Friday, January 16, 2015

What's in a Name?

The subject of baby naming is very sensitive. So sensitive, in fact, that I'm hesitant to cite any examples of some of the "unconventional" names I've encountered over the past decade or so. You know what I'm talking about. We've all said to ourselves, "Holy shit. Really?! I can't believe they named/are going to name their kid THAT." I know. You just thought of one now. Shhhh. Don't say it out loud. Just keep it to yourself. 

Fine. I will say one out loud, but only because I don't know the parents, and I don't know the child whose name is "Brioche." The only reason I know Brioche is the name of a person at all, is because I overheard a stranger in Missoula, Montana summon her child by that name. My first reaction was to become very hungry. My second was to ask the woman (silently) if she was aware that she'd named her child after "a pastry of French origin that is similar to a highly enriched bread, whose high egg and butter content give it a rich and tender crumb." (See:

That's why it's hard to say whether it's a good or bad idea to share your name choices ahead of time. I learned this lesson the hard way, when I told my dad what Paige's name would be. Ever blunt, his reaction was: "PAIGE?! That's going to be the 'Shirley' of 2080! What if she marries someone whose last name is Turner?" He then showed me a website that tracks the popularity of names over time, to see which names have become obsolete and ridiculous to the modern ear. 

I pointed out to him that his own wife had kept her maiden name. Not only that, I reminded him, but he had almost named me "Cournos," which is my mother's maiden name, and had planned to call me "Corky" for short. 

I reminded him too that Corky was the name of the star of a popular television series that aired on ABC from 1989-1993, when I was 12-16, the very window of time (both in age and heinously politically-insensitive era) where it was likely not ideal for a teenage girl to share the name of a male celebrity with Down Syndrome. (Ironically, in doing my "research" for this blog post, I discovered that Corky's older sister's name was Paige. See:

Isaac's middle name is Jude. It was almost his first name, until some friends of ours (who are Jewish like us) pointed out when I was about 50 weeks pregnant that here in the land of gentiles and egg nog, the name "Jude" could be problematic. So we quickly switched over to Isaac, and I owe a debt of gratitude to my friends for that last-minute audible.

You have to get a name right, because your kid is stuck with it forever. Except not really. Changing your name is as easy as filing some paperwork in court. (See, e.g., Alaska Statute 9.55.010). 

I'll be sure to remind Paige of that when she gets engaged to Gunner Fisher Hunter Turner.

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