In 1991, I was pumped and prepared to be a big sister. At the tender age of 3, this consisted of proudly sporting my “Big Sister” shirt and watching “The Wizard of Oz” on repeat, due to my extremely pregnant mother’s general exhaustion. One of my other responsibilities was being asked what we should name the newest Ponath girl.
This is a risky maneuver at any age, especially since my influences at the time were ruby slippers, M&Ms and the samba button on my Muppet Babies keyboard. However, the name I suggested was an actual, human name: Emily*. While that name should have been immediately crocheted on everything from pillows to knapsacks, “Emily” could not be.
You see, our neighbor just had a little girl…and guess what her name was? That’s right: Emily. And even though we weren’t close with those neighbors, and they didn’t even make it past the next block party, “Emily” was off limits.
Never fear. The littlest Ponath got her name (Julia Margaret), and all was right with the world.
Except, no. It wasn’t.
She should have been an Emily, and it was the politics of baby names that kept it from being so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not even kind of close to naming a child, or even a fish for that matter, but even the hypothetical naming process has become the Hunger Games.
Remember that episode of Sex and the City, where Charlotte lost her shit over her friend stealing the name “Shalya” for her baby girl? That is the world we live in: everything’s fair game until it’s on the birth certificate.
My friends and I aren’t quite at that level yet, restricting our name conversations to the newest celebrity children and those acquaintances from high school who have made it easy for their offspring to transition into the world of adult entertainment. However, we have entered into the next phase of adulthood: pet ownership.
While I don’t subscribe to the Sarah Mclachlan way of life, a lot of my friends have found four-legged companions who need names. The resulting names are off limits in a whole new way, because while it’s taboo to steal a name already assigned to a human, there’s no way you can steal an animal’s name. I can hear the conversation now:
“She’s so cute! What’s her name?
* silence *
I know…Lassie isn’t really a common name among human children, but you get my drift. From then on, those names are immediately associated with animals, and it’s just cruel to think otherwise. (Which also eliminates Underdog, Sea Biscuit and Simba from my potential future baby names…I don’t appreciate the world we live in.)
So, to review: duplicate baby names = no go. Animal names = definitely out of the question. What about names of people you know? That depends.
I grew up with a girl named Paula. She was kind of a bitch. She had bad hair, and got hurt when we were playing hockey on our carpeted gym floor in first grade, so the school banned us from ever playing it again. She moved away soon after (for a completely unrelated reason), but from then on I got all snarly when someone mentioned a “Paula”. (Except for my new Paula, whom I had the privilege to work with at summer camp. Love ya, girl, don’t ever change.) My point being, I will never name my child Paula, because it brings up bad blood.
(Sidenote: When asking my parents about my potential name, pre-Laura, I found out that my father had put “Wendy” on the table. “Wendy” was my dad’s ex-girlfriend. “Wendy” got taken off the table.)
TV and movies are regularly ruining legit names. (Don’t even get me started on the Twilight franchise.) But they’re also introducing original names that people are adopting as their own. In about 18 years, there will be graduation classes full of Hermiones, Peetas and (fingers crossed) a Voldemort, or two.
As my friends and I start marrying off, I have a feeling our conversations about potential baby names will become much more guarded. I plan on coming up with a decoy list of names, and hiding them in plain sight, just to throw them off the trail. Who knows…maybe I can convince one of them to take the Golden Girls route. I would love to meet Dorothy Rose Blanche Sophia. That girl will go places.
*The name was later revealed to not even be “Emily”, but instead Ann Marie, as featured in “All Dogs Go To Heaven”…a name that I still like and am henceforth calling future dibs on.
Originally published on HahasforHoohas.