My name is…


I’ve been thinking about names lately. My daughter and her husband are going to have their second child soon. We know that it will be a little boy, and they have settled on a name for him.

He will be named for a well loved Great Grampa who died a few months ago. It’s perfect, right?

But I’ve been thinking about how names sound, and the impression that they give. I’ve been thinking about names that sound like a person you’d trust. And names that make you shake your head and wonder if those parents hated that kid.

As a confirmed lefty, I’ve been doing my part to support the Our Revolution movement. That’s the next step in the Bernie Sanders movement, if you don’t know. Very vibrant, very interesting group, and I’m happy to help! So I’ve been doing some data entry for them.

Which means that I have been seeing some amazing names.

I won’t use any real ones here, of course, but to young parents everywhere, let me just say that before you slap a monicker on that adorable little bundle, THINK about how that name will read in 30 years when some old lady is putting it into a data base.

Some names inspire trust. I would want my doctor to be named “Michael Hampshire.” Solid, not too flashy, unpretentious. “Jennifer Worth.”  Yup. She can do my cardiac surgery, for sure.

Other names make me want to write a short story that involves a diner, a lonely waitress and a quietly insane fry-cook. “Sarah Bluette” and “Jace Pratchett” fit right in there, don’t you think?

Then there are the names that you know Mom and Dad chose because they were so adorable and original! They did not picture the kids in sixth grade making fun of little “Sharley McRoggle” or “Kerreigh Koyne.”

And some names make me just feel humble. The names that ring of truth and strength. Names that are unapologetically ethnic or racially proud. Names that mean, “I am not going to melt into the pot, no sir. I intend to be the spice in your potato soup.” Names that are spelled originally or names that hark back to older generations. “Karim” is a personal favorite of mine. “Sasha” or “LiYu” or “Epiphania” or “Dougal” or “Shaquan.”

My mom’s name is Vincenza, but she is known as Zena. That’s very cool.

Our names are, in some odd ways, our destiny.

I was aware of this when I was at the Woman’s March in DC not long ago. I was with my High School friend, Karen. As we moved through the surging crowds to get onto the Metro, we heard a voice calling, “Karen! Over here!” We both turned, of course, and we saw a woman our age, waving to her friend.

All the Karens in the US, it seems, were born between 1952 and 1958. You’re not going to find a Karen in kindergarten, although you might very well find a “Helen,” an “Alice” or an “Ed.”

When I was naming my own kids, I was careful. Paul and I thought about how the names sounded. We like the ‘th’ sound, it turns out. We have Katharine, Matthew and Timothy in our family. But we were also thinking of nicknames.

Being named Paul and Karen meant that we didn’t have a lot of nicknames. There’s not much you can do with the labels we got at birth.

We wanted our kids to have some flexibility. If they became businesspeople or lawyers or politicians, those full names would work. If they became teachers, or coaches or athletes, they’d have cool nicknames. Katie, Matty, Timmy.

Naturally, all three of them now go by Kate, Matt and Tim.

Still. A lot of thought went into those names. A lot.

Yours truly,

“Boots” aka “Karen” aka Kira aka Karima and now known as Nonni.

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