Hebrew names

Choosing a Name: Celebrity vs. Normal People Edition


I’m no celebrity, so there is no pressure on me to come up with something overly cute or different or otherwise conversation-provoking to name my baby (hello, Maxwell Drew, Penelope Scotland, Aleph, and Apple). But there is pressure. I think naming a child is one of the biggest pains in my pregnancy-expanded ass.

You know those girls who dream of their wedding dresses and act out ceremonies? Yeah, that wasn’t me. But I did stick dolls under my dress and dream of one day getting to name a baby. Until I got pregnant. Choosing and disclosing the name for my daughter brought me more grief than the first post-C-section poop. Let’s just say that the response from certain people in my inner circle was not the one I had hoped for.

Lessons I learned from “Elliegeddon”:

1. Don’t discuss your list with anyone except your partner.

2. Don’t announce the name too soon before the kid is scheduled to arrive.

3. Don’t take it personally when someone–make that anyone–pooh-poohs it.

It turns out that lots of people judge others–and their parents–by their names. An article posted last week by Sarah Maizes on the “Today Show” website details how some names lead people to make conclusions about the name-giver’s personalities. I might not always love the name someone chose for his or her child, but I’d like to think I wouldn’t write someone off based solely on that. This business of naming is hard-core. And I thought it was just the stroller brand I had to worry about.

To me, choosing someone’s name is a huge honor and responsibility. This is going to be a major part of my child’s identity. I understand the Jewish tradition of naming children after a loved one who has passed away, but after much MUCH thought, I’ve decided I don’t completely agree with it. My dad, Harold, died 20 years ago, and although I honor and memorialize him in any way I can, I just can’t swallow most H names. No offense to or judgment on my forebears, of course. I went with Hannah for my daughter’s middle name, but now that I am trying to name a boy, I’m struggling.

Then it hit me. I can’t bring my dad back by giving my children H names, and an H name doesn’t ensure the survival of his memory, either. It’s not as if Ellie will name her children after my dad. She will name them after her current grandparents or other family members she actually knew, or she might simply pick names she likes. Or she might opt to not have kids at all. There’s always that.

My husband, Scott, and I arrived separately at the same conclusion: The best way to keep someone’s memory alive is through stories and photographs. It’s more important to me that Ellie knows that her amazing sense of humor is a hand-me-down from her comedian grandpa than that she knows her middle name comes from his first name. Likewise for whatever trait my soon-to-be son has from Grandpa H.

Maybe it’s a generational thing. Many of my friends who are my age have opted for at least one baby name based on personal preference rather than familial deference.

And so my son won’t have an H in his name. It took me a long time to be OK with that, and now as Scott and I prepare to reveal our choice, I just hope that people–my own version of the media–won’t doubt our decision but respect it, even if they don’t really like it. And for the record, Ellie’s Hebrew first name is in memory of my father. Her sibling’s middle Hebrew name will be, too. So, Dad, you’ve still got plenty of representation.

Stephanie KanowitzStephanie Kanowitz is a mother of two who moonlights as a freelance journalist. A Florida native now living in Virginia, she has worked as a copy editor, web editor, and freelance writer and editor since earning a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida in 2000. In 2006, Stephanie earned a master's in News Media Studies from American University in Washington, D.C. She writes about arts and culture, business, fitness, real estate, and technology, and she's also done several celebrity Q&As. Stephanie also teaches Spinning classes at local gyms. It's the one time a week when she can tell people what to do without them answering back. To see her work, please visit stephaniekanowitz.com.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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