Saturday, November 6, 2010

Banana Fana Fo-Funcommon

I have a remarkably common first name.  According to my scientific research, if you were to call my name aloud in any suburban mall in America, no fewer than 17 females of the following age groups will turn around:
Newborns-2 year olds
3-18 year olds
19-25 year olds
26-42 year olds
90+ year youngs.

Now, back in 1979 my parents thought that they were giving me a strong, recognizable and relatively rare name.  In those bad old days before the internet and instant gratification of information needs, it was not easy to find out what the most popular names in the country were.  Baby books generally provide the top 25 names, and my name was #32 in 1979.  (I'll explain why I know that particular tidbit of information later).  Everyone they knew who had my name was someone's grandmother or great aunt.  There was no knowing that my name was about to have a renaissance.

I actually really like my name.  I would prefer, however, that all those poseurs out there with my name to drop the pretense that they are cool enough to be worthy of this name and choose something else.  I suspect it ain't gonna happen.

When it came time to name LO, I brought the angsty baggage of having a common name to the decision making process.  No, he was not going to be one of several by his name in his elementary school class.  He would not have to be known by his full name in order to keep him straight from others with his name.  I was adamant about these things.  LO would be his own person with a rare first name.

This was put to the test when J and I both fell in love with the name Elijah.  What a name!  It was strong, biblical, worked as a full name and was nicknameable without  being obnoxious, and no one would ever have trouble spelling it.  Wait, no one would ever have trouble spelling it...because it was common!  Sigh.  I looked up how common it was (which is what I did with each and every name that we considered), and I found that it was the 22nd most common boy's name in America in 2009.  And it keeps going higher.  It'll be in the top 10 in a few years and will probably be in the top 5 a few years after that.  For giggles I looked up how common my name was in 1979, and that's how I discovered that my ranking was 32.  The commonality of Elijah meant it was OFF THE TABLE!  (J was remarkably patient with my hand-wringing over common names.  He only rolled his eyes so I could see him do it three or four times.)

We finally came up with LO's name.  (And no, I'm not going to write it here.  Apologies to anyone who doesn't personally know me.)  It was a Hebrew name, so it wasn't like we were giving him something completely off the wall.  It was short and hard to give a bad nickname to.  Best of all, it was around #500 in terms of popularity, so LO would definitely be the only one with it in his classes at school.

Unfortunately, I'm now finding the flip side to standing out.  People coo over my son and ask his name.  I tell them, and get a blank stare in return.  Since parents are more likely to give unusual names to girls, people have to double check that he's a boy.  Everyone asks how to spell it.  I am hypocritically annoyed with all of this.  If this is the reaction I get with this name, which my son shares with a former White House staff member, a member of the NPR news team, a character in an HBO series, and one of my high school classmates, what would I get if I'd named him Zubin or Moxie CrimeFighter, or Cla, or Banjo?

I just hope LO will grow up feeling as aptly named as I do.  Because if he petitions to change his name to Jayden when he's 18, I just don't think I could handle it.


  1. We're playing the name game right now, and I'm in the no-fun part, where nothing seems both interesting and unique but also substitute-teacher-proof and not prone to mocking. Sigh.
    I will say I am never again naming my child with the intention of calling him by his middle name...nothing beats them calling out Isaac's first and last name at the doctor's office and me not recognizing it. "Oh yeah, that's me - that's my son..." Sigh again.

  2. Oh, I wish you'd named him Banjo. May I call him that as my super special Auntie name for him? (Once I get tired of Squishy-face, that is.)

  3. Tracie, you can call him Banjo but I reserve the right to come up with really terrible nicknames for my future nieflings. (Considering the fact they will call me Auntie M!)