The Name Game

Whenever I hear about a new baby, my first question is always “What’s his/her name?”  Who cares about weight or length? What are you going to call the kid? That’s what I want to know.

So naturally I was very interested in what my son and daughter in law would choose for their baby’s name, especially given that the child is half American, and half Asian. Would it be a Western name, or one that reflected his/her Eastern heritage? Last month, when the sonogram quite definitely revealed our grandchild’s masculinity, the name game began in earnest.  My son revealed that their choice for a first name would reflect the baby’s Irish heritage, and that his middle name would be Thai.

While there’s a fair percentage of Irish blood in this baby’s gene pool, I’m not entirely sure if it’s enough to warrant a given name. My husband’s ancestry is equal amounts English-Scottish-Irish, while mine is a total mish-mash of Celtic, Germanic, Native American, and Middle-Eastern. So with that combination, plus his pure Asian (Chinese-Thai) background, this little fellow is a huge melting pot of ethnicity  – in other words, he’s a true American.

But I’m all for Irish names whatever your background.  After all, my own son has the most popular Irish name on all the lists – Brian, for Brian Boru, the first King of Ireland,  a mighty warrior.  The name “Brian” means “strong,” and coupled with his middle name, James (which means “beloved”), we felt as if we blessed him with a good and appropriate combination.  My husband and I dithered a good bit with boys names before we settled on “Brian,” but all our choices were very traditional – Daniel, Matthew, and Timothy were some of the other names in the running. Oddly enough, we had a baby girl’s name all picked out before we were even married – Margaret Allison – to be called “Allison”, with the “Margaret” being in honor of our piano teacher who introduced us to one another.

The Irish have a traditional pattern for naming their children – the first born son is named for the paternal father, the second for the maternal father, the third for the father, the fourth for the father’s eldest brother, the fifth for the mother’s eldest brother…and God help us if we ever get this far down the line.  The naming for girls follows the same pattern.  Most modern parents prefer to choose their own unique name for their offspring, and we weren’t expecting our kids to follow tradition down to that letter.

Names get invested with a lot of emotion and promise.  Sometimes we name our children to remind us of people who have been important in our lives.  Other times we give them names that we hope they will live up to, or names that we feel might even protect them from harm.  In Judaism, a name is the “definition of an individual – a description of his personality and a definition of his traits.” This culture believes there is a spiritual connection between the name of an individual and his soul. According to the Midrash (Tanchuma Ha’azinu 7): One should always be careful to choose for his child a name that denotes righteousness, for at times the name itself can be an influence for good or an influence for bad. The name given to a newborn child is eternal; it behooves one to evaluate the choice carefully.”

Names can be sacred, but they can also be completely ill-advised – I know a man whose name is Richard Dick, and can only imagine the teasing he took at school.  And how about that race car driver named Dick Trickle?  Wouldn’t you think with a last name like “Trickle” that you’d be extremely careful about your boy’s first name?

There are no worries in that department in our family.  Our grandson’s name is Connor, an honorable, strong sounding name, one that will serve him well for his entire life.  I’ve looked at various etymologies of the name, and most of them define it as “strong willed or “wise,” both definitely denoting righteousness. It also means “lover of hounds,” so there could be another dog lover coming into the family. Best of all, the symbolic name for Connor in Japanese Kanji characters is “vast” and “fortune.”  

But the suspense regarding names is not over yet. Connor’s middle name will be chosen by his grandmother in Thailand, based on their tradition of choosing from names which are associated with the day of the week on which a child is born. So we’ll have to wait until November to find out how the name game ends.

How about you? Does your name have a special meaning for you or your family?

18 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. Names mean SOOOOO much in our family!

    The Big Sister’s name means Hope.

    The Little Sister’s name means Wisdom.

    The Dog –is Puck (ever the perfect companion, like Oberon’s Puck)
    The Cat –is Hippolyta (we imagine her to be strong enough to handle Puck, like her namesake in Midsummer!!)

