Monday, 28 November 2011

Naming John Smith

It seems everyone these days wants a unique name for their kid.  Having grown up in the generation of Jason and Jennifer I can understand that.  I remember thinking how annoying it must have been to constantly go around tagging an initial to your name in an attempt to be distinguish yourself from four other kids in your class.  One classroom I was in had a Jen B, a Jenn D, a Jen F and a Jenni H.   People want their own sense of identity.

We don't get to pick our own names but we do get to pick our kids' names.  Some of the names I have seen floating around out there give me the impression that some people are having babies just to be able to name them, like they're an accessory.  Most parents I know personally are just looking for a normal, nice name that isn't likely to be shared with ten of their classmates.  But then these are my friends and I have certain standards.  I too, shared these same goals when trying to name my kids.  (Sigh) I failed.

Our real last name is one of the most common surnames in English speaking culture and so I felt some pressure there to not turn my kid into a "John Smith".  Unfortunately my favourite name in the world since I was a little girl had been in the top five of my generation.  It was one of a few reasons my family gave for not being particularly enthusiastic about it.  But when Frick came and they got to attach the person they loved to the name, they got to love the name as well.

A quick Google search revealed that it was in the top 20 and therefore pretty common but I consoled myself with the fact that it was no longer in the top five.  I had only named him "Bob Smith" and that was somehow better because I still got to use my favourite name and who knew if and when I would have another kid?

But then came Frack.  I had already used up my favourite name and the thing is, I am very bad at coming up with names.  Like, I can do okay if it's for comedic purposes but I really shouldn't be allowed to name people who are ever expected to be taken seriously.  It's very lucky for our kids that they aren't girls or they would have been screwed.  Before we knew we were having another boy I was coming up with stuff like "Morag" and "Eugenie" and while I might be crazy enough to like these names I know better than to saddle a kid with them.  With boys it seems I only err on the side of being unimaginative.

I began to develop a romantic association with Frack's name because I read it in a book.  And before you bust me for pretentiousness understand that it was a children's book.  Daddy and I went over many, many names and there was just no other name I liked so well.  The more I advocated for this name the more attached I got and I soon began to love it as much as I ever loved Frick's name.  Daddy's only objection was its overwhelming popularity.

I groaned when he showed me the statistics.  I had fallen in love with "John Smith".  Pregnancy hormones do interesting things to my brain, though.  When I get a notion about something I hang on to it with everything I've got and get insistent to the point of belligerence over it.  I just had to have this name for the baby and one way or another I was going to get it.  I even conceived ridiculous fears that some other pregnant woman we knew might snatch the name up before us.  I know.  I'm ashamed of myself.

And then I suffered the naming hangover.  For a long while after Frack's birth I cringed.  I cringed every time a mother scolded her John Smith at the park.  I cringed every time I had to admit I had picked the most popular baby name of the year Frack was born like some mindless trendy sheep.  I cringed at the strong likelihood that there would be a boy in his class with the same first and last name.  But there was no turning back.  Not for anyone.  Frack had John Smith written all over his face from the moment he was born.  Rarely has anyone suited their name so well.

And so I did what any reasonable person would do.  I found ways to justify my choice.  For example, my married name has lent me a new kind of anonymity I hadn't experienced before with my difficult to spell maiden name.  It is impossible to Google me.  There are thousands of women with my name on facebook.  I kind of like it.  It means getting lost in the crowd.  It means personal privacy.  And even though I grew up in a generation that did not electronically document every bad decision they ever made, I recognize the value of that kind of thing not being available to the general public.  The way I see it is that, ultimately, my lack of imagination will be saving my boys from their own stupidity.

And really, when you're a mom of boys, that is all you are required to do.

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