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Family Matters

How to Win the Name Game

October 31st, 2013

By Jessica McIntosh

There’s a lot more to choosing a baby name than, you know, just choosing a name. After I filled out the registration of birth for my newborn at the hospital, I caught a glimpse of the “information guide” behind the form. There are a lot of rules.

The handy name guide forbids the use of creative punctuation, should the standard hyphen prove too ordinary for your extraordinary child. For example, no child can leave the hospital with the name “John”—quotations intended. I suppose the rule masters had some terrible vision of a future generation making sarcastic air quotes with their fingers as they introduced themselves.

Using numbers is also out of the question. (Unless they are spelled out.) This might be tricky if you planned on numbering off your children as they are born.  Dr. Seuss may be able to get away with calling his characters Thing 1 and Thing 2, but you can’t. (Maybe one could get around the spelling rule by going with Thing the First and Thing the Second?) Still, it is a rule. It says so right in the name guide.

Rulebooks aside, there are also social restrictions when it comes to baby names. I, for one, worried constantly that one of my many pregnant friends would give birth before me and “steal” the name I had picked. It sounds paranoid and silly, but I didn’t want to look like a copycat. Perhaps that is why some parents choose names that are different, to put it mildly. The odds of two friends both naming their children Leather or Whirl are low enough to guarantee there will be no accusations of name jacking.

Another huge roadblock in my mind was—believe it or not—pets. Many people choose normal human names for their fur babies. Personally, I prefer to name animals after obscure characters from Shakespeare plays. (Sadly, McDuff the cat met an untimely end after darting into traffic.) My little sister Shannon noticed at a young age that frequently when she heard her name called in public, a dog would come running. This may not bother some people, but I never liked it. Unfortunately, there is no official information guide restricting pet names, so I have to live with the fact there are rabbits and gerbils and dogs and fish out there with people names, including the one I gave my daughter.

And then, of course, there is no way of knowing what names will be written into fictional characters in the near future. I was always disappointed my name was always given to characters with looser morals—I blame Jessica Rabbit for starting the trend. My husband had it even worse. He tried to keep the book Stuart Little a secret when he was a child. No hearty boy wants to be compared to a mouse. But then the movie was released and the secret was out. What’s a parent to do?

Don’t even get me started on celebrities. They have their own system for choosing baby names it seems, and it does not involve any rules. I feel sorry for little North West. On the bright side, at least she does not have quotation marks around her name.

Once a name is chosen and that first piece of official ID arrives in the mail, it can be a huge relief to parents. The guessing game is over and the child is ready to begin a whole new life of either loving or hating his name. Whatever happens, just remember—it’s entirely your fault.

Jessica McIntosh is on maternity leave from her job as Managing Editor at the Fort McMurray Today newspaper. She has conceived stories and articles since long before her child was, and continues to be active in the freelance world in spite of diapers and laundry. Follow her on Twitter @McIntosh_J.







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