What’s in a Name?

I have all kinds of baby name books. I’ve always been fascinated by names. Even in elementary school, I would take name books out of the school library. There were a few pages of names in the back of my parents dictionary. They were in tatters because I studied the names so often. Even now, with the Internet and the great Social Security website for names, I still like to peruse books.

I just finished writing a book in which the heroine had two different names before I decided on a third.  Once I  had that name, the rest of the story flowed. I know several authors who have experienced the same phenomenon: until the character’s name is right, the writing goes poorly.

I knew I’d always have a difficult time naming my children, especially when my husband and I have such different tastes in names. If our second child had been a boy, I doubt very much he would have a name even now. Fortunately, she wasn’t.

When I was bearing children, we didn’t know the sex of the baby until it was born. ( I knew them, because of my dreams, but that’s another blog post.) We settled on a girl’s name almost immediately (and used it a couple of years later when our daughter was born–except we did give her a different  middle name). Agreeing on a boy’s name was challenge.  We had a list of criteria: the naming traditions of my husband’s culture; no names with multiple spellings (something that has haunted both my husband and me throughout our lives); Biblical names, but not one of the weird ones; not too popular, but not unique; names our children could use in the boardroom or on stage or on the spine of a book; something traditional.

My husband and I leafed through baby name books in stores. There was one that said the name Woody was the past tense of the name Willy. I cried. I also cried when I realized that if we had a son, no one would call him by is first name because our surname was  so easily converted to a guy nickname. My husband assured me only once did someone do that to him.

At the time I was pregnant, big corporations were purchasing naming rights to everything from massive sports complexes to Little League fields. My husband and I decided to name our baby, if it was a boy, after a college in exchange for an education. How would we approach these institutions of higher learning with our generous offer? My tears turned to giggles as we contemplated the names Canisius,  Cornell, and Colgate.

We finally settled on a good name: his grandfather’s name. We used my great-grandfather’s name for the middle name. Strong names. Manly names. Everything we wanted for our son.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “What’s in a Name?

  1. Bill Blodgett says:

    Naming a character has always been a hard job for me and naming our kids much harder. Like you we had to have a name ready for each gender. So I was set on a boys name for our last baby – Jason Barret Blodgett. When Lindsay came along I was stuck with this name for some reason I just loved. My first book, Dead or a Lie, was published under the name, Jason Barret.

  2. Bill Blodgett says:

    Naming a character has always been a hard job for me and naming our kids much harder. Like you we had to have a name ready for each gender. So I was set on a boy’s name for our last baby – Jason Barret Blodgett. When Lindsay came along I was stuck with this name for some reason I just loved. My first book, Dead or a Lie, was published under the name, Jason Barret.

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