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Much thought goes into naming a baby

By Debbie Leffler • Jun 27, 2019 at 12:00 PM

What’s in a name?

The thought occurred to me as I perused the Safety Town class list that was recently published in the Norwalk Reflector. For many of these young children, it was probably the first time their name appeared in the newspaper. That’s part of what makes the Norwalk Reflector so special. Certainly, no matter how great a national newspaper such as the New York Times is, it would never consider our Safety Town list important enough to print. But the upcoming Safety Town class list is one of many things that is newsworthy in our local newspaper.

So I was reading the list, and I noted some of the interesting names there which did not exist — at least as far as I know — in my long-ago day: names including Malaiya, Kricket and Novalee. Of course, there were still some of the old, familiar ones: Ella, Cindy, Mark, William.

I was pleased to see a “Brody” — that is the name of my newest nephew, and I’d never heard of it before, but apparently it is a popular modern name.

Then there are the alternate spellings of familiar names. There were Kali and Cayleigh — I’m assuming both are pronounced the same yet they look quite different. There were classy-sounding names like Cooper and Connery and Jameson and Easton and Landon; there were some which hinted at other languages and cultures, like Liesel, Lorelei and Sophia.

It’s a big decision every new parent needs to make. A newborn baby, whose personality and future appearance is not yet known, must be given a name. What should it be?

Since these days many parents-to-be already know the gender of their child, the task has been halved — no need to have both a girl’s name and a boy’s name ready.

I am glad we no longer have to choose a name for our children. We have already done that. We can sit back and enjoy waiting to see what names our children choose for their children.

There are often interesting stories behind names. My husband could have been “Harry the Third” since his grandfather and father were both named Harry. I am glad that his parents broke that tradition; that way I didn’t have to decide whether to name our first son “Harry the Fourth.”

For one of my beginning-of-the-year school assignments, I ask my students to find out about, and then write, the story of their name. Some parents go for alliteration, choosing a first name that starts with the same letter as the last name. Some perpetuate a family name, or choose a name in honor of a deceased relative or friend. Some choose a favorite actor’s name, or a favorite character in a movie. Some invent a new name or spelling, such as my student “Geordon” (pronounced “Jordan”), combining the father’s name “George” and the mother’s name “Donna.”

Some students describe one parent choosing a name over the objections of the other parent. One student said she was named after a character in a horror movie; another was named after a brand of sunglasses. One student said her parents purposely chose a name which was not obviously male or female, so that she wouldn’t be judged by gender when she grew up and applied for jobs.

I still remember the name of a new student in my class in elementary school. On the first day of school, when the teacher went around the room and asked us to say our names, he said his name was “Wolfgang Lurch” and the teacher thought he was joking. Turned out that actually was his name.

No matter the name — whether it’s unusual or common, old-fashioned or new, that is what we are called. In the end, it doesn’t really matter — we become the people we are no matter what our parents named us. Sometimes our names inspire us or make us stronger. And if you don’t like your name, you can change it when you turn 18.


Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]

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