Monday, August 1, 2011

Why you will not be named Bahtmanne, Batte-Man, B'atmayn, or...erm...Batman.

In the last three or four years, I have cultivated a deep and abiding passion for NPR. This love has blossomed from a private lust indulged only while alone in my car to full-blown spouting of stories, facts, discoveries, and quirky tidbits with the disclaimer "I heard/read/saw the most interesting thing on NPR the other day..." Yes, this brackets me into a particular intellectual class, and yes, it probably only serves to enhance the image that many might perceive of me being a total snob, but oh well. I have every intention of NPR-listening being a common household activity for us, especially some of the really fun weekend shows, so you have a lifetime of excellently prepared cocktail conversation ahead of you, too!

Sadly, NPR is not the be all and end all of news sources. There are times when I am on their website and (ooh, a shiny thing...) get too distracted by blogs I hadn't noticed, articles about rituals in some tiny country I'd never heard of, recipes for food I didn't realize one could actually make from scratch...yeah, I'm doing it again. When I just want to know what the heck is up with some major event somewhere in the world, I often consult additional news sources. Since pretty much all of them are hideously biased in some direction or another, I often have to surf around to find a few perspectives. A source that, to my surprise, is at least, to my taste, acceptably slanted to a perspective I am comfortable nit-picking, has been CNN. Now, I don't want to convey the impression that CNN stays either objective or exclusively focused on major breaking news: they are equally guilty of peppering distracting and utterly irrelevant (but fun) news stories among the serious and relevant.

One such CNN gem was this story on a recently released book entitled What yo nayme is?: What not to name your child. I am compelled to run out and purchase this book immediately, if for no other reason than to hear more about the possible social and emotional impacts of names. Growing up, I had quite a few friends with truly beautiful, unique names that were unusual, sourced from either family or their non-American nationalities, and almost every single one of them went by an Americanized moniker. I know that one friend in particular (whose name I never quite knew how to pronounce) still goes by her nickname in the workplace. While her name came from her Vietnamese roots (and is therefore entirely understandable), I have encountered students whose parents gave them equally or more challenging names for funsies. No joke: I had a student a few years ago who went by "Mike," but whose given name had four consecutive vowels somewhere in the middle of it, and which contained several accented letters. Why? His mother thought it looked cool on paper. The story I watched on CNN (not NPR, but you get the idea) hinted at the possibility - even the probability - that this delightful, bright, capable young man might be seriously hindered in his future endeavors by his mother's choice to give him a deliberately wacky name.

This got me thinking. Now, despite many people's concerns (and even suggestions) that we will actually name you Batman, I can assure you that this is not the case. Even though some of the names your father and I love are a little out there, not one of them will get you beaten up on the playground: I promise. Furthermore, they can all be easily pronounced by anyone capable of reading and understanding the basic phonetic rules of the English language. Perhaps even more importantly, none of them are creative re-spellings of names that have a commonly accepted spelling. (Consider Ashley, Ashlee, Ashleigh, Ashlie, Ashlea, Asheley, Ashli, or Ashly...not to diminish Aiden, Ayden, Aden, Adan, Aaden, Aayden, Aidenn, or Ayedan.)

Having grown up with an insanely common name (#5 nationally in my birth year), I likewise have a pretty strong aversion to overly popular names. As much as I like my name now, it was not easy being one of three or four Sarahs in a class, especially when I was young enough to believe myself to be the actual center of the universe. Why the hell was someone else answering when the teacher was talking to ME? What kind of audacious psychopath would try to take MY name? As a teacher who has seen the flicker of sorrow in the eyes of Alexis, Alexis, Alexis, and Alexis as I try to distinguish them by their last initial or a nickname they never really wanted (sorry, Lex: I do think your nickname kicks ass, though, and I hope you grow to love it), I would personally not give an overly common name to my child unless there were a truly extraordinary nickname possible.

To be completely honest, your father and I were talking about possible baby names something like a year before we even got engaged. We figured that having some consensus on what we would name our future progeny was a good gauge of how well-suited we were as a couple, and thankfully we agree on a small handful of names that we both really love...ergo, we are an awesome couple, right? In any case, your name has probably already been decided, if not definitively, but we will not be telling anyone our choice for a very specific reason until you are actually out and kicking. 

Why? What kind of reactions do you think A'Quonesia Franklin's parents got when they told, say, a random coworker their baby name choice. Likewise, what about Michael Jonathan Smith's? These are both pretty stellar names, and (only knowing the latter personally, I can only assume for the former) good fits for the people they title. Still, SOMEONE must have had some gripe with those name choices at some point prior to those children's births. Some family member, coworker, friend, associate, or someone must have said "Are you kidding me?" or given that polite, slightly high-pitched coo of "oooOOOooh...that's a nice name..." before rapidly changing the subject. There's just no point in giving people something ELSE to judge about when pregnancy and birth are already some of the most judged, criticized, and widely accepted as topics about which anyone and everyone can impose personal opinions.

Batman, there will always be times in your life when it's worth opening the floodgates for everyone you know to share their opinions about something that really matters to you. For example, when you want to buy your first car, ask everyone and their mother (also your mother) for their suggestions and ideas for both what to buy and how to do it successfully. Same goes for picking a college, choosing a place to live, or any major financial investment: the more input, the better. You never need to take peoples' advice in situations like these, but it really helps to hear a range of perspectives. On the other hand, when it comes to picking a significant other, making major decisions about your relationship with that significant other, and basically every decision surrounding children, my advice (sorry for the hypocrisy) is to just listen to yourself and the other person directly involved. It's really awesome to hear other perspectives, with the mutual understanding between you and the advice-giver that you are mostly listening to hear some different ideas, and that you will pick and choose that which you want to adopt. Speaking from experience, being told "this is how you are SUPPOSED to do X,Y, or Z" is...well, crappy.

I promise we will not name you Chylamidia or Cuervo, nor will we name you Schtievhann or M'aerriey, and we will definitely not name you the exact same thing as every other kid in the hospital at the time of your birth. I can also promise you that your name will be entirely of your parents' choosing: we'll listen to family and friends' ideas, and we might even directly consult a few of them just to get balanced perspectives, but - Batman or otherwise - your name will be OUR gift to you.

1 comment:

  1. We always thought that Holden would be distinctive enough, and yet familiar enough that it would work. And then another Holden was born in the same hospital on the same day.

    That was like finding out there was another musician, also a bass player, from Boston with my same name (first+last). Sometimes, it's inevitable.

    Still, love the approach!