Posted by: Katherine | March 19, 2009

What’s in a name?

Well, I’ve narrowed down my baby name list. I have four first girls names and six first boy names. Middle names are more numerous but also finite. James has not yet looked at names. He says he will look at them in May and does not want to know my list until then. I think that is mostly because of how busy he is with classes and his own dissertation and his four classes will be over in May. When he gets to it, and I insist that be before June or he relinquishes his input, he will make his list and we will sit down, discuss, compare, etc. So far we have never had a conflict when it comes to baby names. We simply pick names we both like.

Going through possible names though, I must say I absolutely hate it when people take it upon themselves to give other people nicknames, especially when they don’t or barely even know them. I have nothing against nicknames, but they should be ones that either the parents, if the child is young enough, or the individual themselves choose. For example, my name is Katherine. I’ve gone by Kathy and Kath at times, but if you call me Katie, not only will I show no response, you probably won’t get whatever you wanted from me. There is nothing wrong with the name Katie, but it isn’t mine. I likewise don’t like when people take it upon themselves to bestow nicknames on my children. Who gave them naming rights?

Another reason people bestow unwanted nicknames is that they think it marks them as a friend and makes them friendlier and closer to the individual. But I’ve seen complete strangers in stores, who we will probably never see again, do this. It should be up to the individual to decide that a person is a friend and then ask them to call him or her by a desired nickname. It should be a sign of friendship from the owner of the name, not an assertion by the would-be friend upon the individual. Think here of the honor bestowed on the person asked to move closer at the parable of the wedding banquet v. the one asked to take a lower seat.

I understand, when most people do this, they mean no offense and are trying to be friendly, but a person’s name is important and respecting that name is important.

Ask any holocaust survivor who was given just a number, just how important their name is to them. They will tell you that their name is not their number and it was by disrespecting their name that others sought to dehumanize them or deindividualize them. Certainly most people who bestow unwanted nicknames are not trying to do this, but consider the importance of a name. In older times, knowing a person’s name was to have some power over them, to know just who they are. A person’s name is not just a label or trait. No one says, “I have some John,” or “I’m a John.” A man says, “I am John.”

Neither James nor I have any objection if, when they are older, our children prefer to adopt a nickname even if we had not used it for them. It is their name. They can choose a nickname if they want. But the simple fact is, we call our children Cecilia and Felicity. Anything more than that, are terms of endearment. They currently have no nicknames.

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Responses

  1. Funny, you guys are so much more organized about the name thing than we are. We just sort of haphazardly throw names out at each other until one of them sticks. We’ve never had formal lists or anything. Usually the name we go with has been floating around in conversation, I fall in love with it and Dom thinks it’s fine and, well, somehow it just works. I think Bella’s name first came up in conversation while we were eating at an Italian restaurant. It was among the names we both kind of liked and over the next few days I just became sure it was the one and, well, that was that.

    Of course, we’ve had our boy’s name picked out since I was pregnant with Bella. Excited to be able to finally use it. And if we have another girl she’ll definitely be the girls name we had picked out for this one. It’s very, very unlikely I’ll change my mind once it’s set.

    Of course no matter how you pick them somehow kids just end up with the names that perfectly suit them, don’t they?

    • I wish it was so easy for me. I tend to fret about names when I do think about them. I panic at the possibility of picking the wrong one. I also have a compulsion such that whenever I am considering something or researching something, I can be obsessed with having all the options in front of me, for fear I miss something. A joke I have just a dollop of OCD might be in order, but it is true. I can easily be afraid of just what golden piece I might be missing even if I am already looking at 100 others. I think James’ method is more similar to yours and he just accommodates me. 🙂
      Even though we are on our 3rd pregnancy, we have no set boy name for our first boy. And the girl name that was a close running second choice for Felicity, isn’t hitting me as well as another name or two this time around.
      But what matters is that they do end with the right name in the end, which, as you say, does always seem to happen, thank God.

  2. I’m just rather fascinated with the ways various people approach the same tasks.

    Now I’ve got a new baby-related decision, which could grow into a bit of an obsession. Since this one will be a scheduled c-section, i’ll be able to pick the due date, so long as it’s a day the doctor will be willing to operate. I’ve been looking at what saints’ feats are near my due date and pondering what feast I might be able to arrange. Oddly enough, St. Benedict is July 11, just a week before my due date. I doubt I’ll get it though, since it’s a Saturday. Pretty sure that given a choice the OB won’t want to do that. Then there’s Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the 14th, which would be cool since my dad is a secular Carmelite and the baby is being named after him. Well, I’ll ahve to see how much leeway I’ll have. And maybe ask the saints to pull some weight.

    Anyway, at least you don’t have to contend with that decision on top of your name obsession. 😉

    • If I were you, I’d ask the doctor about the 11th, but if he refuses a weekend, I’d probably go with Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but I can understand your obsession. We always try to aim for good feast days for baptisms. Yes, I’m glad I haven’t had to decide which days our babies would be born because, I can see, my days would have been different than God’s days and, since he knows best, it is better I don’t have a say.

