Monday, February 5, 2007

You Name It

Perhaps the biggest decision a new parent must face, other than which ridiculously expensive stroller to allow someone to buy them, involves choosing a name for their baby. And, surprise surprise, everyone has an opinion about it! Wouldn't you know it, these people don't even mind sharing their thoughts, good or bad.

I have to tell you from the outset, what a couple names their baby is the business of no one except that couple. Still, I must admit, there are some children wandering around out there with some bizarre names. I had a woman the other day tell me one of her grandsons is named Oak. Oak? Are you kidding me? Does he have a pet blue ox named Babe? The kid is destined to be a lumberjack. Do they still have lumberjacks? Is here anything left to chop down? That's a discussion for another blog.

Don't get me wrong. I like the name Oak. For my coffee table. "Hey that's a nice table, where did you get it?" "Crate and Barrel. It's Oak." "Beautiful."

I have met dozens of babies over the years, born from sisters, cousins, friends, and co-workers. Their names run the gamut from traditional to exotic. From Anna to Layla for girls, and from Christopher to the aforementioned Oak for boys. Some of these names I like, others I don't care for. But I promise you the parents of all of these children can not tell which names I prefer, and which I would not choose for my dog's chew toy. Except, now, of course, for Oak's.

It's a little something we call manners.

So why do people insist on telling us to our faces that they don't like the names we've narrowed it down to, particularly, the name we're leaning towards? I actually had someone tell me that our top name sounded like something she would call her dog. Please, tell me how you really feel. I remember telling one of my aunts what our front-runner was, and she, without hesitation, looked me right in the eye and said, "I can't say that I like it." Nice. She then proceeded to list three or four names she does like. This isn't a poll. We're not voting for "American Idol" here. Actually, I kind of like the name Fantasia.

There was no debating what we would name a boy if that's what we were having. So, you must appreciate the karma that we are indeed having a girl. Oh, that God, he's a kidder. Such a sense of humor. A boy would have been named after my late father, Dominic. His middle name would have been Hudson, after the river that is just a few blocks from our home. We would have called him Hudson, too, following a wacky tradition on my wife's side of the family where lot of the men (her dad included) go by their middle names. Don't ask me why. I don't have an answer.

Despite the fact that we're expecting a girl, even to this date, my mother has a problem with the name Hudson. Get over it lady, we're having a girl. It's out of the running. She's also still in denial that we've pretty much settled on a name. "Really? No, really? WHY?" That's a heartwarming response coming from the child's grandmother. She then told me she doesn't know how to spell the name we chose. She's not alone in her craziness. My father-in-law said the baby's going to have a hard time pronouncing her name. True, but in the beginning, she's going to have a hard time pronouncing anything.

We had it narrowed down to a few names for girls, including, Clara, Charlotte, and my darkhorse, Mattingly. It would have been nice to name her after my childhood hero, former Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly. My wife had agreed we would name her that, if she came out wearing eye black and a mustache. That is still entirely possible considering she's going to be half Italian. I knew Mattingly wouldn't make it to the end. Hell, he never made it to the World Series either.

The funny thing about names is the people you think of when someone mentions a certain one. It could be any random face from your past, or a television or movie personality. When we were considering Charlotte, my wife mentioned the middle name Rae. Seems nice, right? Unless, like myself, you're a student of 1980's television and know that Charlotte Rae is the name of the woman who played Edna Garrett on "The Facts Of Life." I can take the good and take the bad with the best of them, but no daughter of mine is going to share a name with Mrs. Garrett. Blair maybe. Natalie possibly. Even Tootie could get a look. But Charlotte's out now.

Clara was the early leader, but in a strange twist, fell out of favor once we found out we were expecting a girl. It just didn't seem right anymore. It's odd because we liked that name so much. Loved it in fact, until we had to settle on it. Nope, once we found out the turtle wasn't coming out of its shell, we automatically started referring to her as Penelope. And it stuck like a kid's tongue to a frozen flagpole.

And you know what? Everyone is just going to have to deal with it. Penelope. Say it don't spray it. That's her name, don't wear it out. Is anyone going to love her any less because of her name? No. Is she going to be less adorable because of it? No. If you're still not convinced, consider this: You can't say "Penelope," without smiling. Try it. Say it out loud. Do it a few times. You can't do it without smiling! Wasn't that fun?

Now, if that doesn't melt the ice around your heart, nothing will.

Of course, we reserve the right to change our minds when she gets here. Our parents will be happy to hear that.


  1. My mother in law had a dog named Penelope. She was cute and tiny. She would bark and run around in circles whenever anyone came or left the house. I am sure the baby will be cute and tiny. I hope she does not bark or run around in circles. But, anyway, whatever you name her, when she grows up, she will hate it! That is just the way it is. Then again, we will all fall in love with her as soon as we see her no matter what you name her. Are you going to call her Penny for short?

  2. Interestingly enough, Terry is NOT the person who tole me Penelope sounds like something they would name their dog. So that's 2 now. Hopefully that means she and our dog, Luna, will get along. Woof woof!

  3. I like the name "Penelope". Roe and I did the same thing with the names... we had a name picked out for our first boy and changed our minds as soon as we had one. Everyone told us "Samantha" was too long, especially when you consider our last name. They got over it. I'm glad our family doesn't do that middle name thing..... I don't want to be known as "Alfonse". My sister and I are both named after our grandparents. I loved Pop-pop but I would rather be called pop-pop than Alfonse. Rather than Mattingly, how about "Hitman" for your first son? That would rule!

  4. I am partial to Clara, go figure. But I actually really like the Italian pronunciation which is Chiara. I wonder if folks feel that it is okay to comment since your original e-mail said that the name was not a done deal, thus giving them permission to add thir two cents worth. But you are right we will love her and knwo that she is adorable no matter what moniker she has - or what derivative of her name she ends up being called.

    Love AC


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