What’s in a name?
February 3, 2016
The last few years a number of my friends have started families. Often, they can’t wait to announce the news of their pregnancy, sharing it in a number of creative ways: Ultrasound photos cleverly Photoshopped with ski goggles, a card that says "We are" in front of a large jar of Prego pasta sauce, receipts for pickles and ice cream uploaded to social media. I even had one friend send a postcard that said, "Using our last condom to make a water balloon seemed like a good idea at the time."
Apparently just calling people to tell them the news means you’ll be a lousy parent with no imagination.
When I first learn a friend is pregnant I’m quick to offer my congratulations. And my follow up question has almost always been, "Do you have any names picked out?"
It’s meant innocently enough. I really am just curious or making conversation. But the question is often met with a short gasp and a firm shake of the head. "We do, but we aren’t telling anyone."
I’ve always found this a bit curious. My friends will tell me the most intimate details of the conception, yet you’d think I was asking a CIA agent for classified information the way they react to an inquiry about a baby name.
They’ll explain it’s because they like a name and they don’t want anyone to talk them out of it. It’s not about it being a surprise or a secret as much as it is not listening to everyone’s unsolicited opinion.
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I’ve always thought this odd. Just tell people, "This is the name I have picked. It’s not a democracy. I don’t care if you don’t like it," I’ve thought.
But after this week, I get it. I completely understand the desire, if not the need, to pick a name and file it in the "top secret" section of your brain until the pregnancy announcement becomes a birth announcement. Granted, I don’t have kids and have never had the responsibility of naming a child, but last week I adopted another Dalmatian, and it turns out settling on a name was about as easy as getting Congress to agree on something.
I adopted him from a rescue in Indiana, so it took a couple weeks to figure out transportation and get him to Park City. During that time, I came up with a list of five or six names I liked, which quickly turned into a list of about 100 names.
I liked Marvin, but my dad hated it. I liked Harvey, but my good friend had a boss with that name and he was a misogynistic jerk. I liked Linus, but another friend of mine knew a dog called Linus and it was mean and always bit other dogs. I decided on Truman, but someone’s ex-boyfriend had a cat by that name. I liked Jamal, but my mom said it was racist. Every time I came up with a new name, someone I shared it with had a reason I could not settle on it. Even worse, they’d offer me at least 10 alternative names they preferred instead. By the end of the week, my list of possible names was two pages long. My goal had been to narrow it down, and instead I was running out of ink.
Then I decided I would wait to meet him. Surely I would see him and just know. That didn’t work, either. He’s dotted and adorable, but he doesn’t "look" like a certain name. By his third day with me, I started to panic. At the rate I was going he was about to be named after a bar on Main Street. But I didn’t want to call him "No Name," so I had to come up with something quick.
I put his photo on Facebook and asked for suggestions. Which gave me another 100 or so names to choose from. I read them off, looking at him to see if he responded to any. When I got to Willis, he barked. Granted, he barked because someone knocked on the door, but still, he barked. It must have been a sign. And saying, "Whatcha barking ’bout, Willis?" will never get old.
So now I have two rescued Dalmatians. I might look like Cruella de Vil, but at least they both have names.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident, and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis.
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