      Of course, I can still obsess about godparents, baptismal date, who to perform the ceremony, etc. 🙂

      I was marveling last night that all our children seem to be born with the number 9 somewhere in their birthday. Cecilia is January 29th. Felicity is November 19th. And no matter what day this one is born, it will be in 2009. Is there something about the number 9 I am not aware of? LOL

  3. 9 is thrice three…perfect perfection???

    It’s so neato to see the thought process other people give to things which are so totally random in my life. Our oldest son has been begging for a brother named Michael Francis for about 7 years…so if this baby is a boy- that will be his name. If it’s a girl..we’re going with Mercy…and I think Josephine for a middle name. Normally I pick whatever name I want (sometimes it’s names I actually like, sometimes it’s totally and completely a political move to keep people family from grumping about another baby)…and then we keep it, unless my husband vetoes it as something he really doesn’t like at all. I don’t even think he knew our oldest two daughters’ middle names for the first few years of their lives, because it was such a non-issue to him LOL!! ( I did tell him, before filling out their birth certificates!!)

    I know what you mean about nicknames. My daughter Bernadette is often called Bernie–even by her brothers and sisters, but when you ask her what she likes to be called she says, “Bernadette”. It was very important to me to name her Bernadette, but my one hesitation was thinking that she might be called Bernie. *sigh* Although she’s pretty spunky, and my guess is that as she gets older she’ll pipe right up and let people know what she wants to be called. My daughter Jane on the other hand, is on a kick where she wants to go by Janie.

    • Cecilia’s middle name is Bernadette.

      So far I’ve been polite when people apply unwanted nicknames to my children but there will probably come a time when either I will correct people or I will encourage the child to correct people themselves – in a polite way, of course. I didn’t know how to correct our 60 year old pastor.

  4. re nicknames: I totally agree about people taking liberty and bestowing nicknames where they are unwelcome, a false familiarity. One of my pet peeves is being called “Mel”. I once had a manager who called me that the first time he met me and without asking permission and boy did it drive me crazy. At the same time I don’t even notice if close family call me Mel, my dad and siblings do it and it just doesn’t sound the same as it does coming from someone I barely know. And I have noticed that my sisters-in-law do it and I don’t mind at all, it just suits them and their personalities and it’s nice to know I’m family to them. But beware anyone else attempting to take be so familiar! It is hard to explain how it doesn’t even sound like the same word coming from different people.

    However, like you said, I don’t mind nicknames chosen by parents, siblings, or the child herself. We chose both of our daughters’ names in part because we liked the nicknames that went with them. We always planned to call Isabella “Bella” and Sophia “Sophie” from the time we decided on the name. It does seem odd to me at times when complete strangers refer to them as such but then since those are the names I use on the blog it makes sense. I just sometimes forget that people are following my lead and it can feel a bit jarring.

    • I worked once in a vet office. I was fired after about a month for “not smiling enough.” I couldn’t say it upset me but if the boss wanted to know why I never smiled, she could have started with the fact that, in a month, she had yet to get my name correct and it kept changing every week too!
      My most hated nicknames for myself are Katie and Kathleen because sooooooo many people have given them to me.
      I had one teacher – my homeroom teacher – in high school who had such difficulty with my name that when she called roll one day, I didn’t respond because I honestly never heard my name and my mother got a phone call that I wasn’t in school that day. You really wouldn’t think it would be so difficult to just call them the names they call themselves.
      I know what you mean though. My dad calls me “Kath” but I’d probably end up giving a nasty look to most other people calling me that. And since I am only used to a few select people calling me by that name, it would sound outright strange to hear it in another voice.
      LOL, yeah, if you call them Bella and Sophie on your blog, that is what their names are presented to be to the public. I am so used to you writing about “Bella” I probably wouldn’t even think of writing Isabella. Of course, I’m also not addressing them in person, but I imagine it would be the same in such circumstances. What does Bella call herself? Bella or Isabella? Or both?

  5. Even though I write about them as Bella and Sophie, in person I always introduce them as Isabella and Sophia, even if I do call them by their nicknames.

    Hmm… what does she call herself? If you ask Bella her name she says, “Isabaya Bettimeyi” and if she asks for me to tell her a story about herself she always asks for an “Isabella story” but I think I have heard her refer to herself in the third person as “Bella”. Now that you ask, I can’t recall for certain. I’ll be paying greater attention the next few days.

    • If you introduce them by their full names in person, then I should think, in person, people would call them by their full names.

      I only asked what she calls herself because, if Isabella came up to me calling herself “Bella” I’d be inclined to use “Bella” since I’d know that she would understand I was talking about her when I said “Bella.” Cecilia calls herself “Cecilia” and she calls Felicity “Icity.” We are still working on the middle and last name but she makes an attempt at Bernadette.


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