August 25th, 2010

What Not To Name The Baby

My family waged a campaign--ultimately successful--to change my mind about what to name the baby. On the way to the strategy that actually worked, they tried one that was surely doomed to fail: telling me, with my common-as-mud name that was the one most frequently given to girls in my birth year, that the name I favored was too weird. Dan wasn't persuaded by the too-weird argument, either, having belonged once to a community service organization that had more members named Dan than it had women. In my high school algebra class, I was one of five Sarahs, with last initials conveniently lined up A through F, and our teacher just addressed us by initial.

"Why not a family name?" my mother asked.

"If you can find one in the genealogy that isn't common as mud, I'll be happy to add it to my short list," I said.

So we spent an hour on the phone going over the genealogies together. Mom would read up the lineage, "John, John, John, Samuel, Samuel, five Nathaniels, and then we're back to Johns again. How about Nathaniel?"

"Not big on Bible names," I said. "I'd feel...somewhere between disrespectful and hypocritical. Disingenuous at the very least."

"Oh, here's a run of Georges up another line. You had a Pagan friend named George."

"Other kids born in our community are already named in memory of him. My kid would grow up as part of a bumper crop of Georges, and it would be Sarahs A through F all over again. How about last names? Maybe there are some last names that could work as a first name."

And then we got a reminder about why all the first names were so dull--to balance out the wacky last names. "I'm especially fond," said Mom, "of Grace Crackbone, your five-times-great-grandmother."

"Grace Crackbone? She should definitely have been a martial artist."

Another half-hour of poring over the last names turned up no likely candidates. All those John Goatleys, Nathaniel Footes, and assorted Hoppings sounded like something out of Tolkien's Hobbit bloodlines.

Mom insisted, "But you can't name the baby Maddox. Please, just don't."

"Okay, fine," I said, "I'll string together a bunch of the last names and go with that instead."

"Uh oh."

"How about Crackbone Goatley Hopping Foote?"

It's a good thing our cell phone plans are generous with minutes, because it took a long time for the giggling to subside on both ends of the connection.

As a writer of fiction, I am firmly of the conviction that someone ought to be named Crackbone Goatley Hopping Foote. I'm not sure what kind of character s/he ought to be. Hopefully not a demon or a faerie, because the fantasy genre is saturated with those right now to the point of tedium--the shelves at Barnes & Noble are weighted down with Demons A through F, no matter what cool names their authors try to give them. But whoever gets that name, when eventually I have a chance to start new story projects, it won't be my actual baby.