What’s In a Name?



One of my best friends is pregnant with her first child and just found out that she’s having a girl. When she sent me the text, I asked “Does she have a name?”

“Work in progress.”

A few days later, she texted again, no hello, how you doing. Just this:

“How many Olivias are there in Gabe and Kate’s classes?”

“None. Why?”

“We’re thinking about Olivia but are worried it’s too common.”

I had Teresa ask Siri where Olivia lands on the Top 100 of girls names.

“Looks like it’s #3 on the Top 100.”

“I know.”

“Can her middle name be Grace so we can call her the OG?”

“No. Olivia Claire, mom’s middle name.”

“I love it. Love it. And if you love it you should go with it and not worry about the other Olivias. That’s coming from a Jennifer. I know what I’m talking about.”

I was born in 1972, at the peak of Jennifer’s popularity. I spent the first 12 years of my life called Jenny F to distinguish me from the other five Jennys in the class. I survived. So will Olivia H.

“We are also thinking about Vivienne.”


She and I are Ya-Yas from way back. In fact, we ditched graduation duty to see the movie on the day it came out.

“Yes! Or Devynn. Or Blake.”

I’m down with the whole gender neutral naming trend. Devin was one of our boy names when I was pregnant with Annie. And we have two Quinns in our close circle. My kids call them “Boy Quinn” and “Girl Quinn” to keep them straight in conversation.

“When we were picking, I would imagine hearing the name on a loudspeaker or see it running along the bottom of the screen on ESPN.”

No, I am not kidding.

“That’s all I do, too.”

“Midfielder Olivia H— Or, midfielder Vivi H—“

“Mine more says “US Olympic Gold Medalist”

“Now playing on center court…”

“Now you’re with me!”

“Do all moms pick names this way or is it just us?”

Dana did it too. She was kicking around Cossette when she was pregnant with Violet. Then I made her think about the trash-talking across the net if the 6’3’ setter was named Cossette.  I got your Castle on a Cloud, b***h!

Needless to say, picking a name is a big responsibility.

The year that Gabriel was two, I wrote my family names on the board for a project, and one of my students raised his hand and asked if my son was the only one in the family with a Mexican name. I laughed, because I have taught some wonderful Gabriels in my career—all of whom happened to be Mexican American—but we picked his name for the archangel, the right hand of God, defender of the light against the dark. Which is probably how the other Gabriels got their names as well.

I took full advantage of Shea’s English heritage to choose queen’s names for my girls.

Kathryn Grace was the first ever baby name that popped into my head when I found out I was pregnant with Gabe. It took two more years before we got our Kate.  When I call her Kate, I see Katherine Hepburn, and hope that she takes the same big strides in the world, with the same sense of humor and maybe a little less booze.

Anne’s full name is Anne Elizabeth, which I justified because Ann is my mom’s middle name and Elizabeth was my grandmother’s middle name. But that’s a pretty regal name on a little girl. When I “Anne Elizabeth!” her in my mom voice, people always stop to look.

Olivia/Vivienne/Devynn/Blake’s mom actually asked me after Anne was born if I was naming my daughters in the order of Henry VIII’s wives on purpose and if the next one would be a Jane.

That made me laugh too. Because, kind of. And maybe. Let’s face it: you take the jerk husband out of the equation and those women were pretty bad ass.

So to answer the question: hope, dreams, love, Bible, family, culture, tradition. And maybe a wee bit of humor.






3 thoughts on “What’s In a Name?

  1. Or perhaps the name really isn’t that important. Isn’t that Shakespeare’s point? (that which we call a rose…blah, blah, blah; you know I’m not a huge R&J fan). I hope Olivia/Vivienne/Devynn/Blake will be known for her character, her kindness, her intelligence, her sense of humor, &, yes, her backhand down the line on Center Court that kisses the chalk on Championship Point (no pressure 🙂

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