Tuesday, August 06, 2013

What's in a Name?


my grandma with my mom on her lap


This post is going to start as a post about deciding on baby names and it's going to end with a couple of stories about people who's names you thought you knew, but really didn't.  I just want you to be prepared for the sudden shift in focus.

In this day and age baby names are all about being unique and hip but not ridiculous.  I think we've all rolled our eyes at some of the names coming from the celebrity set... amiright?  And I'm not saying it's cool or anything, but we can be a little eye-rolly when it comes to some of the baby names we hear from people we know in real life.  (No, no... not you.  Someone else.  You don't know them.)  I know, who are we to be so high and mighty?  It's not cool, OK?  And I will say when we made the phone calls announcing the birth of our eldest daughter we were on the receiving end of some of those reactions that said, I don't like this name but I'm trying really hard to sound like I'm cool with it.  Choosing a name for your baby is a personal decision that shouldn't be judged.  But sometimes I still do.  All this to say we're having a hard time when it comes to naming this baby.  There are some names I like but quite honestly worry about it being on the sounding-like-we're-trying-too-hard end of the spectrum.  It's like I'm giving myself a taste of my own medicine.  My personal naming parameters are that I want it to be unique and/or classic, generally something timeless, but an actual name.  Besides, B has informed me that he has the executive decision in this baby's name since I've basically was the decider on both our girls.    

But the real reason for this post is that all this baby name bizness reminded me about the interesting stories of my two great aunt's and their names--Aunt Lou and Aunt Kay.  Pretty standard right?  That's what I thought.

My grandmother was one of 3 girls--a dynamic I'm excited to bring back to the family--and despite a 5 year age gap between my grandma and her next sister the three of them were close all their lives.  It's funny how you can hear a name your whole life and because you've heard it your whole life you never question it.  Aunt Lou was married to Uncle Cos.  Lou and Cos.  Two names I heard together all my life.  Like peas and carrots, their names were just as common in my childhood brain.  I think I was in college, talking to my grandma one day when I said, "Cos.  Cos...that's an interesting name.  Where does Cos come from?"  My grandma seemed stunned that I didn't know the answer to this, "Well his full name is Cosimo of course!"

WHAT?  I have an uncle COSIMO???  I couldn't not believe my luck.  I had an uncle Cosimo my whole life and had no idea until my early 20's.  That was interesting name revelation #1.  Interesting name revelation #2 came when talking about names with my grandma again (a totally different conversation mind you) she told me how her sister Lou always hated her name.
"She hated Lou?  Why did she hate Lou?"
"Well that's not her real name."
"It's not?  What's her real name????"
"No.  Of course not.  Her real name is Zdanka."  

OK, so this definitely isn't on par with finding out your dad isn't really your dad and gee, now I know why I've always had such an uncanny resemblance to Uncle Larry or some truly dark family secret, but finding out that people I knew my whole life had these completely different names was shocking.  Like, what else aren't you people telling me?  Lou and Cos were really Zdanka and Cosmio?  Sure Cos to Cosimo isn't that much of a stretch, but Zdanka to Lou... crazytown.  The story goes that my great-grandparents, who happened to be full Czech, decided to give their second child  a traditional czech name, Zdanka.  But she was American and she wanted an American name.  Somehow Zdanka became Lou.

At this point I inquired about Aunt Kay....was her name really Kay?

No.

It was Roma.

What the *$&#*?  Where did Kay come from?  Well their last name began with a K and people called her by that initial.  And that nickname, coming from the first initial of her last name became her name.  That people called her the rest of her life.  So much so that it went from nickname "K" to real name "Kay."  My mother was even given the middle name Kay, after her aunt.

As far as names go, I find this history fascinating.

For me the morals of my aunts and their interesting names are this:  Back in the day a unique and interesting name was not cool.  A typical name, that didn't stand out was more desirable.  And finally, maybe it doesn't matter what we name our baby because if she doesn't like it girlfriend is just gonna change it anyway.  It's in her blood.



*****
Speaking of interesting names here are some names of kids we have come across in real life.  Many of these come from kids my husband treated during his residency and some are from kids at my daughter's school.  Yes, these are real names.

