What’s in a name?


‘The story of a girl (almost) named Zeus’

Our Memorial Day tradition is to have our two super-adorable grand-nieces (yup, grand-nieces), Miss Just-Two and her older sister Miss Almost-Five, come down from the Boston area to help us celebrate the first official weekend of summer. Oh, okay. Their parents get to come too.

Last night we were polishing off our umpteenth bottle of wine (with the parents, not the adorable grand-nieces) and got to talking about how kids get their names. I guess things have changed a bit since we named The Child, because these parents confessed that Miss Almost-Five went four days without a name. Even more startling (to us, anyway) was the fact that Miss Just-Two went nameless for four whole months. During this time, she was known to all and sundry as Baby Girl. Or, for officialdom, as Baby Girl Last Name.

The Dad (The Dude’s older brother’s son) said he finally had to give in and name Baby Girl because, without a name, she could not get a social security number, and without a SSN, she sort of, well, didn’t exist. So, name her, they did. At least they didn’t let her name herself, which was Picabo Street’s parents’ genius idea. (Poor Picabo didn’t have a name till she was three years old.)

[I’m sure you’ll understand if I don’t reveal Miss Just-Two’s much-delayed name, nor her sister’s, adorable though they may be. I don’t want to jeopardize their privacy. Mostly, I don’t want the parents to get mad and not come back next Memorial Day.]

But back to the Naming Thing. Twenty-five years ago, when The Child was on her way, The Dude and I spent hours of pre-family fun thinking up names. (Actually, arguing about names.)

Before we knew The Child was to be a girl, my favorite Boy Name was Henry. That’s because my last name, before marrying The Dude, was Henry. Neat, huh? Well, I certainly thought so. But when I shared my neat naming thought with The Dude, he said ‘No, not Henry. Henry is weird. If we name him Henry, everyone will tease him. And they’ll call him Hank!‘ (Like this was even weirder.)

So I said, ‘Oh. Okay. So Henry is weird. What name do you like?’


I kid you not. Zeus. And Henry is weird?

The Child, a couple of hours before we didn't name her Zeus

The Child, right about the time we didn’t name her Zeus. Or Andromeda

There must have been something in the water that winter. Or perhaps The Dude was reading a lot of ancient history. Because, for some reason, even after we found out that The Child was going to be a girl, he kept zeroing in on Greek names.

He came up with Ariadne. (No one will be able to pronounce it.) Chloe. (Ditto, at least in those days.) Persephone. (Double ditto) Penelope. (People will pronounce it to rhyme with ‘cantaloupe’.) I finally put a stop to all this Hellenic nonsense by suggesting, with a sweet smile, ‘Medusa’.

The Dude, about to sacrifice The Child to the naming gods (we're on the lip of a Hawaiian volcano here)

The Dude, about to sacrifice The Child to the naming gods (we’re on the lip of a Hawaiian volcano, Haleakala, here)

So then we checked out our respective family trees. Mine had a Beatrice and a Josephine. (Hmmm.) His had a Frieda and an Elsie. (Double hmmm.) We could, perhaps, have named her after both our mothers. In which case her name would have been Myrna Bertha. Or Bertha Myrna. (No comment.)

We couldn’t agree and couldn’t agree and couldn’t agree some more. She was actually a couple of hours old before we finally settled on Samantha. (Maternity ward nurse: ‘Just don’t name her Alexandra; there are four on this wing alone.’)

I’m not really sure where ‘Samantha’ came from. But we both liked it, so Samantha it was. And is. Believe it or not, The Dude’s Dad had never heard of the name Samantha, and thought we’d invented it. Guess he didn’t watch a lot of TV. (Incidentally, our Samantha was once mistaken for a witch. You can read all about it here.)

The Child in Iceland. Practicing her witchcraft? She's on the lip of a volcano, at any rate

The Child in Iceland. Communing with the Norse gods? Practicing her witchcraft? She’s on the lip of a volcano, at any rate

I can’t wrap up a baby-naming post without mentioning the true story of my Cousin Marcia’s best friend Shelly. Shelly’s last name was (and quite possibly still is) ‘Bottom’. Shelly had a sister named, I kid you not, Sandy. And a brother named Rocky.

And guess what her father’s name was?


Amagansett, New York. May 2016



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40 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. josypheen

    I love this post too!

    My friends had a good boy name, and then when they had their second child they weren’t sure what to do, as they’d already used their perfect boy name… so they visited a graveyard. Yep, their second child’s name was found on a WWII memorial in their village!

    • Wow! Now THAT’s a Naming Method! I simply must suggest that for their third child (yup, they’re having a third girl in September; and nope, they haven’t picked out her name yet!

  2. drallisonbrown

    LOL! My mom wanted to name me Dorcas, after some famous soap opera star….can you imagine the ribbing? Thank God for my dad. And, yes, I am still hanging on the seat of my chair, waiting for the big reveal – what are the kids’ names for God’s sake???

