What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

I’ve always been fascinated by the names that people choose for their children. For a few years I taught the book The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen in my sixth grade literature class. This story is about a modern day girl who lacks appreciation for her Jewish heritage. During Seder she wakes up to find that she is in Poland at the time of the Holocaust. Hannah’s Hebrew name is Chaya, which means life. When teaching this book I did a name project with my students and I had each one interview their parents about their names. The students were always so eager and proud to share what their name meant, why it was chosen, but most importantly, what the name meant to their parents.

I was one of those people that scoffed and rolled her eyes when siblings all had names that start with the same letter. I find it weird. I mean, look at the Duggar family. At the end, they were pretty desperate for more J names. I also eh when people have twins whose names are very similar or start with the same letter. Sometimes my twins are in identical clothing, but more often, they are in similar, yet different clothing. Maybe the same style, but different colors. Or opposite patterns. I’m very OCD so I can’t dress them completely different. It just screws with my head. They may have started out as the same person but they are two completely distinct individuals and we chose distinct names for each.

In the same vein, I get very angry when I see a common or traditional name spelled… well, differently. I guess I can’t say spelled wrong because if you think about it, the spelling of names is all invented anyway. There wasn’t some master lost scrawled by the powers that be on a cave wall back in the day. And having taught for eight years before having all these babies I have pretty much seen it all. I guess I’m just a traditionalist. And look at me know. All my kids have damn vowel names and one appears to be spelled wrong.
Baby 1: Evelyn Elizabeth

Ever since my mom passed when I was seventeen years old, I knew that if I ever had a daughter, I would give her my mom’s first name. I always looked up to my mom and she was the bravest person I know. And apparently classic names are making a comeback so I guess that makes me trendy. Elizabeth happened as a blurted out suggestion. I’ve always loved the name Elizabeth. When I was little I had a friend named Elizabeth and I loved it even then. On a side note, I wanted to be a Jennifer, but with one n and two fs. As an adult, I’m a big Austen fan. Pride & Prejudice is one of my all time favorites and I just love the character of Lizzie Bennet. I’m also guilty of loving English historical fiction, especially at the time of the Protestant Reformation. Anything related to that period of time (think Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Queen Elizabeth I) I gobble up. In fact, one of the books I’m reading now (His Last Letter by Jeanne Westin) is about Queen Elizabeth’s relationship with the Earl of Leicester. Elizabeth is a classic name and for me has good associations. It fit perfectly with Evelyn.

Baby 2: Elanor Kathryn

Even my iPad wants me to change Elanor to Eleanor! Elanor was a name that came up when I was pregnant with my first as my second favorite name. It was one that I picked up from my absolute favorite book. Can you guess it? It’s from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It’s the name of a golden yellow flower that grows in Lothlorien. It means ‘star flower.’ It’s also the name given to Samwise Gamgee’s first born daughter. I’ve loved this name since I first read LOTR back in high school. We chose Kathryn for my husband’s mother. I don’t like to call her my mother-in-law because that term usually comes with negative connotations. This woman is a saint. Just one example – since the twins have been born we’ve only had to buy diapers on one or two occasions. Her continual Christmas gift to us is diapers. This has been such a lifesaver for us! My husband is an only child so I don’t feel too badly about how generous she is to us. It was a no brainer to use Kathryn as a middle name.

Baby 3: Arietta Rose

This one was a difficult name to come up with but it is one that we absolutely adore. And it was totally accidental that our third baby also ended up with a vowel name. Finding out we were having twins was a definite shock, but finding out they were both girls… well we had guessed that would happen. For awhile I toyed with family names. I did find one combo that I could work with but my husband was not a fan. So one night we decided to both start lists of names we liked. Arya/Aria was one that we both liked. I first heard the name when I read Christopher Paolini’s Eragon back in college. I have it in hardcover so I’m guessing I got it right when it came out in 2002. I had never heard that name before and loved it. Fast forward to now and that name brings to mind the character from Game of Thrones. And, as it turns out, the name has suddenly become very popular. I wouldn’t have minded the association with Arya Stark because I think she’s a pretty kickass character. But I did mind giving our daughter a too-popular name. My first name was at the top of the baby name lists when I was born and as a result I was always in a class with at least one other girl that shared my name. And I hated it. When our lists didn’t quite help we actually went online and each started our own research. I don’t even remember what site I was on, but I literally started with the As. And then I came to Arietta. I had never heard this name before and was instantly drawn to it. I loved that it means ‘little song.’ This name immediately stuck in my mind and my husband and I kept coming back to it. It really took no time at all for us to choose this name. She could still be Aria/Arya but her name would be more unique. Rose was a name that had appeared on my list. I just think it’s a sweet and beautiful name. The association I have with it is from the character Rose in Titanic. So for me, I see a lot of strength and independence in the name. And together, the names just sounded so perfect.

It was never my intention to use all vowel names. It just happened. But if we ever have more, I may just have to keep that trend. How weird would it be to have three vowel names and one consonant name? Finding another vowel name that we both liked would probably be quite the search!


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