L-A (Pronounced, La'dasha.)
Natas (Satan backwards)
Different
Abcde (Pronounced Ab-sa-dee)
Little Dragon  (My favorite.  Seriously, if you're gonna go for it, GO FOR IT.)  


Are you a baby name snob--and in what way are you a snob?  Do you like all the unique sounding and spelled names out there, or do you go for traditional, classic names?  Any interesting, real-life names you've come across?  

58 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:55 AM

    when doing her nursing rotation my sister spoke with a new mom who proudly announced that her new daughter's name to be "urethra". My sister TRIED to explain...
    then my daughter went to school with an "Elihu Smith" I assumed Elihu would be prounced similar to "Elisha" Nope, it sounded like "elly-who"

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    1. Nooooo! Not Urethra! Oh my...

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    2. Yeah. No:

      http://www.snopes.com/racial/language/names.asp

      Ditto on L-A and Lemonjello/Orangejello and Shithead and Female, all mentioned downthread. Unless there are literally hundreds of children with these names running around, they are pure legend. Every time unusual names are discussed, someone mentions these names. Everyone has an aunt who's a teacher or a sister who's a nurse that has encountered these names. If so many people have actually encountered these names, you'd think they'd be quite common. Not buying it.

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  2. I'm such a name snob. I don't like made up names at all. technically, all names were "made up" at some point, but I prefer names with a LONG history of use.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I like the names with some history as well! Glad I'm not the only name snob...

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  3. Anonymous1:11 PM

    Adorable picture and stories :)

    My grandmother had the most beautiful name - Ella Genevieve. And she HATED it. So she went by Gene. Her sister (my great-aunt) is Emma Lee, but I thought it was Emily until I was in my early teens! -Aunt Emma Lee, Aunt Emily, they sound the same! Their other sister was called Agnes. I can picture them as little girls in the 1940s- Agnes, Emma and Ella. So cute :)

    We named our son Alexander and call him Alex. I have a traditional name that is not spelled the normal way, and my husband immigrated here as a child and does not have an "American" name, so we both spent our whole lives spelling our names for people. We wanted to give our son a name he would never have to spell, but not super common.

    -A.lee

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    1. A. Lee...Ella Genevieve...that is beautiful. So funny that she hated it. I too knew a Emma Lee once and every called her EmmaLee or Emily. So it was hard to tell. And yes, Agnes, Emma and Ella...I wish I knew them way back when.

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  4. I am an attorney and I work primarily in Family Court, where I represent children. In my 12 years there I have seen some incredible names.
    ARMAGEDDON X
    NEVEAH (HEAVEN SPELLED BACKWARDS)
    FOUR CHILDREN NAMED:SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER - (EXPLAINED TO ME THAT EACH CHILD WAS NAMED FOR THE TIME OF CONCEPTION).
    XSTACY, ECSTACY, XSTASEE
    FEMALE PRONOUNCED FEM" A" LEE (EXPLAINED TO ME THAT THIS WAS WHAT THE HOSPITAL NAMED HER ON THE CARD AT THE END OF HER BASSINET).
    YAZ, (FOR THE FAILED BIRTH CONTROL)
    MIRENA (SEE ABOVE)
    and several names I cannot pronounce with several' inserted throughout.
    I love traditional names and have the following: Geoffrey, Olivia, and Marina.
    Good luck!

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  5. Anonymous1:24 PM

    My aunt worked with twins named Lemonjello and Orangejello. Pronunciation is something like this: Leh-MON-Jah-lo and Or-Ahn-Jah-lo.

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  6. Oh my gosh, those names at the end! My husband is a college professor so he hears some pretty unique names every semester, and he has come across a Ta-shal (pronounced: Tadashal) but I must tell him about ABCDE and Different! LOL.

    I get a little name snob-ish when I hear that people are naming their kids a popular name with a VERY unique spelling. I don't mean changing a letter or two -- I'm talking the kind of spelling that gives substitute teachers headaches. I just don't get that.

    I'm all for names that have meaning or sentimental value -- if our daughter had been a boy we were going to name him Jacob Bullitt (Bullitt is a family name, but also HELLO -- it's cool). As it is, both of our kids' middle names are family names, and we're happy with that choice.

