names1Recently, a friend and fellow blogger wrote about the origins of his name:


It was an entertaining story and it made me think about how we come to get our names. Sometimes they are passed down throughout our family lineage and other times they are random. Studies have shown that names have some sort of influence on our personalities, though I feel that is unlikely. I have personally only met a handful of women named Elizabeth and I didn’t much care for any of them. I know that sounds bad, but I did notice similarities between most of them that I wasn’t fond of. To be fair, that was only them, it has no bearing on the rest of the Elizabeths of the world.

Now, how was I named? My mother claimed that she was watching television in the hospital waiting for me to arrive, and a program came on about Queen Elizabeth II. I have no ties to England or to the monarchy but it is where my name was inspired. My middle name Ann, came from my mother. She had hoped that I would follow suit and provide my first daughter with the middle name of Ann, but I did not. I am not sure why my grandmother picked, Rhonda, as my mother’s name but I know that she grew up hating it. Especially, thanks to the song made, in this case infamous, by the Beach Boys; Help Me Rhonda. Thankfully she had passed along her middle name and not the first.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was still a child myself. Being a 16 year old teenager I was now forced with the very adult business of picking a name for my firstborn son. I was dead set on naming him Dude Japan, after a comic book character featured in Friends of the Maxx by Sam Keith. My mother was adamant that I would not give him such a name and scar the boy forever. She even threatened to take custody away if I gave him said name so that she could change it and then return him to me. I realized that having Dude for a name would most likely cause him some undue ridicule so I switched it to Dade Japan. What a silly teenager I was. Well that was still not a selling point for my mother. After further thought, I realized how ridiculous it was to consider naming him after the comic book character anyway. Not for more obvious reasons, but for the reason of the personality of the character in the book.

Dude a was man who thought he was to be an artist by literally drawing things on canvas with crayon and believing he was going to make a fortune. His girlfriend was sick of his childish ways and taking care of him while he chased a fool’s dream. It was the epitome of a crappy relationship though it ended happily enough. My son wouldn’t be like that man, and so therefore I couldn’t name him, Dude. However, I did find inspiration in a young little guy I babysat named Zachary. Zachary was about 10 and he was everything anyone could want in a son. He was well-spoken, well-mannered, social, excelled at sports, and made straight A’s. He helped me tremendously while I babysat his future step-mother’s son and half-sister. No, I had decided that something must be said in his name that gave him such great character.

However, I will tell you that my son at 15 is not like Zachary was at all. Perhaps it is because I chose to spell it Zachery. He does not like sports, hates school and fails exceedingly well…despite our best efforts, and is not very social. However, he does have some tremendous qualities of his own. For the most part, my Zachery is very well-behaved and helps me out quite a bit. He completed 30 hours of volunteer service at the Magic House and enjoyed it. He loves working and baking, and he is excellent at drawing. My conclusion is that I chose to spell his name different so he only got half of the good qualities. If you couldn’t tell, I’m joking…I really do not believe it has anything to do with his name at all.

After a few years I had my second child. I named her Jade Sabine. While I was pregnant I was flipping through a magazine and I saw an advertisement on a new brand of cigarettes called Jade. The package was shiny and green and I thought about the ornamental stone. I loved the complex green and thought it would be a lovely name. The Sabine was picked because of it’s deep European roots and originality. I had originally set out to name my children something beautiful, meaningful, and unique. Unfortunately, Jade or some variation of the name was very common the year she was born and the following years. So to that point I had a Zachery Michael, and Jade Sabine…Sabine being the only unique name and rarely heard. I try and use her middle name in conjunction with her first as often as possible.

The next child was another boy and I named him Aiden Christopher. Again, Aiden was the most popular names the year I named him in 2005. I had an unhealthy obsession with the television show Sex and the City and one of Carrie’s boyfriends was named Aidan. He was a ruggedly handsome manly man. He built beautiful wooden furniture and made a living selling the pieces. He was kind and gentle. There wasn’t much about the man to dislike. Let’s pause for a moment and let me explain something…I have four children total, all four have different fathers. So the first three, I was not much a fan of their sperm-donors and did my best to avoid names that related to them. However, Zachery’s sperm-donor’s first name ended up being Zack’s middle name. Because Zack hates it, we just tell everyone it is from my step-father whose name is Michael.

