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Name Game

by Stephen Lautens


January 25, 2002

With a baby due to make an appearance in our household in the next few weeks, the question we keep getting asked is: "What are you going to call it?"

They make a good point. Sooner or later we're going to have to stop referring to it as "Daddy's Little Tax Deduction" or "Destroyer Of Life As We Know It" and give it a proper name.

My father always thought that he should have given at least one of his children "Archbishop" as a first name. That way for the rest of our lives restaurants would give us a good table when we made reservations.

Instead, they settled on Stephen Joseph as a moniker for me. The Stephen part was after Canadian humourist Stephen Leacock, and the Joseph was for my grandfather. I've never really used my middle name, but I've always liked the "J" as a middle initial. It has a robber baron kind of sound to it.

Besides, it could have been worse. My great grandfather's unimaginative parents named their son George George.

My grandmother told me how she and my grandfather decided on a name for my mother. They narrowed it down to five finalists and put all the names in a hat. The first two out of the hat became my mother's name. My Grandmother confided that neither of them really liked the first name pulled from the hat, but they were both sportsmen and honoured the rules of the game.

I suppose we're lucky she didn't get named "Biltmore".

Aside from that, there aren't a lot of naming traditions in our families, so it's pretty much an open field for us. To help narrow down the choices we browsed through the several hundred books of baby names currently available.

The first helpful suggestion one book made was that you think carefully about your choice of names. It actually warned against a name like "Adolf" if you want your child to win friends and influence people as an adult.

You can't swing a diaper bag these days without coming close to a dozen kids with soap opera names. There's a bevy of boys named Brandon, Tyler, Taylor, Cody, Ethan, Zachary, Jordan, Logan, Luke, Dakota or Ripley. On the female side it seems the world is full of girls named Emily, Hannah, Madison, Samantha, Ashley, Sarah, Kayla, Alexis, or Brianna.

And I'm sorry, but if you name your daughter "Destiny" - which ranked as the 24th most popular girls' name in the US last year - I think you can fully expect her to have a career on the stage in later life wearing not a lot more than a feather boa.

But if people are full of helpful advice about many aspects of child-rearing, one area they don't venture into is actually suggesting names. They are however quite happy to shoot down in flames any names you announce you're thinking about. For every name you suggest, they'll tell you about how they hate it because someone by that same name broke their heart, stole their dog or still owes them five bucks.

So we've given up telling anyone about any of the names we're actually considering. If they ask, we tell them we've always liked the name "Angus", but only if it's a girl. If it's a boy, we'll say we're thinking of "Pontius". At least that way he'll remember to wash his hands.

Usually that shuts them up.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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