    And Cosimo? That's an awesome name!

    Good luck with choosing! I bet that ultimately, whatever it is will feel right no matter what. I mean, how many mothers do you meet who will tell you they should've named their kid something else 5, 10, 20 years later?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I too cringe a little at simple names made crazy with unique spelling... of course I can think of a couple close friends who have uniquely spelled names and it doesn't make me cringe. In fact, a couple of them I really like! (Especially if there is a good reason why...family name, family heritage, etc). More like, if I know someone who did that to their kid now...weird how those circumstances seem to make a difference.

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    2. I mistyped -- the name of my husband's student was Ta-al (pronounced Tadashal) NOT an urban legend. The dash thing is totally real.

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  7. I am a snob in that I want my kids names to have a personal meaning and importance and actually mean.something cool. I also kind of want all their names to have a theme. Like so far it is one syllable first names. I judge a little when names just sound cool. I taught a girl named Madison after her parents favorite street in NYC. That said I have a Hal and Tate (a girl).

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  8. Ok, La-a and Lemonjello/Oranjello are urban myths.

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    1. Anonymous8:26 PM

      Chloe - La-a is not an urban myth. I work for a supermarket chain in Florida and we actually have an employee named La-a (that pronounces it Ladasha - and we were corrected when we pronounced it wrong while talking to her).
      Jennifer in Florida

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  9. Anonymous2:08 PM

    *Rubs temples* Yeah, those are well-known legends, and have a tinge of racism, to boot: http://www.snopes.com/racial/language/le-a.asp

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon and Chloe--No, no...my husband TREATED those patients. He met the child and their families.
      And if he didn't treat them personally, one of his fellow residents did and they were actual names on their actual medical files. I'm specifically talking about L-a and Natas.

      Sorry, Snopes...not urban legend this time.

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    2. To clarify, I also wasn't trying to bash on these names or anything. I DO think these names are on the more unique spectrum of the scale and not names I expect to run across again. I might be a bit of a name snob, but I know that not everyone digs our kids names so it goes both ways. To each their own...

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    3. Anonymous3:54 PM

      Anonymous- interesting and good to know. I guess I never questioned weather Lemonjello and Orangejello were real names simply because there are a lot of creative and unique names out there.

      http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2070329_2070340_2070332,00.html


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    4. Anonymous5:24 PM

      I guess I'm equally concerned, then, that a medical doctor is divulging names of his patients, and not in a medically necessary context. And that those names are subsequently vulnerable to criticism on a public website.

      Delete
    5. Well if it's not one thing it's another I guess...

      In my original post I didn't specify who knew which names, but that we had actually met/known people in real life with these names. When you suggested that I was making it up and being slightly racist in the process, I clarified by stating that my husband or one of his residents had once seen a person by that name. No medical information was given. No specifics other than, once in a 2 year period, a person by this name was seen by my husband or one of his co-residents. I'm not seeing the concern here.

      But again, to each his own. :)

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    6. How quickly we find the bad parts of a quite inocent post that belong specifically to Miggy. I am sure confidentiality was not in jeopardy. Anyway I was always told to keep in mind the profession that the child may have and how the name will tie into said profession.

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    7. Anonymous2:06 PM

      "I guess I'm equally concerned, then, that a medical doctor is divulging names of his patients, and not in a medically necessary context. And that those names are subsequently vulnerable to criticism on a public website"

      Oh, please! Are some people serious? Don't worry about it Miggy, I'm pretty sure the majority of your readers are not as prudish as this. Total name snob here by the way, but I (try to) keep it to myself.

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  10. I believe that a person's name can play a role in who they become. Whether we like it or not, names can give us positive interacts and/or negative ones. My maiden name is a descriptive term that was constantly pointed out. Yes, thank you, nope, never heard that one before... I can only imagine if a child has a difficult to pronounce/awkward/an object name, how that could become tiresome.

    On a sidenote, watch this, hilarious--- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dd7FixvoKBw--- having lived in Cincinnati, you will totally understand.

