We had terrible trouble naming our children. We have two now, a small number compared to the index cards, name dictionaries and websites used to identify, analyse and collect names that could be suitably applied to a girl or a boy.
As anyone reading this will know – that name is monumental, you really feel like this is going to influence, perhaps even chart, your child’s whole existence. Every name has a dictionary-like meaning, a sound that may, or may not suit your surname. Most importantly, I think, every name has a resonance and experiential meaning for you and your partner (you know what I mean “I once knew a Karl, but he was…”).
Also, I hope I don’t offend anyone with any of the names mentioned, or who have named their child. Remember, as much as meanings, you go through the whole process of matching it to your surname to make sure it’ll scan right. Preaching over, let’s go on. Our, or, my wife’s – organisation was impeccable. Our discussions, impractical. We’d be watching The Sopranos and say something like “Anthony for a boy?” A mad rush to the list of lists to identify the list that the name “Anthony” was on, only to find it at last struck off beside the ominous comment “Anthony Soprano. Or worse, AJ!” This despite our derisive laughter whenever we hear the name “Britney Kylie Hoorihan” or “Shilo Suri McGinty” or somesuch.
Then, I adopted the Homer Simpson Approach. Every name was diligently reconfigured using each letter from the alphabet to avoid the evident rhyming slang. That got rid of Doc, Regina and Bob, among others that I couldn’t bring myself to spell here. (Famously, Homer went through “A-art, B-art, C-art, D-art, E-art… yeah, that should be fine. Bart”).
My wife soon lost her patience with all this. I was primarily a negative influence on our discussions. She would suggest names, which I would complain about for some reason or another – they wouldn’t be named after family members, they wouldn’t be those preppy American names, they wouldn’t be difficult to pronounce Irish names (as I know no Irish myself), and they couldn’t also be other words. “If you had your way” she would say “they wouldn’t have any names at all! What would you call them? Numbers?” I thought about this, but couldn’t stand the thought of yet another PIN in my life. There are too many in the world already. So I put my shoulder to the wheel, took out the index cards and said “Frank”.
To this, my wife laughed. She couldn’t see herself having a Frank. “Besides,” she said, “What about a ‘Frank’ discussion? Your rule about names that were words?” She had me there. Our debates continued, erratically, at odd times and in odd locations and moments. Often, we’d pitch three names and see how the other took them. “What time is it?” Would be answered with “Andrew, Jeffrey, Leo.”
Some time into all this, my wife says: “What if we have a girl?” A mad rush, and the whole cycle repeats itself. “Emily, Charlotte, Anne?” as we look up at Wuthering Heights on the bookshelf. “Heathcliff for a boy?” comes the reply. We were stuck on this boy thing.
And then our first daughter was born. We had a name picked out, but I cannot remember it. Almost immediately, we knew who she was, we knew her name. Then we realised we each knew a different name for her. After some discussion we agreed on one of the names (in these blog posts, that name is “Sunshine”). Our second child was not so lucky. Again, we were only really prepared for a boy. Ben was the one name, male or otherwise we could agree on. In fairness, the second time round, we were better prepared for the possibility that a child could be born female. There was a list of girls’ names as long as the pregnancy. But when ‘she’ was born, none fit her properly at all. We had to try a few on before we found the right one. It was late, and the name itself snuck up on us, as if we glimpsed it in the corner of our eyes, but had to turn to see it properly. In these posts, that name will be “Starlight.”