  2. Well, here is to vast fortunes for little Connor. Great post, Becca. I am named after a man who died right before I was born who my parents were close with. My name means “honoring God.” It is sad to me how rarely I live up to my name. 😦

  3. When my folks named me “Linda”, they chose the name because it was so unusual at that time. They’d never known a Linda, and neither had any of their friends or relatives. I was one of the first of millions. 😉

    Now, there’s a funnier story about my Kpelle name, which I was given when I worked in Liberia. It was “Nenekweli”, which means “bright woman”. I thought, “Ah, ha! Finally someone’s reocognized one of my finer qualities”.

    Not exactly. In Liberia, when someone’s called “bright”, it means they have light skin. Oh, well!

    • It’s funny how names are popular during certain eras. My mom’s name is Ruth and she has two friends and a sister in law named Ruth, all born in the 1920’s.

      During my school days, I only knew one or two other Rebecca’s but it must have become a lot more popular about 20 years ago, because I knew a lot of teenagers in the high school named Becky or Becca.

      In my era, it was all Kathy’s, Debbie’s, Sandy’s and (yes) Linda’s.

  4. Love the name Connor. My good friend Lisa just named her son Connor Henry. Connor because she liked it, and Henry after her grandfather.

    My mom named me Angela Carmen. I hated Carmen but now appreciate it. Angela came from Angie Dickinson. I’m not kidding. Mom saw her name on the TV screen and liked how it looked. I guess that was a good decision since I’ve built a career around my name and/or byline.

    We chose Dillon (we thought Dylan seemed too trendy) because it meant “of the sea.” His entire nursery was a beach theme. His middle name is George after my husband’s deceased father.

    We chose Blake because it was a backup name for Dillon, and after Blake Carrington on Dynasty. Just kidding. His middle name is Evans… Shawn’s mom’s maiden name.

    If I had had a girl, her middle name would have been Frances, after my grandma.

    So in a very big nutshell, we go for a first name that is their own… and a middle in honor of family.

  5. Connor seems a very beautiful & solid name to give a little baby.

    My first name & middle name were given just because my parents liked it, but I have a 3rd name equals my mom’s name (not unusual in Belgium to have 2 middle names that we never use but on our official documents) .
    Traditionally kids got a first name after which they are called (personally I don’t understand why you would name your child some name and then use the 2nd name for daily use?) and are getting 2 middle names from relatives, often grandparents.

    • I think it’s nice to let grandparents choose the middle names 🙂 But I think parents should pick the given name because they like it, and not feel pressured by custom or tradition.

  6. Connor is wonderful. And I love the idea of two cultures reflected in the name. I’m Jean Ellen — Jean for mom, Ellen for my grandma. I always thought if I had a daughter I would name her Molly. Or Emma or Kate. Now, so many years later, Kevin’s steady girl (and we love her) is Molly, my best friend is Kate. I don’t know any Emmas. Maybe that’s the next cat…

    • I wanted to name a girl Molly too, and actually thought I might call our “Margaret Allison” Molly for a nickname. But that was not to be.

      However, I do have my my Molly now – she’s just furry with four legs 🙂

      When I was a kid, I wanted my name to be Patty. I had an “imaginary friend” named Patty instead.

  7. I named my son Brandon. We didn’t know anyone named Brandon. Ten years later, the world was full of Brandons. That’s the way it goes.

    Connor is a beautiful name.

  8. Wonderful name – Connor! And I love that his grandmother in Thailand will choose his middle name based on day of week born.

    Names are crazy important to me, to us. It’s the way and the reason they’re chosen as much as the name itself, the word itself. We are a family of words and meanings and literature and humor, so naming our two children are stories in themselves.

    The funniest thing in our family however is that everyone has so many nicknames! We are as likely to use anyone of a half dozen nicknames per person as their given name. And the nicknames stick (and get added to) as we go along.
    Our daughter’s fiancee already has three nicknames as well! Welcome to the family!

    • We’ve never had many nicknames in our family, but in Thailand, nicknames are also VERY big. My daughter in law’s nickname is Apple or Ple, which is what all her family and friends at home call her. Each of her siblings have several nicknames too.

      We’ve been calling the baby “Baby C” because before we found out his name, we learned that it started with a “C” so Jim and I started calling him that. I have a feeling it might stick for a little while anyway!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s