In our house, the process of choosing a baby name goes through several painful and protracted phases.

First, we pass through The Zorro Phase. This is where the Hubster, confident that he has many, many months to settle on a name, entertains himself by suggesting clearly outrageous and inappropriate names (Like Zorro. Or Gandalf. Or D’Artagnan. Or Clytemnestra, if it was a girl.) in an attempt to be funny.

This go-round, the Hubster has come up with a whole new category of suggestions for the Zorro Phase: Names that sound like other, more familiar names. Why? For the sake of confusion, and the hi-jinks that therefore ensue, I am only to guess. For example, Kebin. As in, “Kevin?” “No… Kebin.” Other ideas he thought were “worth” mentioning? Stege (for Steve) and Marp (for Mark). Oh, the laughter… **

When we finally get down to business, the longest phase is the Close, but No Cigar Phase, where is becomes tortuously evident that we watch too much TV, see too many movies, read too many books and know too many people.

“How about Arvin?” one of us might suggest. The response, “You mean like Arvin Sloane?”
“Nelson?” “You mean as in, ‘ha-ha!’
“Isaac?” “Like the bartender on The Love Boat?”
“Amos?” “Oh, as in: and Andy?”

An additional element to this phase is that there’s nothing quite like being a teacher to have had many a nice name ruined forever for you. Names that actually were previously on my list as favorites have been banned forever, the association with a student that was too (insert negative quality/ies here) burned eternally into my mind. If a teacher ever tells you, “Your child didn’t poison the name,” take it as a compliment.

It is at this point that we first crack open the baby name books. Apparently, the higher the number of names on the cover, the more copies you sell. I know it works, because the last time we bought a book, we were torn between two and the Hubster told me, “Just buy the one that has more names.” (The joke was on him, because it was not a good book.)

My recommendations (stick with these and you’ll do fine):

One of the Hubster’s favorites is From Aaron to Zoe (15,000 Baby Names), not because it has exceptionally good suggestions, but that each suggestion is followed by a list of (arguably) notable people that have been christened as such. For example, the name Sam is followed by this familiar and helpful association: “Sam Patch: daredevil; dived from cliffs, often with bear.” This book is more useful for its entertainment value than as a tool for helping parents choose a name.

The terrible book which was chosen, as mentioned above, by the poor technique of “the more names, the better” is The Complete Book of Baby Names (100,001+ Baby Names). My problem with the book is twofold. First of all, the origin of each name is given, with many of the the origins listed as “Native American.” Maybe I wouldn’t take so much offense at this if I didn’t spend the better part of a unit each fall explaining to my kiddos that Native Americans do not comprise a single cultural group, but instead are thousands of cultural groups spread out across two continents and an entire hemisphere. It makes as much sense as classifying something as “African” or “Asian” in origin. Those are continents, not cultural groups or areas. By classifying something as such, you’ve done no more than help someone narrow down to a vast region of the world where something came from, and have told them little else. The other issue that I have with this book is that many names seem to be simply made-up. And then given the classification or origin of “American.” Most of these include spelling variations like “Sundae.” Really? You’re really going to suggest that I name my child after a Da.iry Queen dessert? Or how about Starbuck, who those of us that grew up in the seventies will remember as a character on the original (single-season) Battlestar Galactica TV series (and possibly the remake, which I haven’t seen)? This book gives the meaning of the name as “an astronaut.” Again… really?

Next comes The Great Skeet Shoot Phase. This is where one of us throws out a name and the other rejects it. For no other reason than “I don’t like it.” If, while perusing the baby name books, I am to say “What about…” I’m often cut off by the Hubster who says, “Wait.” and then pretends to site a shotgun. “Pull!” he’ll call, predicting that this name, like its predecessors, will be shot down. At this point one or both of us have reached the frustration level, and we usually agree to table the discussion for a set period of time.

In the case of the Monkeyboy, the tabling period ends with The “Oh, shit! The baby is two days old — six weeks early — and still doesn’t have a name Phase. Let me tell you, having NICU nurses ask you repeatedly, “Does this baby have a name yet?” will light a serious fire under your ass. Luckily, we did have some names in mind that we agreed upon, although we hadn’t fully discussed it and nailed it down, so we weren’t really as panic-stricken and flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants as one might think.

This go-round, we’re still processing. Last night we re-opened the discussion and have decided that the time has come to nail down a name. We’ve reached the It’s Crunch Time Phase.

I decided last night that I’d rather write another graduate thesis than name another male child.

For further inspiration, I suggest the scene from Knocked Up (it might be in the DVD extras), where the friends of the male lead suggest celebrity-style baby names. My personal favorite: Pontius Pearslice.

Another good resource is the Oh-no-you-di’int-style website: Baby’s Named a Bad, Bad Thing.

*I know that the use of the direction “Pull!” refers more to trap shooting than skeet shooting, but in American iconography, the term “Skeet” just has more, you know, oomph.
**I should note that he actually knows someone with one of these names.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Valerie May 7, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Your baby naming sounds alot like what goes on in this house too. Thank god this is the last baby we will have to ever name.

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