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Friday, May 20, 2011

Names

I thought of writing a post similar to this awhile ago (meaning a couple years!) but now, I feel the subject is more relevant and much more significant.

My interest in names started when I was a child. It wasn't a huge interest but I would notice names that were unusual and was interested in what they meant. As a young teenager, back in early internet days, I did a lot of searching for names. The names were mostly Scandinavian in origin. I suppose to reflect my father's heritage. Names like Mette and Arvid were incredibly appealing to me. My brief dabbling in a name forum earned me a stern talking to from my mother. No more.

It wasn't until I got married that my interest in names was rekindled. I immersed myself in it. It wasn't so much an interest in naming a child, surprisingly enough, just a renewed interest in meanings and trends. It also made me a bit of a snob. I was only interested in names that were uncommon. The idea of naming a child something in the Top 500 names was unthinkable (ha!). Unless it was something time tested and waning in popularity like George or Anne. The older and more outdated the better (Nate still teases me that I like anything that is old and ugly. Read: Maude and Agnes). I raised my nose at the super popular names like Jayden and the like (not so much anymore), as well as anything made up (coughNevaehcough).

Now that I have named four children, my snobbery has changed a bit. I know what it is like to call a living person a name and also choosing a name for someone who didn't. I am more tolerant of what people choose and why they choose the names they do. I know how a name becomes someone and how they become a name. A name so tied to a particular identity that you cannot disassociate it from who a person is and how it shapes who they become.

So without further ado, I would like to share the names we have chosen for our children.


Cecily Ruth:

When I was a teenager, I was on a road trip to my grandmother's house. We had a pit stop at a mall. I went into a discount book store and picked up some one dollar books to read along the way. One book was an Oscar Wilde play. I had never been exposed to his work before and I fell in love with it. The language, the comedy, all that was in "The Importance of Being Earnest". I also fell in love with the name Cecily. When I got pregnant years later, the name immediately came to mind. It was perfect. Though, Nate didn't agree. Later, I learned it was just a misunderstanding and that he loved it, too. At the time, my grandmother was struggling with a bout of cancer and I felt strongly that we should somehow incorporate her name into the baby's name. And so, Cecily Ruth it became. I love that she has the name connection with my only living grandparent. She also shares a birth month and hair color with her awesome great-grandmother.

Cordelia Susannah:

Ha! Well, after the dream I had while I was pregnant with her, for awhile, I thought it must be a boy. Then, I became increasingly convinced that it was a girl and that we should choose a name for her. Nate wouldn't budge until we learned her sex at a scan. Names that we had previously considered with Cecily were out and we were sort of at a loss. We somehow agreed on the name Alice but then one evening , as I was huge and pregnant, Alice Cooper came on a talk show. I freaked out. No way did I want her to share a name with him! (I wasn't exactly rational at the time!) I mentioned the name Cordelia in passing to Nate one evening and he said, "How about that?" Yay! I loved that it had a literary connection as well, though comments have tended more toward Anne of Green Gables rather than King Lear. I don't mind that, I am a devoted fan of L. M . Montgomery (Lucy Maud, any guesses where my love for Maud came from?). We were split on middle names. I wanted Mary and Nate wanted Lorraine. As I was poring over our family trees, the name Susannah kept popping up. In my head, she became Cordelia Susannah, I couldn't shake it. I didn't tell Nate until after she was born. I had just barely pushed her out and he was asking me what her middle name was. Susannah just sort of came out. It suits her, I guess!

Phineas John:

The name Phineas also came from our family tree. Nate had multiple ancestors named this. I fell in love with it when I was pregnant with Cordelia. Phineas James was what we had selected until I had that dream. John, instead, became his middle name. I knew I would have a son named this. When Cordelia was born, female, of course, I had a feeling my next child would be Phineas. My beautiful boy. I had no idea that some of the dream became reality. My son, my Phineas. His name. So perfectly suited. He even looked like a Phineas. The meaning of the name, though debated, means "oracle" which seems so incredibly appropriate.

Frederick James:

Fred. The family name for the ages. I will have to remember all of the Freds. Nate's father and also maternal grandfather have Fred, just Fred, as a middle name. He also has a great-uncle and great grandfather named Fred. His aunt is Freda as was his grandmother. Just to add to the fun, we thought Frederick would fit in quite well. Not Fred, but just a bit more elaborate. It also had a literary connection and a connection to an historical figure I have admired since I was in school, Frederick Douglass. Nate felt strongly about using the name James. When I was in labor, we finalized the name. Funny how it was the middle name we'd considered for Phineas, but was more fitting for his younger brother. I love that connection. And then, shortly after he was born, we'd learned of Uncle Jim's cancer. After Jim's passing, we both felt that the name James was to honor and remember him, though it seemed merely coincidental.


If you have made it through all of that, I congratulate you. I love how multi-layered the names of our children have become. How one generation follows into another. How lives can touch simply by sharing a bit of our identities, our names.

1 remarks:

ibelaura May 21, 2011 at 11:32 AM  

oh kathryn! I love all f your names the all have an old elegance to them. you have a way with names =)i to thought about naming one of my children cecily but you got to it first and i must admit it suits your daughter very well =) I love the names from Anne of green Gables and tales of Avonle also in fact although i am not prego i already have my next daughters' name picked out=) it was going to be what i was going to name felicity at first but about 4 months into my pregnancy with felicity that name popped into my head and i fell in love with it =).although it's no cordilea, cordilea is an absolutly gorgeous name i hadn't ever thought of that until you named your daughter that like i said....old elegance...oh heck maybe i should let you name my next child =)i love you and miss you!

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