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  11. Anonymous2:30 PM

    A name you have to spell for someone is a pain in the a@@. Because I work in a school I think Sarah, Emma, Emily, Madison and Taylor should be retired, just saying. My favorite girl's name is Grace! I have perhaps the dullest 1957 name ever. My mother is Edna. Aunts: Mabel, Gertrude, Gladys. So there you have it. I have no business commenting here! Whatever you pick will be lovely because your babies are lovely,

    Donna ;( Harwich MA. The most beautiful Cape Cod day ever by the way. (Absolutely no offense to any Auntie Mabels and Gerts out there! I miss them dearly,)

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  12. I am a mom to four girls--- Emily, Nathalie, Charlotte and Lydia. Pretty, classic, traditional. My husband also knows a L-A (maybe the same one? We have lived in So. Ohio too) and I have heard of Abcde. I think that's craZy and way to ruin your child's teenage years.

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  13. I've seen a bunch of baby names being a NICU nurse...

    My favorite (i.e. not so fav)...Trapper - he got trapped during delivery and stuck, mom had a emergency c-section.

    Had a little boy named Bronx. We think they should have a girl named Brooklyn.

    Recently had a family with four girls: Grace, Hope, Faith, Mercy and then twin boys Thomas and Perry.

    I've seen the simple: Melanie, McKenzie, Owen, Ryan, Matthew, Cooper and Elizabeth.

    A lady I worked with had a daughter named Elsa and second little girl named Euna (both names have Korean/Japanese meanings and I LOVED it)

    Names are tough. Especially since I'm a NICU nurse, names radiate with me. Enjoy Miggy. p.s. official congrats!

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    1. Thank you!

      And yes names are tough. I even find myself thinking of some names that go against my general rules...so we'll see!

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  14. I can trump all the bad names (though maybe not Tamaram49's. Those are AWESOME! My husband once had to cold-call a Shithead (pronounced Shuh-thayd). For real.

    I am a tiny bit snobby - don't like crazy spellings - and have the hardest time naming babies. On the last one my only birth plan was to get in and out of hospital without talking to the baby name registry lady, who calls your room every 2 hours for 2 days until you decide. I was more stressed about avoiding her than I was the actual delivery! Good luck!

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  15. I see where that anon is coming from. Often, when unique names are discussed, an undercurrent of racism can creep in, and I think it's useful to examine our own attitudes when we are involved in such discussions. Having said this, I don't think you framed it that way at all. It might be that they are just responding to things they've read elsewhere. You could even say that the assumption that some of these names are for nonwhite babies is racist itself. The pseudo-French sounding names, for example, are a Utah tradition as well (read: very Caucasian). LaDawn, LaVern, Lavell, LaNae, etc. I remember a linguistics professor explaining to me that the fad of adding a French spin to baby names was widespread in the US (I think sometime in the 1900s?), albeit brief, and it just stuck around longer in Utah and in African-American naming trends. I tried to look this up, but I'm not sure what terms to use or what it's called, so I'm not finding anything. If anyone does, I would love to know.
    One of my favorites is the wife of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff: her name is M'Liss. Also, I always thought Dantzel Nelson's name was interesting.

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  16. Wow -- these examples are wild! I just wanted to share that my mom had (has?) an aunt who's name was Juanita (pretty, right?). She hated it, and changed it to Gertrude. :-/

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  17. Such a fun discussion. I am always amazed at how a discussion on baby names brings out the opinions in people. We are pretty traditional and go for family names/bible names. I love to point at people in the family tree and tell my three boys that they were named after this person, because... I'm expecting my first girl, so we are excited to change up the naming process. But when I told my mom years ago the girls name that I loved (and we will probably use this time) she thought it was horrid. Oh well. She'll love that little girl as soon as she sees her.

