Archived Story

What is really in a name? [UPDATED]

Published 9:47am Thursday, August 23, 2012 Updated 11:49am Thursday, August 23, 2012

My family watched “The Hunger Games” last weekend. While I was enthralled by the action and storyline, I found myself contemplating the characters’ names — in particular Katniss (girl) and Peeta (boy). They were unique and unusual. Close to names in my comfort zone, but distant enough to cause me to ponder.

What constitutes a name — an acceptable one?

That depends. Much like best-selling books and blockbuster movies, celebrities often veer outside the standard deviation of the average baby name book when choosing a moniker for their little ones. Apple, Suri, Haven and Denim — all are names picked by celebrities for their children.

I’m not sure what the celebrity parents were thinking when choosing these names, but I bet their intentions were intrinsically positive — from their perspective, at least.

Many celebrities experience an obligation to stand out from the crowd. Having a John or Susan probably wouldn’t make the grade — or the red carpet. Picking a name like Apple because apples are pure and natural is sort of understandable.

Some celebs, however, take the issue of standing out one step further, into what I call the inane name game hall of fame.

Actor Rob Morrow named his daughter Tu, as in Tu Morrow. I’m trying to refrain from passing judgment here, but I’m not sure it’s fair to saddle a person with a name that can be perceived as a joke.

Then again, perhaps someday little Tu will show her dad by marrying a guy with a last name of Shay or Thake just so she can become Tu Shay or Tu Thake. (The joke would hold extra punch if Mr. Thake happened to be a dentist.)

In an obvious attempt to avoid typecasting (not), actress Shannyn Sossamon named her son Audio Science. Sorry, no typo there. Maybe she’s hoping he grows up to be a sound engineer? A recording guru? What if the poor kid ends up being tone deaf? Who’s gonna feel like a failure then — mom, child or both?

Nicolas Cage — in all honesty — gave his son Superman’s birth name: Kal-el. I suppose there’s nothing wrong with thinking of your offspring as a super-child. I personally have four of them living at my house.

Celebrities aren’t the only ones who give careful thought to baby names. Many non-celebrity normal people exercise creativity with their choices. Some opt for a rhyming theme: Mary, Barry, Jerry, Harry, Shari, and Terry. Another common practice is to choose names starting with the same letter of the alphabet.

Film director Robert Rodriguez — with an obvious penchant for his own initials — combined this with the celebrity unique technique when naming his four sons: Rocket, Racer, Rebel and Rogue. I, for one, am hoping they all live up to their names — the last two, for sure.

Other folks find names relating to a parent’s profession. A lawyer might name her child Justice; an artist may be parent to Palette; a dancer winds up changing the diapers of Tango, Cha-cha and Samba. A baker rises to the early morning cries of Éclair or Peeta (as in pita bread). A scientist gives birth to Atom. A barista could opt for the name Java. A sanitation engineer may tuck Reduce, Reuse and Recycle into bed at night.

I could get silly here, but this is a serious column. I will try to pull myself together.

Choosing a name for a child, may not be a parent’s greatest responsibility, but it is a significant one. There are innumerable ways to go about the process. Some names are chosen because of their religious connotations.

Other times, family names are passed down through the generations. Perhaps you were named after a great uncle or grandparent. Or, you could be like one of my friends. Her parents named her after a character on their favorite soap opera.

My own children’s names can be found in any ordinary baby book. They aren’t unique or weird (the names, not the kids). We picked ‘em because we liked ‘em (the names, not the kids). My three boys all have middle names related to my husband’s first name. I’ve always thought that was a nice touch.

My mom and dad, however, get the award for the most practical naming strategy ever. My name is Jill. My mom was a first grade teacher. She (along with my dad) chose my name based on the ease with which it could be printed by a 6-year-old hand.

No celebrity uniqueness. No cutesy rhyming or occupational-related associations. I don’t even know for sure if they liked the name. But, it was four-letters long and simple to print, so my parents chose it for the practical reason that it might make life just a little easier for me. If that isn’t as good a rationale as any, I’m not sure what is.

 

Follow Slices of Life on Facebook at Slices of Life. Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author of “The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication” Email her at pertmn@qwest.net

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