Sunday, May 02, 2010

Names & Naming

(Warning #1: More photographicus gratuitori ahead.)

(Warning #2: Verbal fluff ahead. Everything in this post could have been said in about 6 sentences ... and perhaps should have.)

The whole experience of naming our twins was… well, an experience. There are these simple steps in life that one never thinks much about (or, at least, I didn’t), and then they descend upon one and prove to be more complicated than expected.

Papa & Mariella Beatrix

I had actually thought about names, even before I was married, just as a “what if”. Never could come up with any boy names, but had a few girl ones. It seemed so simple to me: You pick something that sounds nice, and you make sure it has plenty of syllables, so the kid has a choice in nicknames. (Rebecca Jeanine can decide to be Reba, Beckie, Becca, Jean, Nina, or, in a pinch, even ReJeana.) It’s a way to give the child some choice in the matter, and perhaps avoid paying for a teenage name change.
Who? Me?

(Actually, if one of the twins really hates what we gave her, she can become a nun. I hear nuns get to select a new name when taking vows. “Egalica Blisteena Feierspunkett” can switch to “Sister Mary Martha Myrtle”, or whatever saint’s name(s) sounds like an improvement on her christened one. Then again, if I understand the process right, some Catholics select a new name at confirmation, around about age 13, so maybe becoming a nun wouldn’t be necessary. Now, if we’d given ‘em names like Egalica and Blisteena, that right there would be grounds for the twins converting, never mind theology.)

The girls head out for a walk ... well, a ride

Well, anyway, when our twins were on the way, naming suddenly got more complicated. I found I was getting a lot more particular about names. Some sounded wrong, some just didn’t quite sound right, and some just didn’t seem to go with what I wanted my girls to be. (Jezebel & Salome, for example.) Naming is just about the first gift parents give their kids, if you allow for the fact (as I do) that we don’t give them life. (God does; we just help the process move along.) What names would they be happy with? Insofar as a name confers identity, what identity did we want to give them?

Anneka... No, wait... Mariella... No, wait...

And then there was the “we” factor. It wasn’t just what name I liked anymore. Whatever my fertile imagination came up with had to pass inspection with the wife before it got attached to a kid on the way out of the factory!
Ummm.... Anneka?

I wish I could remember all the names we suggested to each other. It’d be good for a laugh with the kids one day. I do remember a few I came up with. I had been thinking about Dutch names for quite a while, and decided I might like to give the twins names that went with their Dutch heritage. With a last name like “Ketting”, I figured names like “Sinead” or “Guadalupe” would break some sort of ethnic taboo. The wife, bless her, went along with me on this.

Grandpa Bauer & Jolene and the girls

To a point, anyway. Once on the Dutch track, I immediately thought of the famous Dutch Queens Wilhelmina, Juliana, & Beatrix. (Well, ok -- famous with me and my Dutch cousins, anyway.) Juliana was out immediately, because I happen to like the Dutch pronunciation (Yoo-lee-AH-nuh), and there was just no way that was going to come off the average American tongue. However, Beatrix and Wilhelmina are fine names. Why not?

Well, I managed to get Beatrix by the censors. I had to agree with the wife that we didn’t want our child called “Trixie” or “Bea” for short, so we decided we liked it for a middle name.

Though I campaigned long and hard, however, Wilhelmina was a non-starter -- not even as a middle name. Eye-rolling and “She’ll be 10 before she can even spell her name” were the reactions I got.

Then the wife came up with “Kate”. Not “Kathleen” or “Katrina”; just “Kate”. I guess she likes the alliteration of “Case Ketting” and thought “Kate Ketting” carried the same ring. I couldn’t let that one by my “multiple syllables” rule, so we compromised on “Katelyn”.

However, in talking it over, we discovered a preference for two other naming conventions: (1) Our girls should have relatively uncommon names. (We imagined falling in love with a name like “Emma” only to enroll her in school 6 years later as the 7th “Emma” in her class. That works for some, but not for us.) (2) Both the name and its spelling should have some traditional usage behind them. (“Beyrooahnnu” is, no doubt, a fine and regal name, but simply too “made up” for us.)

Through the miracle of the Internet, we found that “Katelyn” has ranked in the top 50 names for baby girls since 1990, which cooled us on it a fair degree. After all, when you add “Caitlin” and “Kaitlin” (also popular), our kid was virtually certain to be one of twelve whose heart would stop every time she heard, “The principal would like to see Katelyn…” on the P.A. at school.