    • Hmmm. ‘Dorcas’. I kind of like that — for someone else, not me (!) As for the kids’ names, I don’t usually mention real names in my blog, but if you promise not to tell (and this is in the comments, not the blog per se), here goes: Coralee, who is now six, and her little sister (four), Sloane. Rejected names included Winnie (seriously), which I can’t help but pair with ‘the Pooh’, so I’m relieved

  3. Great post! This brought back memories of naming our kids. We had quite spirited discussions about their names. We have two boys and it was hard naming our second one because we’d already used our favorite boy name on our oldest. But I’m happy with my second son’s name. It fits him. I had to pull rank on that one because hubby wasn’t so inclined. LOL! 🙂

  4. One of the most important things to do is pick a name and remember to say it out loud…we chose a name for our first but when we saw her she didn’t look like the name..Saying that out loud sounds silly..but I am pleased we didn’t stick with our fiirst choice 🙂

  5. Confessions of an Angel Mom

    Oh man!! We have spirited discussion about baby names all the time– we’ve been trying for a long time so it comes up quite a bit—hopefully some day we will get to discuss it for real!!

    My husband’s aWoret suggestion so far … wait for it…. Lycra Jean. I mean,NO!!!! So awful!!! Lol

    Great post thanks for sharing!

    • ‘Lycra Jean’!!!! Love love love. I once worked in an office with name plaques on the doors. One down the hall from me read ‘Les Weiner’. Honest. Wouldn’t you think he’d go by ‘Lester’? At least n his plaque? (god, I hope he doesn’t read this blog)

  6. With as many Volcano pictures that she’s in, perhaps Pele would have been appropriate? My ex and I argued over names for almost 9 months. For a girl he wanted Shiloh. But I didn’t want to name a girl after a Civil War battle. I wanted Lara (Dr. Zhivago) or Caitlin (Dylan Thomas reference) but he hated both. We finally settled on Dominic (Dominique for a girl) because we both had a beloved Uncle Dom.

    • Which was it, Dominic or Dominique? (great name/s!) BTW, I read recently that the popularity of the name ‘Caitlin’ (or Kaitlyn, Caitlyn, etc.) plummeted after Bruce Jenner switched over. Hmmmm. What does that say about people, I wonder?

  7. The rule of thumb for us, naming our two kids, was don’t name the boy a girl name. My husband has a “girl” name and didn’t want that fate to happen to his child. We worked so very hard and then our realtor came over last week and in general conversation mentioned her daughter’s friend, who is a girl, who has the exact same name as our son. The best laid plans.

  8. I work with a lot of young women so over the years lots of babies. Most recent one in May. My advice is picture yourself yelling it out the door. Does it roll off your tongue? How does it sound yelling it at the playground? I think Samantha is a good name to yell and love.

    • I love that test! I’ve actually used it when naming a pet. Same deal: How easy is it to shout the name out the door (!) Oh, and thanks for liking the name ‘Samantha’ xoxo

  9. Ellen

    Funny! Was Betsy Bertha? If so, No wonder she was Betsy. My English Gma was “Bertha,” and forever Bertha has been my least fav name. iDK why because I did love my Grandma Bertha.

    • Yes, Betsy was Bertha. Her family was German; I think there were some Gunthers in there. I remember that her mother’s name was Frieda, which also did not make it on our short list (!)

  10. Four month without a name! I didn’t even know that was possible. When my brother and his wife were expecting their first he was having a grand time with names. Lee for a middle name and Brock for a first. Brock Lee. Or Melon for a middle name and Walter for a first. Walter Melon. For our first (Crash) DW had picked the boy name and I had picked the girl name. He could have been Mya Rae. Bang could have been Isobella Rae. I really loved the name Maximus (Max) but I got shot down repeatedly. Apparently Max Wood makes a better porn name than a little boy’s name 🙂

    • Hah! I must admit, Dear StomperDad, that pronouncing your name suggestions out loud got me laughing — out loud! (‘Brock Lee’ — hilarious!) Somebody sent me an email saying that her best friend’s aunt was named ‘Fannie Butz’. Poor poor thing! Thanks, as ever, for making me smile (and laugh out loud)

  11. Love this post! It’s really not easy to come up with a good name… but you know what: I find that when you see the baby you will know if the name actually fits. A bit weird, I know… We actually never really had an issue. With both kids we both made a list with about 10 names on it we would like and then started going over them until we ended up with 2 boys and 2 girls names from which we chose. Both of our kids have 2 names.

    Love Maui, love Haleakala!

  12. Ruth Meisenheimer

    Back when, small town newspapers had a column telling where people went. Katie Pigg and Emma Wurm went “calling” on friends together all the time!

  13. I actually liked some of those Hellenic names but their stories have to be vetted first. My name gives my age away as no one, absolutely no one in the last 60 years names their child Judy. I am so glad I was not named Muriel or Hilda or Eleanor.

    • Oh yes, I liked those names too. But somehow I didn’t think they’d work so well with ‘Whitmore’ (!) I know at least three Judys, BTW. And they are all wonderful (!) xoxoxo

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