Our names

I love naming babies. We are probably done with that, and still I visit websites to scroll through the splendid names waiting for the right baby. Leopold, anyone? Or Margot? I like watching a child grow into her name. I like finding all of the different iterations of the name, the nicknames, the rhymes. I like how the name usually tells something about the family — traditional, nonconformist, close-knit. I know that some people don’t go this deeply into it — most people, probably — but I do. I will miss trying to match a name to a baby and a bouquet of dreams.

Eleanor was nearly named Molly. I spent most of my pregnancy calling her that. Who wouldn’t love Molly Muthler? Toward the end of my pregnancy, I began to fret. Molly was too cute. I wanted something more bookish, something more, perhaps, presidential. We toyed with Jane for a bit, so trim and strong. But I had always disliked my name for its lack of nicknames, and Jane had the same problem. Greg and I both liked Eleanor, and the name felt perfect for the book-loving, cardigan-wearing kid of our dreams. We could call her Ellie Jane for short, I thought. Except she came out a total Eleanor, not an Ellie.

She's literary

Genevieve was always Genevieve’s name. I offered it up shortly after we learned I was pregnant. Greg furrowed his brow and said he didn’t know how to spell it. He was right. It broke one of our hard rules. The name had to be easy for strangers to spell because Muthler most definitely is not. We tried others. Greg liked Clara. I kept thinking how weird the introductions would be. “Hi, I’m Sarah, and this is Clara.” We liked Claire also, but it felt a bit simple next to Eleanor. Particularly because we were having another girl, I wanted both kids to feel that they had gotten similar treatment in the name department. Greg declared Iris too hippie. I thought it quaintly Victorian. So we were back to Genevieve. Greg decided that he liked the name enough that he would learn to spell it. I know that if she were here she would have become a great, spunky Genevieve.

You would think that Henry’s name would have been easy. We’d already had two pregnancies to toss around boy names. We’d decided on Henry long before. And then some friends of ours had a Henry, so we scrapped it. I loved Oliver but could already feel my tongue tying as I tried out “Eleanor, Oliver!” We dabbled with Thomas, but it felt too common. We had cousins, uncles, dentists named Thomas. Greg was very taken with Thaddeus, particularly after we watched the movie “Lincoln.” A Thaddeus Muthler would either love or hate his name. There could be no in-between. Then there was Barnaby. Oh, Barnaby. So spunky. So beautifully echoing Gregory. And so likely to embarrass our child for his whole life. If only we had lived in Britain. Finally, we had to go back to Henry. And then August. A name that we had always liked. And also, the month after July, which is now the hardest month. August was our new beginning. Plus, this kid is such a Gus.

Bow-tied Gus

I could almost have another just to choose a name. Perhaps I should take up novel-writing.

5 thoughts on “Our names

  1. Completely off-topic, but does that bowtie snap on that onesie? I had a friend make something similar for Benjamin and just love it.

    Names are fascinating and I just love the thought you put into each one of your childrens’ names. Makes you wonder just how cool it would’ve been to yell Genevieve’s name for supper or write it on her paperwork. It’s so beautifully unique and just enough complexity to work quite perfectly with Eleanor–which is totally presidential.

  2. Brandy, the bow tie came sewn onto the onesie. Unfortunately, Henry has figured out that he can gnaw on it, and now he ends up a soaking, slobbery mess when he wears it.

  3. It’s funny (and completely obvious) to realize how likes and dislikes in names are so personal…. And the naming process too… I knew Santiago was going to be Santiago since 1996..

  4. I love this post! I’ve come to realize that I have a strange obsession with names (perhaps because my name is so strange and in all my 30+ years of life it has been butchered to shreds) and although we are done having kids, this will always be one of my favorite things about bringing a child into the world…giving them a name to stake their claim so they don’t get lost in the shuffle of life.

  5. I am struggling with baby naming as we speak! I wish I had your creativity to help me with this!

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