So, Katelyn Beatrix was out, and we stuttered on for quite a while with just one name, “??? Beatrix”. It’s a good thing it takes 9 months to bake the little muffins!

After a while, I dredged up the name Hanneke from somewhere. (Perhaps one of my Dutch cousins has a child of that name.) I tried it out on the wife and got a rather quizzical look. And then I realized we wouldn’t want our daughter’s name confused with a Jewish holiday (Hanukkah). However, shortening it to “Anneka” brought recognition to the wife’s face. Apparently, there was a Swedish LPGA golfer named “Annika Sorenstam”, and anything sports is good with the wife.

For a while, then (remember, this was a process), we had an “Anneka Beatrix Ketting” and “Baby B Ketting” in the oven. I must confess that I fretted a bit about this. Somehow, it seemed folks would write “Anneka Beatrix Cetting”, just to keep the alphabet thing going.

I’ve always liked the name “Marie”, perhaps because of my lovely Dutch aunt, “Tante” Marie, and my sister, whose middle name (dropped at marriage) was “Maria”. After a little more rooting around in the brain’s cellars, I remembered the name "Mariella". This was submitted to fact checking to ascertain that it was not simply “made up” (so as not to breach the 2nd rule above), and I then floated it by the wife.

It is interesting how names affect us. I think “Mariella” is a beautiful name, but the wife’s brain immediately linked it to two people she knew, “Mari” and “Ella”, and she felt like she would be linking her child’s identity to theirs in some way, if only in her own head. No go. Then the wife came up with “Sophia”, and I reacted strongly. “Too common, and kind of Greek, isn’t it?” was my thought.

Papa's girls

So there we sat with “Anneka Beatrix” and “Wilhelmina Mariella Sophia Baby B”.

We tried valiantly. Every once in a while, out of the blue, one of us would suggest a name to the other. “Vivian?” “Vienna?” “Evangeline?” No dice. While the wife was not willing to settle on “Mariella”, nor I on “Sophia”, neither of us was willing to accept other names into the “candidate pool”.

It’s a funny thing about marriage. Your spouse’s opinion carries weight with yours. It think this is the way it’s supposed to be. Whatever the case, “Sophia” started to grow on me, and “Mariella” started to grow on the wife. For my part, “Sophia” means “wisdom”; how could I not like that? On Jolene’s side, I think “Mariella” got by because whenever she expressed doubts, I reverted to shilling “Wilhelmina”. After a while, “Mariella” was sounding pretty good by comparison. (I still like “Wilhelmina”, though!)

They're not speaking to each other just now...

There were still a few hurdles, though. “Sophia” was relegated to middle name, due to its popularity. (According to the charts, it seems every 4th female is going to be named “Sophia” by 2020. But that’s ok by me. We can always use more wise women, right?) And “Beatrix” got attached as a middle name to “Mariella”, maybe because of the alphabet thing, or maybe because “Anneka Beatrix” just sounds a little harsh to the ear.

And then there was spelling. The wife sees spelling as an art form – free form art! The hubby, on the other hand, holds rigid views on the matter. Some spellings just don’t look right to me, and most correct spellings are linked in my sometimes over-stuffed brain to another language or meaning. For example, “Annika” doesn’t look right to me; I got us off there by saying we didn’t want her called “Nikki” for short. “Sofia” feels Middle-Eastern, so we stuck with the more common “Sophia”. “Mariella” was touch-and-go with “Mariela” right down to when we wrote up the birth records. To the wife, “Mariela” is less likely to be decomposed into either “Mari” or “Ella”, while to me, “Mariela” is a Spanish/Hispanic name. (Like I said: Over-stuffed brain.)

(As detailed in a previous post, we did make some spelling concessions for American usage.)

And so, folks, that – to make a short story long – is how we ended up with “Anneka Sophia” and “Mariella Beatrix”. But whatever else we might have named them, we’d still just love ‘em to pieces.

Papa & Anneka Sophia

Best Name Website for research and cross reference:
Behind the Name
Best Name Websites for baby name popularity:
Think Baby Names & Baby Names Hub
Widest collection of Dutch baby names: BabyPret
Most authentic collection of Dutch first names: Behind the Name


Ginger said...

Just read this again, and liked it even more than the first time I read it. You really must write more, Bro. You have such a talent for tickling the brain cells.


Having now met both of your vivacious, charming, beautiful young ladies, I'd say all of the effort spent on choosing their names was well spent.