Baby Smiling in Back Seat has had two Thoughtful Thursdays recently that asked about baby names. In the first, she asked when people chose baby names and in the second, she asked about people scooping your chosen names.
I was about to answer this in her comment section, but it sort of deserved a larger space to stretch out. The fact is, I started thinking about names back when I was in college. I went to a lecture about naming children given by an Israeli professor and the gist of the lecture was that names originally reflected a person's culture and language and that we shouldn't do away with cultural names in order to blend with one another within America. The other idea is that children should only have one name--it can be in many parts (first name, middle name, last name), but a single name to be used in all places.
Which feels like a no-brainer to some, but American Jews are notorious for giving an English name to be used in day-to-day life and a Hebrew name to be used for religious purposes. And listening to that lecture, I decided that when I grew up, I would give my children one name; a Hebrew name that was accessible to non-Hebrew speakers. So they could have sort of the best of all worlds--a name that merged with the surrounding American culture that was a single name known in Israel too. It sort of narrowed down the list for us.
But there were more requirements: We paid close attention to the meaning of the names because I wanted the names to become a phrase when you put their full name together. And I wanted them to bring in elements of different stories connected to the people we wanted to honour. So their names are these complex weaving of stories and nouns and ideas that connect us to people in our family.
I came up with the Wolvog's name when I was closing a suitcase. We had been trying to conceive, but didn't know we were infertile. I was zipping up the suitcase at Josh's aunt's house and I said his name aloud--the first and middle name--apropos of nothing. Josh sort of shrugged and agreed it was a pretty rockin' name. The Wolvog also has a second middle name which we didn't put on the birth certificate. It's his secret name and it's his choice whether or not to share it with people. The second middle name has a great story attached to it and we thought it sort of spiced up life to having this secret name, this trapdoor of a name, that only some people will ever know.
The ChickieNob had her first name long before she was conceived. We had a different name chosen for a bit, but it rhymed with the Wolvog's name and once we found out we were having boy-girl twins and we'd have to use one name or the other, the Wolvog kept his name and we gave the ChickieNob the other contender which meant the same thing. The problem was that we didn't have a middle name.
We threw out a lot of possibilities, but none of them felt right. So we went one night to a Borders and I told Josh that I was going to stand until we chose a name. I was pretty far along and standing was fairly uncomfortable so we moved quickly through the list, reading aloud every name possibility (we had a letter we wanted to work with) until at one point, I said her middle name and we both looked up at each other and said at the same moment, "that's it!" and closed the book and sat down to have coffee.
And her middle name works perfectly with her first name to complete a phrase that also speaks to the birth order.
The ChickieNob also has a secret middle name; a second middle name. And she sometimes uses it and sometimes doesn't and I guess it will always be interesting to me when I see who she has told and who she hasn't.
All of this work to choose the most perfect names in the world and I never use them. We have gone through a boatload of nicknames--it sometimes changes daily. In fact, just this morning, Josh was called Carmine Fancypants for about ten minutes. I'm not sure why we never use their perfect, wonderful names except to say that nicknames hold an intimacy that given names do not (unless you have a secret trapdoor name like our kids). And the ChickieNob and I share a nickname that we both call each other which I feel marks her as mine and me as hers.
I have two names--my English name, Melissa--is used in most places. By which I mean that I usually go by Mel. But I also have a Hebrew name, though Josh is the only one who uses it anymore. In Hebrew, our letters also serve as numbers. Alef (the first letter) equals one. Bet (the second letter) equals two. This goes up to yood (the tenth letter) which equals ten, and then the numbers after that equal increments of 10 (20, 30, 40, 50...) until it reaches 100 and the last four numbers have a value of 100, 200, 300, and 400 (sofit letters can be used to go up to 900).
The idea of counting the numbers associated with your name is part of gematria. Which I'm not that into EXCEPT that my name literally has the most perfect value in the world. It is so perfect both in how the numbers fall and their total value that I always thought that I must be the most special girl in the world to have a name like that.
I really think my parents did it by accident--simply chose the name because they liked it and it honoured someone they loved--in the same way we chose the twins' names. But that just makes it more magical--to have this perfect, symmetrical name which is so incredibly fitting because I need everything to be perfectly symmetrical in my life.
I like the name Melissa, and I am fond of how it shortens to Mel. But I absolutely love my Hebrew name and I would make it my only name except that it's sort of my trapdoor name and I'm glad that it isn't used by everyone. I sort of wonder if I'd love it as much as I do if I heard it every single day from everyone I encounter--from Josh to the grocery store cashier.
Strangely enough, I have never added up the gematria of the twins' names. I simply don't want to know.
How do you feel about your name? Do you love it? Hate it? Wish you could change it but feel too sentimental or worried that it would offend your parents? Have you changed your name? Only used a nickname? And if you chose a new name, how would you pick it?