Happy Independence Day!! And a question

I know no one’s reading today, so I’ll probably reblog this later this week, but just in case someone’s looking for something namey to read on this great day and some questions of life-altering import to consider (ha!), here ya go. 🙂

We all have strong opinions regarding names, yes? We all have our tastes and styles, we like what we like. All of which is totally fine, since, as long as we’re not talking about Lucifer or Eva-Braun (hyphenated double first name thankyouverymuch), names are not a moral issue. We’re free to disagree! You can like John and you can like Hezekiah and you can like Kayden and none of it has a lick to do with your worth as a person or how much you love your child or whether you’re a good parent or not or your status before God.

I’ve found that the more conversations I have in which I find out why parents chose the name(s) they did for their child(ren), the more and more obvious it is to me that parents in general choose names for their little ones that they love. Names that really sing for them, that make them light up with joy that yes! This is the name for my child, my beloved.

Now I do think sometimes it’s a kindness to point out to parents trying to decide on a name for their unborn baby if there’s a glaring issue with a name. Like, if you knew parents were considering “Tiger” and you knew there was a chance they didn’t know about Tiger Woods as a celebrity personality, nor as a person with some negative associations due to unsavory information about his private life that was made public, I would think it important to find a quiet moment to gently point it out. Then, once it’s pointed out, you’ve done your job! No need to harp on.

Criticisms of a child’s name after he or she’s already been named? So uncool. So unkind.

I was thinking of all this because I received my very first negative comment!! Not here (as if! You all are so wonderful ❤ ) — over on my Nameberry post. In one few-sentence comment, (1) choosing names like the ones I’d written about was declared “tacky” and “chavvy” and (2) I’m pretty sure our country was one of the “certain countries” said to be “on the decline” intelligence-wise because of, I assume, some of the names American parents have chosen for their children. Ha!

I honestly truly do not care about disagreements in names. I do find it very sad that anyone would feel the need to throw parents and entire countries under the bus because of disagreements in names. I don’t have any interest in engaging in conversation with people who have such opinions, because I would imagine there’s some hurt there, and I don’t want to be the (even inadvertent) stick that pokes at a sore spot. Like when my kids are just totally beyond keeping it together, they often need extra softness from me. But it did make me want to ask you all:

What do you do when you know someone’s considering a name for their child that you think is unfortunate? If there’s a real issue with the name (like some obvious negative connotation), do you point it out? If it’s just a name that’s not your taste, do you tell them? Do you have real-life experiences like this, and how did you handle it? OR — have you been on the receiving end?

Have a wonderful 4th of July everyone!!

Land where my fathers died! Land of the pilgrims’ pride! From every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

20 thoughts on “Happy Independence Day!! And a question

  1. We’ve run into this in real life, and I think how we responded depended on the reason we didn’t like the name and the relationship with the parents. With names I just don’t like, or people I’m not terribly close to I would probably stick to a “Huh, that’s interesting” or if it’s a funny story reason why I don’t like the name (for example I don’t like names that particularly troublesome students I had have) I might share that. In one case it was more serious, people we were very close to, asked us to be godparents for their first-born daughter. The mom is nominally Catholic, the Dad is not at all. In discussing name possibilities the Mom said they were considering Lilith, because that was the don woman who visited Adam (no idea where that story comes from) and the husband really liked the juxtaposition of a cute little baptized baby with a demon name. I reacted very strongly, gave a little talk about why demons are not a joke and said that I could not in good conscience stand up and say that a baby was going to be raised in the Church of her parents cared so little about it that they nes her after a demon. They chose another name, still not one I liked, but at least it wasn’t demonic …

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  2. My husband and I don’t have children yet, but I enjoy discussing names with friends and family. My friends are of the baby-having age, so there are lots of birth announcements flooding my Facebook feed. There have been a lot of names that, in my opinion, are quite unfortunate, but I have never said anything directly to the parents. It’s really not my place to say anything (everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that doesn’t mean you need to share your opinion with everyone, particularly those who would be hurt by it) and by the time I hear the name, the baby has already been named so no good can come from sharing my opinion. All I do in those situations is talk to a close friend, get my venting out about the name (the most recent one that drove me nuts was a friend taking a perfectly nice name and doing a “creative” spelling that makes my eyes hurt and made the name more cutesy), and then move on.

