When I was a little girl, my older sister and I would spend Sunday afternoons playing the game of Life in our shared pink bedroom. But rather than play the game from start to finish, we circled again and again the small section of the board where you could land on a birth of a child space. We loaded our little cars with pink and blue pegs until they could hold no more. And after each “birth,” we searched my parents’ tattered baby name book and made a list of our children’s names. We loved being the first to land on the “twin girls” spot so we could name our twin pink pegs “Yvonne” and “Yvette.”
As an adult, naming children has not proven quite as much fun for me. Oh, the thinking of names and imagining little toddlers with those names still carries a certain amount of magic, but the actual process, not so much. Take my oldest, for example. We went to the hospital armed with 4 names, two of which we quickly discarded after he was born. They didn’t seem to fit him. My husband declared he liked the other two equally and it would be my decision. So there I was, after 30 hours of laboring through 2 nights, half out of my mind with lack of sleep and crazed hormones, feeling the pressure of what to name this little boy—give him his father’s name (the preferred name voiced by members of the extended family on both sides) or give him the other name on the list. (He ended up with the other name on the list.)
Add to that pressure the fact that the act of naming is significant in my own family, in our church culture, and in society at large: In my family, certain names and initials have been passed down for generations. In our church culture and scripture, prophets have carried certain names and have been given new names to
signify their faithfulness, scriptural accounts detail how some have been guided in choosing particular names for their children, all are given new names to serve as a key word when entering the celestial kingdom (D&C 130:11), and all are invited to take upon us the name of Christ. In society at large, Web sites and books list the etymologies and meaning behind baby names, and parents pour over these, hoping that giving their child a certain name might endow him or her with particular characteristics.
In fact, one of the reasons why I didn’t like my name when I was younger was that it means “pure,” and I have rarely felt pure. The meaning of my name, which was emblazoned on a 9×13 framed picture on my bedroom wall when I was young, always seemed to mock me and encourage guilt. (I thought of this years later when I read Louis Althusser’s theory of interpellation, or hailing, when I was in grad school. Althusser described hailing as the act of naming someone such that they accept, and become subject to, a particular ideology.)
Anyway, I’ve been thinking of this naming of children lately as my husband and I are expecting our fourth child in a month and have finally begun discussing name possibilities for this little girl. So, how about it, Segullah readers. What’s in a name? Do you like your name? Why or why not? What do you take into consideration when choosing names for children? Is naming as loaded of a process for you as it is for me?!
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