When I was pregnant with my son, I went into a kind of naming paralysis, because it felt as if naming someone was a huge responsibility with potentially huge consequences. We've all heard that a girl named "Bunny" will never become CEO of a large corporation; I've always liked the name George, but could somehow in my mind hear a shrewish wife going "Geoooorrrge . . . " and that made me shudder.
[Linkup to Mellow Yellow Monday]
I also have a deeply personal reason for anguishing over names: I have always hated my name, because it was the cause of a great deal of misery in my childhood. No one in Minnesota in the 1950's had ever heard of the name "Elise" -- my parents had actually never heard of it either. But my mother saw an advertisement in a magazine that included a beautiful red-haired woman named Elise Gammon, so . . . I was named after Miss Rheingold Beer of 1949.
I dreaded the first day of school, which always followed a particular progression: 1) Teacher butchers my name; 2) the kids laugh at her/me; 3) the kids have great fodder for teasing me the rest of the school year. Over time, I was called Ellis, Eloise, Elaine, Elyes (don't even know how to spell that one -- Like "Eli" with an s), on and on. But the most hated one of all, the one that was the most likely and the one the kids just ate up: Elsie. Now, those of you who are still young will likely think, well, that's just one of those antique names like Sophie that reminds you of your great aunt . . . but those of us who were sentient beings in the mid-20th century will know that "Elsie" refers to only one thing:
Borden milk's "Elsie the Cow." And since from about 5th grade on I was, well, a little cow-like myself, the nickname was so apt that kids just had to use it. Add to that the fact that I'd been smart enough to skip a grade and that teachers were likely to say things like "Let's ask Elise -- she always knows the right answer," you can imagine what kind of a field day kids had.
At this point, the name is more common, so that some people get it right, but a fair number of people don't, and I am still called "Elsie" on a regular basis. I try to keep the frostiness out of my tone when I reply, "It's Elise," but the apologies I get after correcting the person suggest I'm not doing as well as I'd like on that one.
So when it came to naming my son, I agonized. Yes, I wanted to choose a name that was not ordinary -- no Davids or Michaels for me -- but one that was dead easy to pronounce, and that couldn't be made into fodder for teasing. We ultimately agreed on "Devin," a Gaelic name that means "he who can put his highest thoughts into words," which is not a bad wish for an English teacher's kid. And he has never been teased about his name -- once in a while he was called Kevin, nothing too funny about that, and I heard that once in a while kids would call him "Devine," but again, not a lot of potential there. Oh, he was teased, about plenty of other things, but it made me happy it wasn't about his name. And by the time he had a brown belt in karate, kids had seen him win enough fights that they pretty much left him alone.
How do you feel about your name? Are you happy with it? At some point it becomes so much a part of you that you can't imagine yourself without it. And did you agonize over naming a child, if you have one?