Saturday, January 12, 2008

What's in a Name?

It's no secret that I'm currently suffering from baby-on-the-brain syndrome, and sources close to me report that several famous leading ladies became moms this weekend. So, I thought I'd take this opportunity to discuss something extremely important that I feel quite strongly about. Baby names, of course. What did you think I meant? And before I continue, let me remind you that I am VERY opinionated and may offend some readers. But seriously, if you named your baby Ashleigh, Ashley, or Ashlee, then you probably had it coming.

As a teacher, I constantly run across all sorts of names, from the boring Ashley variations to the increasingly popular trend of made up names. What exactly does Braden or Caden mean? My college students typically have fairly normal, run-of-the-mill names. It's the younger children in preschool through upper elementary who are suffering from their parents' pathetic attempts at creativity. Now, I know I'm a snob, but naming your child, who you loved and nurtured inside your body before finally giving birth, is a HUGE decision in my book, second only to actually deciding to have a baby. (I know it just happens for lots of people, but don't get me started on that!)

Your name is your first impression, like it or not, and it truly says a lot about you. If you want your daughter to grow up wearing clear, plastic heels and dancing with a pole while drunk men throw dollar bills at her, then by all means, name her Ashley. Or Ashleigh. Or Ashlee. It sounds just as trashy, no matter how you spell it. But if you want your child to actually have a shot in life, then try a little harder.

And I'm not talking celebrity baby names. Those people exist on a separate plane than most of us, so they play by a different set of rules. What works in Hollywood's private academies will not fly in the public schools of suburbia. Trust me. I know a couple who recently gave their child the middle name Pax (as in Jolie-Pitt) and it's just a joke. Only moms who drink their ex-husband's blood, work as goodwill ambassadors, adopt children from third world countries, and have really toned arms can pull that off.

I also know a Briar Rose, an Indigo, a Lexington and Savannah (someone's a Civil War buff!), and too many McSomethings to count (you know what I'm referring to). And all of these sweet innocents are below the age of six!

I'm not saying you have to go all old-school, or even Biblical (though there are some great names there), but think about the meaning of the name, and how it will be perceived by other people. A woman I know once told me that she gave her children names that will look good on a resume, and I think that's a very practical approach. And it's always nice to honor a friend or relative, just don't name your child after a beloved pet. Isn't Steve Irwin's daughter, Bindi, named after a crocodile? That's pushing it, even for that poor family.

On a side note, I did read that Drea de Matteo, who played the precious Adriana on The Sopranos, recently had a little girl with her boyfriend, Shooter Jennings, the son of Waylon Jennings. The new baby is named Alabama Gypsy Rose. Now, as a country music lover, I'm a little biased, but if your legendary, deceased grandpa is Waylon, grandma is Jessi, and dad is Shooter, what else could you possibly go by? I think it's perfect.