Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What's in a Name?


I was almost a Katherine.*

My mom picked the name and it was all set. That is, until my parents flipped through a tiny book of baby names they got as the prize in a Cracker Jack box. Just a few down from Katherine, they found it in tiny print. "Kirsten," said my Dad, who up until this time had few opinions on the baby front. "If it's a girl, we'll call her Kirsten."

A few months later, I made my debut: Kirsten Yates. Kirsten, from a Cracker Jack box; Yates for my maternal grandfather. My parents realized almost immediately the trouble with pronunciation I would encounter my whole life.

"HOUSTON?!" shouted my grandmother into the phone when my mother called to make the announcement. "You named your child HOUSTON?"

"It rhymes with EAR-sten," my mother said. "KIR-sten."

"You named it EARSTEN?"

"Nevermind. It's a girl."

Cue years of being called everything from KRisten and CUR-sten to the less understandable Kristina and Kari-stan. Plus spelling confusion, check-cashing issues, and almost not having wedding invitations in time when they had to be reprinted.

Lots of things might have been easier as Katherine. Finding a personalized key chain at the gift shop for sure. But being the less common Kirsten affords me the ability, I think, to live a little outside the lines. I can play roller derby or be the youth pastor's wife who dyes turquoise streaks in her hair. Katherine would never have done that.

As Katherine, I think I would have been a little more Regina George. A bit prissier, more straight-laced. I might have taken modern dance or intentionally chosen to wear bows or color coordinated outfits. I definitely would have taken myself more seriously.

When it came to naming our first child, we consulted baby name books, name generating sites, and friends before finally landing on Lincoln and Sawyer as our top two boy names. We decided to make our final decision after actually seeing our baby.

I never thought it would matter, but when the doctor first placed my dark-haired son on my chest, still a little blue and smeared with blood, it was clear: he looked like a Sawyer. My husband thought the same thing, so Sawyer he became. Lincoln arrived almost two years later--another perfect fit.

Now on our third baby (gender unknown), we are stuck. With a long list of boy names we love, we can't agree on a girl name. We want something unique, but not Apple or Soleil Moon Frye. Rob isn't wild about my list and I feel the same about his. We may have even discussed a trade or monetary pay-off. And still: a stalemate.

A little more than six weeks left. Can a name really matter so much? I think of Katherine, and believe that it does.


*To Katherines--I have nothing against your name! I am sure you are lovely and fun people. This post is about how an otherwise excellent name might have changed my life.


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21 comments:

  1. Ha! And I have been called Kirsten more times than I can count. What's in a name? I don't really know, but I know I've given up hoping for more than a 65% success-rate at being called by mine. (And it's still with American pronunciation anyway!)

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    1. I know I'll never forget YOUR name. :) I always remember Kristens. It's funny that you're on the other side of this experience.

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  2. I've thought about that a lot. what if I had been given a more feminine name? A more elegant one? Would it have made me someone different? How frustrating that we will never know!

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    1. It's hard to even guess! I could totally be wrong in my theory that I would have been different with a different name.

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  3. My sister is a Kirstie (Kear-stee). And I'm a Courtenay with a non-normal spelling. Sigh...

    We wanted unique, but easy to spell for our kids, so we have Milo, Violet, Juliet, and Willa. And the names are perfect for them!

    Good luck -- we went back to the drawing board each time.

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    1. Love those names! It's really fun to think of, and I don't think we'll screw up our kid or anything. But definitely want a great name we love that seems fitting.

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  4. It does. It matters so much. I feel like a Natalie, and anything else would be wrong.
    Good luck with the name search! I know you'll hit on the perfect selection.

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    1. I have two Natalies loving their names in the comments! Maybe Natalie is a good one then... :)

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  5. I know we are simply blogging friends, but do I get a vote? I'd like a vote. After all, I am a Christie, and no one spells their name that way. NO key chains for me. But, if I had a third child and it was a girl, I'd name her Sistene. LIke the chapel. If I have a boy it's Satchel, like a purse or the famous baseball player. This may be why my hubs is not letting us have more children.

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    Replies
    1. Sistene is fun! Reminds me of a name we liked for a while, then just I liked: Trinity.

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  6. I had such a good time naming our son! Even as a girl, I remember obsessing over naming my Cabbage Patch dolls, trying to find the perfect combination of first and middle names. (I went with Alaine Darla and Corey Michael... It was the mid-1980s. Not sure if that's an excuse, but I'll stick with it.) I've always hated being a Jessica. So generic and boring.

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    1. I totally enjoy the naming! It's hard to do it with someone else though...if it were up to each of us alone, we'd be using different names. :)

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  7. I love the way you connected the anecdotes about your own name to that of choosing names for your children.

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  8. We don't have a boy name....at all. I am stuck with Alfred as a first name. Jamie is Italian and it's his dad and grandfather's name. I like John Paul as a double name but Jamie thinks I am too redneck. I love traditional names but I love Sawyer and Lincoln. Try picking something that goes with Alfred AND DeBellas. Yea. Good luck with that.
    Laura D.
    For girls I like Vivienne and Scarlett. From GWTW. This is the sign that not only am I from Alabama but I am seriously redneck.

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  9. I think names totally matter. My mom named me after Barbra Streisand, and a potential employer thought I spelled my name wrong on my resume. Plus, "Barb" is so incredibly dated!

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  10. I love the name Kirsten. I never thought about how it might be difficult to have it misspelled or mispronounced all the time. I've always hated the name Michelle.

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  11. We also had names in mind for our first and waited until we met her to decide. She looked like an Ava and she lives up to everything I think of that name. Our second was harder as my hubs and I didn't agree on anything. Thirty hours after she was born we decided on Rhys, the name I liked with the spelling Mike wanted. I love it now, but naming our second wasn't as smooth a process as our first. I'm certain you'll keep picking great names. Lovely post with strong details and connections.

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  12. I know a few Kirstens and they are great! Katherines...not a one! For some reason no one can spell Gina. Now my last name is another matter. No one spells or says it correctly. I was almost Grabrielle, or Gabby for short. My dad didn't want me called that.

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  13. Naming is sooo important though - I have quite the unusual name too - TOMEKHA - I get so many misspellings and mispronunciations and such shock when I say it. The more typical version of my name is TAMEKA.

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  14. Loving it! We had a good laugh. I also have had people mess up my name more than once :) I do like your Mom's idea of Virginia, though.

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  15. My parents almost named me Jamie Leigh...that is not who I am! I am exactly a Natalie Renee'...good thing that when they took one look at me they knew I was not a Jamie and went back to the drawing board. My kids, however, were named before their births, but I think God named them and that is why their names fit so well. Pray, ask God to give the two of you his/her name in a dream, book, song...separately so that when it shows up on both of your list you will know.

    Names...important!

    ReplyDelete

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