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    1. R--exactly why we don't tell our baby name until the baby is actually born--ha! Like I said, we had very mixed reactions with our first daughter but at least they were trying not to sound like they hated it because welp, she was already here and that was her name. And now, of course I think everyone likes her name and it really suits her. Or at least they're used to it. :)

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  18. I think you're going to have to with "Roma Zdanka"

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  19. I am seriously hoping that no one in my husband's family reads this blog, because I am about to bash the names of my adorable nieces and nephews, who have been given names I think they should legally change at 18! We have a Ramnandan (named after a great-great-great relative on the fathers side that he never met, but liked his name), Jezrael (from the Bible), Ebenezer (from Ebenezer Scrooge, dad's fav Dickens novel), Alexsei (Russian name b/c served a Russian mission), Mazel Alma (family name). These are all nieces/nephews from Caucasian family - no urban myth, no racism, just plain old crazy names (in my opinion).

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    1. Heidi--Wow. OH WOW. This is another thing... when having a connection to a name sorta gives permission to do whatever they want. At least that seems to be the reasoning, but like you I think it can go to far. But again I find myself guilty of wanting to do the same thing! If my husband was on board at all, I'd probably name our baby girl Zuzu in a heartbeat as It's a Wonderful Life is my all time fav. :)

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  20. My name is Cosette (but I go by Cozy). I have always loved my name. It's really pretty and I loved how unique it was, so I never minded having to spell it o repeat it for people. To this day I have only met one other person who shares my name and I think that's cool. (She introduced herself after seeing my name in a wedding program and our shared name gave us something to talk about). I want to give my kids unique names too!

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    1. Cosette is a great name! I think I've actually known 1-2 as well. And while it's unique, I love that it's actually a name.

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  21. pallavi11:20 AM

    abcde ? R u serious

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  22. kaygee11:20 AM

    Well of course you're going to get some weird reactions when you name your kid Princess Sparklepants. I mean, come on ;)

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    1. Kaygee... see, I just don't think it's that weird. :)

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  23. For some reason I gravitate towards traditional names for boys, and not so traditional (or at least not so currently popular) names for girls. Our son has a biblical name and our daughter is named Afton. We met someone with that name years ago and thought it was beautiful. (It's also a river in Scotland, and consequently the subject of a poem by Robert Burns. Nickel Creek put the poem "Sweet Afton" to music.) Anyhow, the name Afton was kind of popular in the 20's. I also like older names like June and Elsa. Good luck naming your little one!

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    1. (Other artists put the poem to music much earlier but Nickel Creek's version is probably the most popular.)

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  24. We just had our third girl and she was very very close to being a Hazel but then my husband, like yours, made the executive decision that she looked more like a Maisy than a Hazel. I let him name her since I've named our other kids (Ella, Sam, and Sadie). Except with the first two you gotta be careful and don't ever yell for them in the wrong order...Sam n' Ella!! Salmonella! ha!

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  25. oh a name! such a hard hard thing. You know I just had buyers remorse. My top girls name for the last two months of pregnancy was Sunny. When she was born though I couldn't commit. I played with other names for 10 days. I pulled the trigger and named her Luna and after I made the call to the midwife to submit all paperwork, I knew I made a mistake. All the signs I had been looking for came flooding into my mind and I had chosen to ignore them the whole time. So a few phone calls later we changed it to Sunny. Kinda an eye rolling name when including her middle name, but i'm ok with that. Good Luck!!! I think it is one of the hardest decisions in life.

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  26. Anonymous9:57 PM

    My biggest pet peeve is last names as first names! Ugh, so annoying especially because it has become so trendy. First names should be first names and last names should be last names...that's why we have two. Since I don't know your children's names I hope I am not stepping on any toes!

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  27. Anonymous9:58 PM

    I discovered an older, distant cousin is a Lavinia, never liked it, and goes under something completely different that starts with an E. At least now I know who she is when she calls:) My second daughter complains that she would like to be a Lea because it is shorter to write!

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  28. Jenn R.10:10 AM

    I love your blog, but I really wish you would remove the name examples at the end. I know you're not being intentionally insensitive, but (whether true or not true that your husband actually met these people) rehashing this urban myth comes off as ignorant at best and racist at worst. I really cringed when I saw it and was surprised to see such a thing on your otherwise lovely blog.

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    1. Jenn R.

      I guess this is one of those things where I'm just not sure how racism even plays a part here. I never said anything about race--these kids could be ANY race for all you know. Some I do know their race, others I don't. And frankly, I never assumed a specific race. As Ellen pointed out above Utah (a very Caucasian state) is known for their creative names and spellings. There is a Youtube video about these names and there use to be a website devoted to crazy Utah names as well (though I can't find the link).

