Thursday, May 26, 2005

What's in a Name?

by Christina VanGinkel

Ok, I have a gripe. Why is it that some parents insist on giving their children names that are way off the mark from being your average, typical name? You know what names I am talking about, the ones that sound as if they should have been something else, but the parents presumably sneezed when the nurse was putting the newborn's name in the charts. Next thing you know, instead of a Marcus running around, you have yourself a bona fide, honest to goodness, Farcus. Worse, there are the parents who name their child after a character in a show they watched on late night television.

A few years back we were selling an old car that we no longer used to a man and his wife with whom my husband happened to work. They lived off the beaten track in a relatively rural area north of us. Let me clarify before going any further that by me stating they live off the beaten track that this has nothing whatsoever to do with the name they chose for their child. I happen to live on the opposite end of the county from them, off the beaten track, in a relatively rural area. Anyhow, my husband had told him that I would drive the car up, and that he would follow and meet me at their house to finalize the sale. I arrived before my husband by approximately five minutes. In those few short minutes, I was greeted by this man and his wife and their lovely ten-year-old son. The husband's name was Joe, the wife's name was Emily, and I kid you not, their child's name was Festus. You got it, just like in the old TV western Gunsmoke.

How is it that some relatively normal adults saddle their children with names that some overworked scriptwriter in some back room gave a character on an imaginary show? Do they honestly believe that this will bring their child fame and fortune? If they would only stop and think for a minute, they would realize that a name such as Festus is only going to bring their child unwanted teasing during their elementary years and possibly beyond.

Moreover, to think, I was almost guilty of this myself. While I was pregnant with my second child, now the mother of my beautiful, and normally named grandson, I was obsessed with watching the daytime soap opera The Young and the Restless. On the show was this character called Reva. Not a bad name I thought. It had a very sophisticated sound to it, but moreover, it was not to be confused with the name Reba, as in the famous country western singer/movie-star. Reva sounded glorious to my ears. However, no matter how many times I approached my husband with the idea that if we had a daughter, we should name her Reva, I was met with this blank stare as if he did not hear me. The morning our daughter was born my husband disappeared for a few minutes immediately after the birth. Later that day when a nurse came into the room to verify all the birth details, she never asked me the name to be put on the birth certificate. As she was leaving the room, I asked her if she needed the name to put down and she turned and said, no, that would not be necessary, as my husband had already informed all the nurses, staff, and anyone else that would listen to him that our newborn's name was Rebecca.

My husband later told me that naming a child after someone is ok if the parents know the person, but they should never saddle a child with a name just because it looks and sounds good on the television or the big screen. The whole point being, give the name you are going to stick your child with for the rest of his or her life a major amount of thought. Though I am sure there are plenty of Farcus's, Festus's, and Reva's playing in schoolyards across the country, and the majority of them are happy and well adjusted, we as parents should think twice, even three or four times, before handing down any name to a child. Keep in mind that what we place on a birth certificate is most likely going to stay with that child for their entire life, unless as adults they choose to change it themselves.

While Reva is still a name I like, I once asked my daughter if she would have liked being named that. I was met with this blank stare as if she head not heard me. Upon prodding her for a reply, she answered that she was very glad she had at least one parent with a bit of sense!

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