Back to Aiden…While I was with Aiden’s biological father he tried to convince me to name him Paul. That was the name that he went by. His name was actually Roger Paul and he was a psychopath…just for the record. Paul started out so wonderfully when we met; he had his own apartment, a job, was super intelligent with two degrees from Washington University, his own personal library of books, handsome enough, and a D.J. All very appealing qualities…until I also realized that he was on several mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, etc. Needless to say I found a way to keep him away and cut ties before my Aiden was ever born. So the naming was my responsibility. I chose his middle name after my very long time friend, Christopher.

Lastly, child number four was another daughter. I ended up with two sons and two daughters, the exact number of children that my mother had and the same number of equal sexes. History does certainly repeat itself. When I found myself pregnant with our daughter we had talked about names. This was the first time I really felt I had an active partner in my planning and we had decided since my father’s side of the family being French and his being Vietnamese we could find a name that would represent both. We named her Mai. Mai in Vietnamese means apricot blossom though we pronounce her name May whereas in Vietnamese it would be pronounced MyIn French it is the month of May. We call her Mai-Mai (May-May)…which in Chinese (spelled Mei-Mei) means little sister. Her first name has a variety of meaning from different cultures and she justly has a variety to her personality. Her middle name was chosen from her unofficial Godmother, Victoria. Her last name is Le, which Steve’s family pronounces Lee. 

The funny thing is that Vietnamese people will see her name and pronounce it My Lay…as Le is typically pronounced, which is not something we had considered in choosing her name. Which of course to an American sounds a bit raunchy. I constantly have to correct people and sometimes it is a little frustrating. I’m not sure that their names or mine has any real bearing on our personalities, anymore than what astrological sign you so happen to be. However, it is interesting the way we choose names for our children. My sister was named after my mother’s favorite perfume.

Some cultures have a structure to choosing names, but in most countries it is whatever suits us. Unfortunately, our children are usually stuck with their given names for all eternity. My eldest son complains that I should have named him Dude Japan, because he thinks it would’ve been an awesome name. I always hated the name Elizabeth, partly soured because of the fact that children found it so easy to turn it into variations of taunts…like Lizzy Lezzy or Elizabitch. I know…very clever. The point is whatever our name is, I suppose we just have to embrace it, it does make up a small percentage of who we are and who we choose to be. After-all, it is the name that we respond to.

8 thoughts on “What’s In a Name?

  1. Thanks for the link to my blog. My kids names are pretty much traditional. Although I was in Asia when my son was born and, since I speak Chinese and his mother was Korean, I considered giving him at least one Asian name. I was set on not naming him after me, though – something for which he is grateful. His mother, wanted him to have a solid American name. So I got out voted on that. She wanted – and perhaps still wants – him to be President someday, God help him. He was named Robert Thomas after the first two American ancestors of the Williams clan to which I belong. Robert was a member of the 1607 colony in Jamestown and Thomas signed the Mayflower Compact in 1622. My eldest daughter is Amanda Elizabeth (she hates that name too) after two of the earliest recorded named female ancestors I have. My other Daughter, the surprise one because supposedly her mother’s tubes were tied after Amanda) was Sarah Kristin. Sarah is the only other early named ancestor I could find in the family tree (prior to 1850) and Kristin was the name of my 9th grade English teacher (who I also had in the 11th grade, was my senior composition teacher, and the faculty advisor for the newspaper staff on which I served as editor). Now the piece that brings all this together. Kristin, my teacher, was the teacher who told me I was mispronouncing my name, which was ludicrous and someone I never really got along with until after graduation. We became pen pals for a while when I was away at college. Go figure.

    • Wow, that is pretty fascinating. Funny how someone could tell you that you are mispronouncing your name though…lol
      I am glad that you wrote your blog, I really feel that are names can be an interesting subject to write about. In some ways I do feel they play a small part im who we are, but not the large portion that some speculate…for example, a man with the middle name of Wayne is more likely to be a serial killer.

  2. My first’s middle name is Jefferson (creative genius, though flawed in many ways, also my husband’s favorite president). The second boy’s middle name is Adams, my favorite president, and because Jefferson and Adams were best friends and biggest rivals… kind of how brothers should be. 🙂

    I especially love picking book characters named though, because you get all the fun of picking cool named without having to worry about childhood ridicule and all that!

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