The Name Game

What’s in a name? Well, everything. It seems that people either love or hate their name, spend time telling stories about their name or spelling it over the phone. In many circles today people vie to give a name that no one else has in the classroom. Granny names are trendy, but so are “you named your child what?” versions. Naming a child is political. And a big deal.

Me? I have a semi-complicated-for-America name. Not only do I have to repeat my name, I also have to spell every part of it – first, last and each part in between. So when my husband and I were deciding what to name our baby, I knew immediately that I wanted it to be not common, but not unusual. Something that people would smile at because it was harmonious, something that could last a lifetime. A name that would work well for a baby, toddler, teenager, mother, grandmother, lover. I’m also half Mexican (insert “which half” joke here. I’ll show you some time) and wanted a name that would sound nice if said in Spanish.

We didn’t know that we were having a girl at the time, but we both “knew.” For eight plus months in my mind I called the baby “Alma.” Alma. I loved the way it rolled off my tongue. I loved that it means “soul” in Spanish and fit all of my criteria for a name that would travel well over the years. “Alma,” I would say, holding my belly. “Alma.”

Then, at month one million, I was watching an interview with Michelle Williams as she talked about her role in Brokeback Mountain. Her character’s name? Alma. But when describing her character, she kept referring to her as “Alllll-muh.” What?! My heart raced. Allll-muh? Like in Al’s Mother? No way. No how. My heart skipped a beat and I almost started to cry. I couldn’t name my potential child a name that some people would butcher into something that sounded so terrible. Like my name, but worse.

Teary, I later told my husband the story. We had a second name on the list. He told me he liked it better anyway. We decided to meet the baby and see what she (or still he) looked like.

And who came out? A baby! A baby girl! And after one look we knew it wasn’t Alma. Alma has dark hair, is serious and slightly brooding. Alma is an old soul. Who came out was a fiery redhead. Someone, albeit sleepy from the journey, who looked around the room and knew where she was. Someone who had perfect ears. Who came was my heart. Mi corazon. Cora.

– MD


7 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. it is so big, the naming and feels so major. Our Vivian was Iola for one day. But our girl came like a storm in a heat wave, she has slanty eyes, a quick smile and a bright spirit. Iola, with round sounds is not our Vivi, full of life. Some how, just like I knew the moment I saw Odin with his beautiful round head and perfect, lovely face, I knew for sure and pretty soon what her name should be.

  2. I had to laugh at this post after our discussion about naming in yoga last week. Wonderful post, you are such a talented writer! =)

  3. Thanks, Melissa!

    Erika – I sometimes share with people your comments about telling people a baby’s potential name while pregnant: “I’ll tell you, but you can’t make a comment either way.” They always laugh.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Name Game « First Smiles And Tears --

  5. I love this post. Also, the hair! That red hair! My sister is also a half-Mexican red head and I have been jealous of her from the day I became aware there are different colors of hair. She’s mad I got the blue eyes; I wish we could trade.

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