. Nothing that rhymes with our last name.

And with those ground rules in place, we set about getting names. Sadly, my wife instituted another one:

  • No comic book characters.

There goes my plans…


16 thoughts on “& thoughts on names

    • Confession time: I was never a big fan of Star Wars. I know, I know. Geek cred gone.

      But I just ran Boba Fett by the wife, and was turned down. So I’m guessing they’re out. Maybe I can sneak Han in there.

  1. My mother-in-law and I were theorizing about names and she said that popular names skip a generation. It’s like, I would never name our kid Ashley or Grace or Brittany because I knew way too many people growing up with these names not to have kind of a stale taste in my mouth from them. But the names she has strong associations with are like blank slates for us because we know absolutely no one with them. And for this reason our baby is going to have an “old lady name” (but it’s a good one nonetheless….if there had been one more Golden Girl, she would have had this name.)

  2. I read somewhere that you should only give you kid a name that you could take seriously as a Supreme Court Justice name.

    Also, don’t give them a name that ends with the same letter/sound that your first name starts with – that makes their full name hard to say.

    My mom was all set to name her daughter (me) Brooke…then Brooke Shields became famous right around when she got pregnant with me. So, thanks, Shields.

    That is all my advice.

    • I’m finding out there’s a lot to think about with this naming thing. We’ve gotta make sure the initials don’t spell anything, either. I’ve met some people whose parents didn’t quite think of that.

  3. Another perspective: when we found out we were having a boy (due today, but taking his sweet time) I knew TEN other people pregnant with boys, all due before me. We had decided on a boy’s name (Max) already and I wanted to CLAIM it. This way anyone I knew pregnant with a boy would be copying ME not the other way around. Plus we loved the name and didn’t care what anyone thinks. The only negative feedback we got was from my in-laws who were uncomfortable because they had a dog named Max when my husband was a child (which he named Max because he loved and still loves that name!) They got over it. On the flip side, a friend who is pregnant told her sister and brother in law the name they were thinking of for their unborn son and her brother in law made some kind of really awful and rude association with it. Now my friend’s husband who was on the fence about the name wants to use the name just to spite the brother in law!

    • Luckily for us, we don’t really know anyone else who’s pregnant. That’s one of the nice parts of moving to somewhere new.

  4. I go by the Supreme Court Justice rule as well! I was all about not telling people our possible names, but discovered this weekend that my husband has been blabbing our semi-chosen names to co-workers! I swear, he is more pregnant than me most days.

    • I think that’s a normal husband thing, though. Sometimes we go around saying things to people. Sometimes we start a blog and mortify our wives with the things we say. Shit happens when the baby daddy is involved.

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  6. Whatever you choose, go and yell that name around four times, because you’re going to be saying it a whole bunch for the rest of your life and you better make sure you like it enough to say it that often.

    • That got vetoed. I thought Squatch’s middle name would be enough to make a DorkDad proud, though. Can’t get much dorkier than modern American literature.

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