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Playing The Name Game

My daughter asked, “Wanna know what I’m gonna name my children?”

Of course I did. “I’m going to have two daughters, named Rose and Lily, and a son named Black-Eyed Susan.”

“Is this a flower-child take on ‘A Boy Named Sue’?”

My daughter blinked. She’s 4. She doesn’t yet know Johnny Cash, and more shamefully, she has yet to memorize the complete works of Shel Silverstein.

I redirected my question.

“Why the name Black-Eyed Susan for your boy?” I asked.

“Because it’s a flower,” she responded

“Right. But why that flower?” I asked.

“Mmm,” she said, thinking, “because he’s going to be a pirate.”

Of course. I told her I love the names. Far be it from me to talk trash about the names of my future grandchildren. I hated it when my children’s grandparents took a woefully long time to embrace my kids’ names ? names that suit them perfectly. And seeing as my little grandson Black-Eyed Susan will grow up to be a pirate, his name clearly will suit him well, too. Mama knows best.

Names have been on our minds a lot lately. Both of my children have uncommon names that are still names. We steered clear of anything too outlandish, such as Hot Tub and Sasquatch, but also stayed away from Dick and Jane. My kids have not yet met other kids with their names, so my husband and I find ourselves frequently asking the kids whether they like their own names. They assure us they do.

But they do have questions. Since moving to the wild, my daughter has encountered endless other little girls with hyphenated names that come out to about eight syllables. In her ballet class, she is one of only two girls who have a single first name. There are names like Elisabeth-Susannah and River-Susquehanna and Georgia-Jeanine and Savannah-Shay and Molly-Magnolia. My daughter wants to know why she has only one first name. She asked whether I was too tired after giving birth to give her a second first name. My son has had other questions since moving to the wild. Namely, why do we have names? More specifically, why do we have names that don’t mean anything?

He has recently decided that he will never get a job and will live in the woods for the rest of his life, training squirrels to forage through the forest and bring him the nuts and berries they find. He assures me that he is not going to be a hobo, that he’ll be more of a wood elf. I ask how I’ll be able to visit him if he has no home and how I’ll be able to reach him if he has no phone.

He says he will send a daily squirrel to my house to pick up any messages I have for him, so I have that to look forward to. I was told, however, that I can come and stay with him when his future partner gives birth. They will have two children, I am informed, a boy and a girl, and their names will be Fox and Hawk, respectively.

“I can’t wait to meet baby Hawk,” I told my 7-year-old.

“Careful. She’s a raptor,” he responded. “She’ll claw your eye out.”

“Wait. I’m confused,” I said. “Is your daughter, Hawk, a baby human or a baby bird?”

“Human, of course,” he said. “But when your name is Hawk, you’re going to act like a Hawk.”

I wonder how much of this is true.

In part, the recent name discussions erupted because we were visited by friends who just had a baby. While the baby was growing in his mama’s tummy, they referred to him as Grover to their toddler son, hoping that if he thought there was a lovable furry Muppet friend inside, their son would accept his new baby brother. To their own surprise, the name stuck. And that baby, now 6 months old, more or less acts like a floppy, happy Muppet.

In fact, anytime I have met a Stone or a Wiley, he has been stoic or wild. I guess that with names such as those, it’s nice that upon introduction, we can get a glimpse of personality, versus when you meet a Dave and think, “Well, what am I gonna do with that information?”

I told my children I’m excited to meet Rose, Lily, Black-Eyed Susan, Fox and Hawk someday. In turn, they asked me why my name is so boring.

Katiedid Langrock is author of the book “Stop Farting in the Pyramids.” Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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