    I would point out an obvious negative connotation if I was close enough to the prospective parents. I would just say “Are you aware of such-and-such connection?” If they are, then I’d probably follow up with “And you’re cool with that?” If not, then I feel better knowing that I brought it to their attention and the decision is theirs from that point. If it’s a name that I don’t like, I don’t straight out say “I hate that name” but I don’t fake enthusiasm for it either. If they flat out ask me if I like the name, I say, “Honestly, it’s not my style, but it’s your baby and if you love the name, then go for it.”

    Nowadays I feel like so many people keep their baby names close to their chest and/or don’t share the name until the baby is already here, so your opportunities to share an opinion are fairly limited. Only a jerk makes mean comments about a baby name to the parents once the baby is already here though. Come on, people.

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    • Yes, this: “If they flat out ask me if I like the name, I say, ‘Honestly, it’s not my style, but it’s your baby and if you love the name, then go for it.'” Perfect!

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  3. My cousin just recently messaged me asking about names for her future baby, because she knows I know “a lot about just about everything” (her words, not mine, lol but what a compliment), and truly I did not like a single one of her names , they’re just not my taste. Honestly, there’s nothing “wrong” with them except for the fact that I don’t like them much. I spent a long time thinking through what to say to her, so I wouldn’t be mean, because clearly she loves them, and I just kept thinking “how would I feel if I sent my name list to someone, and they trashed every single one?”

    I ended up messaging her back saying “You know, none of them are names that I would use but there’s nothing wrong with any of them, and they all go with (insert her daughter’s name).”

    People, I think, tend to forget how personal naming it. There is honestly no such thing as a “good name” or a “bad name” (of course, with exceptions. If Adolf had been on my cousin’s list I would have said a big NO WAY). Names are like food. My least favorite food could be your favorite or vice versa. You loving pears (I hate pears) doesn’t make you a trashy or bad person, it just means you like pears. Just like loving the name Aubrey (my least favorite name, sorry to any Aubreys reading! I just don’t like the sound) doesn’t make you a bad or trashy person. It’s all about what sounds sound appealing to our ears, that means nothing in terms of what kind of person you are.

    How insensitive people can be about names is one of the reasons why if I’m blessed enough to be given children, I probably won’t share their names before they’re born. People seem to think it’s their God given right to say whatever they want about a name, when it’s not. Names are the parents personal decision, that honestly, people need to butt out of unless they are specifically asked opinions, and even then BE KIND! I’m part of too many forums where people mix up being “honest” and just plain old being “mean”.

    Sorry for this long rant, this is one of my biggest pet peeves in the naming community.

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  4. Being a research onomast, I have pretty strong feelings about names! In particular, that the parent think some about how the child will have to use the name in the future. My sister has an unusual surname; if you heard it pronounced, you’d never guess how it’s spelled, if you see it written, you’d never guess how to pronounce it. Given the high likelihood of mispronunciation, misspelling or forever having to spell it out, I strongly cautioned her against given her children given names which fell in the same category — if you’ve got a difficult surname, the given name needs to be something that the average person has a chance at spelling or pronouncing it on the first go.