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfIehCrO4Zs

      Before this post I had no idea this was considered an urban myth, but the funny thing is it's not a myth. So I'm not re-hashing an urban myth, I'm sharing actual names. Period. Personally I have heard (what I consider to be) crazy names stemming from a variety of races. And if all these names do happen to be from children who belong to a specific race (and they don't) me simply listing them as interesting, unusual names comes off as ignorant and racist? I don't think so. I guess I'm just not that politically correct.

      That's honestly just how I feel. I'm glad you like the blog otherwise, but I disagree with your take on this.

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  29. I love talking about names! My mom was a nurse decades ago and during a delivery the mother heard the dr say the word Placenta so sh decided that was the most beautiful name and gave it to her daughter. I'm definitely a name snob. My husband and I had our sons names picked out before we even got married. Girls names have been rediculously hard for us though. We ended up going with Georgia Belle if we were to have a girl, which we did not. Boy number 2 coming tomorrow! Haha. Maybe someday :) We both feel quite strongly that boys should be given strong manly names and girls should have very feminine names. No gender neutral for us. But, like you've been saying-to each his own :)

    Btw, Genevieve is a personal favorite!!

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  30. Anonymous5:32 PM

    I work as a PA and have seen at least 10 patients named L-a and a couple Abcde's well. When I was right out of school and still hadn't finalized my "patient face" - the blank no expression look that hides your emotions- I gasped and said "really" when a patient told me her new born sons name was "rocko" which in hindsight isn't that weird but it was at the time. My kids are Emmeline and Margaret, both named after great grandmas :)

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  31. Woah, this thread was as entertaining as the post. Any thoughts of race were obviously brought here with the readers that mentioned it since you clearly did not. Those are just some crazy names, pure and simple.

    Anyway, it's funny that Elsa showed up in the comments at least twice. It's one of my favorite names and I've hardly seen it anywhere else in my obsessive baby-naming research. It's Danish (and apparently belongs to a few other nationalities too), which is predominant in baby's ancestry. Having said that, my husband's list is completely different from mine so I don't know how we are ever going to choose. This HUGE decision comes so easily to some and is such a struggle for us!

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  32. I know I'm late to this discussion (I was on vacation!) but WHOA!!! People need to slow down with the racist accusations!!! That is even more crazy the baby names!

    My name is pretty uncommon in people my age, but super common in kids under the age of 10. Girls and boys. More often than not someone will tell me "Oh we have a daughter with your name but we spelled it B-A-Y-L-E-E" Blah. I still to this day get lot's of eye rolls for naming my daughter Scout. Oh well. We love it and it suits her perfectly. Good luck! I love both your daughters names. Lamp and PSP could not be more perfect :)

    And we need to have a play date! Soon!

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  33. I only like hyper-traditional names. Which is why my kids' names are Ruth, Seth, and George. :)

    J/k! You know my kids' names. A little different, but not out there. Except Elijah. What a boring name.

    There is actual research on the impact of baby names. The research says that the name reflects the parents' image of themselves, but doesn't impact the child in any significant way. At all. There was a fairly recent Freakonomics podcast all about it, if you want to track it down.

    So, knowing that, name the kid whatever you want to! I suggest Sassafrass.

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  34. Anonymous3:10 PM

    I know triplets who are named Spring, Winter and Autumn whose mother's name is Summer! The names aren't that crazy" (well maybe Winter is a bit) but just the fact that they are triplets, I think it is hilarious!

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  35. Your grandfather was of course Lincoln Ronald but he didn't like the Lincoln so took Ron or Ronnie his close friends combined the first two initials and called him LR which seemed to be his favorite. My middle name is John very bland and finally in my 30's I said to mom could'nt you come up with anything more original than John. At that point she reminded me that Grandpa Whitaker's first name was John, I had never considered it and of course now love it. Names are interesting. My dad had two patients who were named ---wait for it Harry Bottom and Rosey Bottom who would name their kids with such names true story.

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