What's in a name?

What’s in a name?

Isn’t that the question posed by Juliet when she stood on her balcony pondering her forbidden love of Romeo? A name, after all, is really nothing more than what one says to get the attention of someone else in a crowded room. Middle names, as I’m sure we can all attest to, are for kids whose parents need something to say when they’re in trouble (the shrill of my father’s voice still rings in my head whenever I do something stupid: “Shawn Fred Collamore Magrath…” It still makes my skin crawl). And last names are either a family heritage or something that makes you more identifiable by the federal government, depending on your viewpoint of pride vs. privacy, I guess.

In his play “The Crucible,” Arthur Miller made the counter argument that a name is an extension of one’s true being, symbolic of what they’ve achieved in their life. But honestly, I mention that only to prove I read. Despite all appearances, I like to think I’m a pretty smart guy.

With all this name talk, I suppose I should back up a little. My brother-in-law and his wife had their second child born late Tuesday afternoon. Apparently, it was too much to ask that the mother wait another ten hours to have the oddly coveted “new year’s baby” (which I heard went to a set of twins this year). Women in labor can be selfish like that. Having named their first baby boy Marius, now 1 year old, the pressure’s on to come up with an equally unique name for their newborn girl.

For my wife’s family, it’s almost like a contest. Guess the baby’s name and win a prize; the prize being the self-satisfaction of knowing you picked the name. I’ll admit, it’s been fun. We haven’t come up with a name I would name my child, personally, but it’s not my kid. Maybe that’s what makes it fun. Among the names thrown out there for consideration: California, Norah, Carlotta, Daphne, Juliette (suitable for the introduction to this column), and Snow. Did I mention the parents’ last name is White?

Then, there’s always the less chosen option of picking a temporary generic “Jane Doe” type of name. Some say the benefit here is a kid can pick their own name when they’re old enough to do so. It’s not an option I favor, but it’s one my editor-in-chief would go for. My issue is that I can’t imagine a name be chosen responsibly by… well, anyone under the age of 25. As a parent, I wouldn’t want to see Seymore Butz, Heywood Yapinchme, or Oliver Klozoff printed on a high school diploma. And I can’t imagine sweet little Skelator Danger McTakesnocrap would have an easy time scoring a job interview after college.

Then again, perhaps it’s only fair I mention that I once heard the name “Ilene Wright” come over the scanner in the newsroom. I doubt she picked her own name and I’m sure she’s doing just fine.

To my knowledge, my in-law's newborn is still unnamed, and the continuing battle over who chooses the “correct” name wages on. As for me, I'm out of the game for offering too many “suggestive” names. It doesn’t matter anyhow because I’m sticking with my original idea: What's in a name?

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