Monday, June 27, 2011

What's in a name?

I’ve been thinking a lot about names lately.

It’s because I’ve been writing this set of stories for the longest time, and the tale I’m working on at the moment has a nameless main character. Which, shouldn’t really matter, but it does. I guess it's because I’m a firm believer in a name meaning something, and even having the ability to shape your character (even if it’s only in my constructed fictional world). So while I’ve been wondering about my child-characters name and how this single word defines her, it’s prompted me to look over the old Shakespeare musing – what’s in a name? And does a name fit to a person, or does a person grow into a name?

Definitely the hardest name choice to date would be naming our children. David and I struggled over names for days once our babies were born – and argued (in a friendly way) about all the names we loved or hated during those long months leading up to their arrival. For my first pregnancy and babe, I was so utterly convinced that I was having a girl, that when the doctors placed our small wriggling son onto my belly, I was absolutely astonished: A boy? Really?

It took us more than a day to find a name for our wee lad because nothing seemed to suit him. Luckily, I had, at some stage during the pregnancy, jotted down the name Judah into my journal – I liked the biblical history behind the name; it spoke to me of strength, tenacity, determination. His name also has a wonderful pictorial representation - the mighty lion, battle ready. We’re all for double meanings and finding significance in the everyday – and were delighted when we found that it linked so beautifully with daddy David’s English/Viking heritage, both represented in a similar way by the lion.

But, best of all, when we held our tiny newborn son and spoke his new name over him, it just…fit. It became him. And over time, he grew into this mighty name.

The second pregnancy came quickly and blissfully – and when our daughter was born, there was only one name for her: Lyra.
Lyra is actually a constellation – images of the cluster of stars show a rainbow of beautiful colour, and one of the brightest stars in the sky, Vega. The stars form the pattern of an ancient lyre – or I guess, a guitar. Our small family loves music; it’s been a common love between David and I, and we’re so fortunate that our children seemed to have inherited this absolute love of music as well. Both of the kids were introduced to music in utero – crackly, but much-loved jazz records, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Jimi Hendrix, BB King and Bob Marley, lots of impromptu guitar playing, lots of made up melodies and a dash of classical thrown in for good measure. We loved the connection between this beautiful name, the musical influences and love of music that we were trying to instil into their young lives.

And little Lyra Meredith so suited her new name.

But unlike Judah, sweet Lyra is mostly known for her pet name, Lou. Judah was only 14 months old when our girl was born, and Lyra proved to be quite a mouthful for one so young. So, cooing to her one morning while still in the hospital, I played around with nicknames - and Lyra became Lyra-Lou, which was shortened to Lou, and then affectionately extended to Lou-Lou. And it stuck.

The hardest part about choosing names – especially for children? The fact that you’ve got to speak them and love them for the rest of your life. And maybe, because I’m a writer and love words so much, I so wanted to find names that meant something – to us, yes; but also names that were strong, beautiful, different.

If you have children, how did you choose their names? Do you place importance in the meaning behind a name?


Ps. I was apparently named after legendary actress, Natalie Wood, but few people, if any, call me Natalie. Actually, when my whole name is said, I feel like I’m being scolded; I’m so used to being called Nat or Nattie that anything else feels like I’m in some kind of trouble from my mama. Are you like this too - more comfortable with your nickname than your given name?


Skye ♥ said...

Let me begin by saying that our first child was born eight weeks early by emergency Caesar. So quite obviously we were unprepared, to say the least. He was without a name for the first five days ofnhis life and I was really quite upset by this. I think I thought that he would somehow not "bond" to his name well or something ridiculous like that (I think it may have just been my fragile emotional state at the time).

Anyway, my husband is from Scotland and liked the Scottish names so had thrown around "Campbell" a few times during our pregnancy. I shut it down almost immediately. It just didn't sit well with me. So on the fifth day of my unnamed sons life, desperate to agree on a name, I finally said yes to "Campbell". My stipulation was though, that I got to change the spelling. I had loved growing up with an unusual name and wanted my son to have the same. So "Kambel" was finally named.

When it came to Tyler, I wanted to keep the theme of a last name as a first name. I think surnames as given names are strong and a little different without being wildly unusual.

When our daughter was finally conceived we threw around quite a few names. I wanted something: pretty, strong and unusual. We both settled on "Indigo" and loved it. Although, like you Nat, her name is shortened to Indi and "Indigo" is never used. It sounds really formal now to call her that. At least she'll have a choice when she's older as to what she wants to be called.

Bel said...

Names are quite a funny thing aren't they? Our first baby boy was always going to be 'Saxon' it was a name we had talked about for years and would also be the name of our first child (apparently we'd also decided we were only going to ever have boys, and quite luckily that is the way it worked) so from day dot it was Saxon and it really does suit him and I couldn't ever imagine him ever being anything else :)

Our second baby boy was a little trickier, we of course had a list of names and 'Xavier' was the one we stuck with and what my bump was predominately known as, as the months went on. But I guess I always did explore other names right up until he was born and funny enough our family although quite excepting of the name Saxon were all a little bit funny about Xavier. How should it be pronounced? What will his nick name be? etc etc

Now, 2 and 4 years on I couldn't think of any other names for my boys and hope the names we have given them will carry them well through life!

O'h and if we did ever have the girl that the the 'world' keeps on telling us we need, she would be called Ruby Ann :)

Maria Rose said...

My husband and I named our daughter Cordelia after much consultation. We spent months agonizing over the choice. Finally we settled on a name that was lovely, unique and had tons of flexibility (Cora, Cordy, Delia, etc.) in case she wanted variety. Hopefully she will love it as much as I do!