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  5. So many thoughts here. 1. I love the open-mindedness of this blog and readers. There is a certain elitism in some name forums and circles that I feel is missing perspective. Do I have strong opinions about name? Sure. But at the end of the day, barring a truly objectively bad decision (Judas anyone? Bus Stop 49?), I love the perspective that naming is first and foremost a personal taste issue. Also regarding liking sounds… I think some lose sight of the reality that different generations are drawn to different favorite sounds and letter combos, hence the tendency for names to trend. Our kids WILL have slightly different tastes in names for their kids than we do (perhaps not wildly different, but different nonetheless. My mother’s name list is about 50% overlapping with mine). They might be more drawn to say, the “sh” letter combo than the “l” or “v” sound we seem to love. Or they might be drawn to “strong” female names over our current flowier preference (obviously, I am generalizing big time, but just for the sake of an easy example!). 2. While I tend to love traditional spellings and names, I don’t think we are the first generation to be drawn to unique spellings or unusual names. Check out Colonial American names! The styles and spellings remind me of today… naming a child “America” (hello, place name!) or an obscure virtue name or even a name like “Remember” – how 1960’s does that sound?! And don’t get me started on Colonial spelling… it was pretty flexible compared to today.

    In real life… well, if I don’t love a name, I just focus on positives like, “I don’t think I’ve met a baby X recently..how unique!” We HAVE been on the receiving end of silence or criticism… for starters, Patrick was one of our top names for DS. A dear family member DID NOT like it for several reasons, one being that she felt we weren’t Irish enough. I just plain disagreed on her rationale and after a lot of back and forth, we agreed to disagree. In her defense, I had asked for feedback. Others clearly didn’t love DS’s name, and kept trying to shorten or change it (kept calling him Nathan…no, Nathan is an OT figure, whereas DS’s name is an NT Saint… not QUITE the same… or “Nate,” which we as parents had not decided on). This is the only time I get up in arms about nn’s… pet names are cool, but nn-ing a baby because you clearly don’t like the given name their parent’s chose… yeah, this Mama Bear was peeved. 🙂 So I stood my ground, and at almost age 3, he goe by the full name still. DD got more complements on her name and less push-back, to my surprise. But a lot of misspellings (oops).

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  6. I think it depends upon relationship with the person. Most of the time, I’m polite in real life and don’t say anything about other people’s name choices. Now my sister told me that her favorite name for a girl is first-name-ends-in-belle middle-name-ends-in-elle. I told her while both names are lovely, they do rhyme. She said she didn’t care and I left it at that.

    I have had relatives sort of subtly imply they don’t care for the names of our sons. No issues just think our taste is too old fashioned. It hurt my feelings and it’s made me all the more careful not to be too critical in person. The interweb is the better place to discuss names with honesty.

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    • That’s a really interesting point you bring up. Conversations irl vs. conversations online … there are def strengths and weaknesses to both. I think you’re right that it depends on the relationship with the person too.

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  7. This is a very interesting topic, and one that I struggle with almost daily. As a Women’s Health Nurse Pracitioner student, I get to fuss over pregnant bellies and little babies almost every day. Some mothers pick beautiful, meaningful, or names that are traditional is their families (ie jr). And even if these names are nothing i woud select for my family, I can appreciate where they come from. There are those I struggle with (I was also an inner city ED nurse for a few years): Lemonjello & Orangejello (twins!!), a boy name Gyro, but pronounce jyro like the hip movement and very not Greek, a girl named Showers, La-a (the dash is not silent) and every spelling combination of Unique & Destiny you can think of. Sometimes I have to laugh a little on the inside and add them to my funny bank.

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    • Whitney! Are you serious?? I’ve heard about Lemonjello and Orangejello (Oranjello is the spelling I saw) and La-a but I thought they were urban myths! You actually saw babies/children named those things?? I’m so glad you commented!!

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  8. Firstly I am sorry for such unkindness directed at your wonderful work…that being said, that poor dear certainly must not have a lot of love in his/her life…Sacred Heart of Jesus, please bless him/her.
    As always, to me, the bottom line is to aim for respect and humility for any of these situations…but certainly, if you feel very strongly, my thought is similar to yours, say a prayer and mention it…it might mean something to whomever. Sacred Heart of Jesus, please bless each of us!

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