Thursday, May 29, 2014

Names #3

I recently found one of the lists of baby names I’d written not long after finding out we were having a girl. And then I lost it again, so heres part of a list from 2003 instead.
The name Calla was on the more recent one, and I still love it (thanks to the flowers), but wondering now if it suits Hazel better than Hazel” is too hard to tell; she’s Hazel. I can’t imagine her by any other name (though I’m sure she’d smell as sweet).

It took us two days to name Hazel after she was born. We’d been assured that we’d be able to look at our newborn and then at our shortlist and match the perfect name with our baby, but we had no such magical moment. After gazing at her for a long time, we looked at each other and said, “She doesn’t look like any name.” Alan sat down once more with the name book and a pen, and I decided I’d just wait until he gave up, frustrated, and then fight for Hazel. I realised that she didn’t look like a name yet because we hadn’t named her; as soon as her name was Hazel, she was a Hazel (and I noticed that I felt more bonded to her once she had a name).

I didn’t have the same uncertainty when naming Moses; I knew he was Moses before he was born, and he was named within minutes of arriving. Early in my second pregnancy I’d had that weird dream thing in which I saw myself holding a baby girl whose name was Hazel and who was mine, but even after that I still wasn’t sure the name was The One; Alan told me he wasn’t a huge fan of it (we’d been thinking of using his sister’s name, Zillah, as the middle name if we had a girl, and you can’t have a Hazel Zillah), and I wasn’t prepared to fight for it with so many months of pregnancy left to study names books and sites. We knew it would probably be our last chance to name something significant, so I wanted to take my time. Plus, there are some really cool names out there; in the last month or so of my pregnancy I discovered the name Seneca, which shares most of the things I love about Annika but didn’t break any of my rules. So Seneca battled Hazel for a while in my mind, but eventually lost. 

After spending so long deciding on Hazel’s first name, choosing her middle name was over within seconds:
Alan: I think it needs to be a three-syllable name.
Me [testing his theory]: Hazel Evelyn…
Alan: I like that! Do you like that?
Me: I do like that!

(Evelyn was the girl’s name I liked when pregnant with Moses, but it had become too popular to consider this time around. So I had done some thinking about it before attaching it to my child for the rest of her life. Just so you know.)

It’s interesting that neither of the names (or middle names) I chose for my children appear on any of the names lists I’d compiled before I was ever pregnant. It’s interesting that if Moses and Hazel were born a couple of years earlier or later than they were, they might have different names. I wonder how much our names shape our identities, and whether Moses would be someone different if he’d been Xavier or Evan, or (if I’d watched Parenthood before he arrived) Dax or Crosby instead. Would it change the way we came to know Hazel if we’d chosen Soraya or Villette or Lyric or Pippin (Pip for short. Alan especially liked this one)? I’ve no idea. I’ve met people who I don’t naturally link with their names (a David who really should be a Richard, for example), and I always remember the name I think they should have rather than the one they actually have. Maybe people will feel the same way about Moses or Hazel one day.

Alan was far more involved in the name-suggesting-and-choosing process this time around, perhaps because I didn’t seem certain so he felt like he had a chance. Last time, he thought Moses was a crazy name; this time he suggested Zephyr. I like the name Zephyr (apart from the spelling), but after high fiving him for thinking outside the box, I had to explain that Zephyr was perhaps a bit further away from the box than I’d been thinking; I wanted to still be able to see the box, maybe even to reach out and touch the box. I just didn’t want to be in the box.

Oh, and I discovered a simple and efficient test for deciding whether or not a name could make it onto our shortlist: the “Prime Minister or Rock Star?” test. If we liked the sound of a name I’d imagine it on a rock star and then on a prime minister, and if it didn’t fit comfortably for either role, it was thrown away. There aren’t many names that can’t be rockified if necessary (I’m thinking of you, Patience from The Grates), but could Zephyr ever be a prime minister? NO. NO SHE COULDNT.

Hazel, on the other hand, could be a prime minister. Or a rock star. Whichever one she chooses.


  1. I don't feel like I fit my name, but everyone else seems to think I do, soooooo...

    1. Do you have a name that you feel fits you better? Would you ever consider changing your first name?

      One of my classmates in high school changed her name from Marie to Elizabeth, which is fairly huge now that I think more about it! It took me a long time to remember the right name to call her, which wasn't helped by the fact that I really liked 'Marie', and thought it suited her.

  2. I met a woman whose daughter was also called Elinor and she said she liked it because she could be a 'stripper or a surgeon'. Which is the ruder version. Not that I'm all that familiar with stripper names but I can't imagine there's too many Elinors.

    1. Elinor certainly doesn't sound like a stripper name to me, but I can imagine an Elinor surgeon, rock star or prime minister. :)