Hello….my name is

hello_my_name_is_sticker_by_trexweb1Hello.  My name is Dina and I am slightly obsessed by names.  Monikers, nick-names, tags and labels and everything in-between.  (To be fair, I am obsessed with words.  I am a word nerd.  But this post is about names, so I shall stick to the subject, like a name sticker to its subject…).  I am not even talking about the sociolinguistic importance of names and how they are perceived, both by ourselves and by others.  It’s too early to delve that deep.  I just like names.

According to my mother, the woman who was there at the time, present and mostly conscious, I did not have a name for several days.  Back in the olden days, when you could smoke in the hospital, you had to wait until your baby was born to figure out what color balloon to festoon the mailbox with.  My parents were so thoroughly convinced I was a boy, they didn’t bother to pick out a girl’s name.  I was supposed to be Michael.  Why they didn’t just name me Michelle is a mystery, but there you go.  In my mother’s version of the story, after 4 nameless days of Baby Girl H, my father came up with Dina Marie.  It’s not like there were a lot of girls named Dina walking around, so I’m not sure from what corner of thin air he pulled that one from.  It’s never been a very popular name.  In fact, it barely makes the top 1000 names on the Social Security name list for the last 50 years (I’ll get to that in a minute).  But Dina I was named, and Dina I have stayed.  Not Dana, or Diana, or Dinah.  Not Tina or Gina or Deanna.  Just Dina.

And just where was this when I was 8?? Photo: cafepress.com
And just where was this when I was 8??
Photo: cafepress.com

I hated my name growing up.  Not because it’s a horrible name, but mostly because I wanted a license plate with my name imprinted upon it and I knew the chances of finding one were nigh on impossible.  So lack of a pre-printed door plate or mug or fridge magnet or stickers or any other cheap paraphernalia you find in souvenir shops around the country was enough to traumatize me.  That and the fact that despite having only four letters, everyone mispronounced it.  Most pronounced it like Dinah.  As in Dinah won’t you blow your horn.  Just what every little girl dreams of.

Aside:  Some of the names I have been obsessed with over the years that I can remember:  Lydia, Beryl, Ursula, Piper, Lola, Blue.  My sons should thank me that they were a) both boys and b) I was not a tween when I had them.  Otherwise they could be walking around with a name like Beryl.

Photo: platehut.com
Photo: platehut.com

In my graduating class of 198(ahem), there were 4 of the following:  Donna, Lisa, Kristen.  Despite the brilliance of the movie,there were only 3 Heathers.  There were however, seven Cheryls.  I grew up in small town New England, there were only 215 or so in my graduating class.  I am not going to do the math, but that’s a lot of girls named Cheryl.  There was one Dina.

Thing was, by the time I was in high school, the un-popularity of my name suited me.  And that’s when you start to wonder what comes first, the child or the name?  Do we live up to the pre-conceived ideas of our names or do our names come to reflect the personality we bring to it?  (Ok, I lied.  A little bit of sociolinguisitics).  Not too long after I found out I was pregnant (like a day), I started harassing and haranguing my husband about names.  I was a woman obsessed.  In those early hormonal days, it became ridiculously important for me to choose just the right name.   And that is how the US Social Security website became my very best-est friend during those early days of pregnancy.

The website has a function that allows you to search for the most popular baby names in the US over the last 80 years or so.  (Go on, click the link, you know you want to).  Remember all those Cheryls in my school?  The ones who had to spend their entire childhood going by Cheryl Last Initial?  That became qualification number one, nothing in the top 25.  Most of the names in the top 20 list are there for a reason, because they are lovely names.  In fact, quite a few of them are names that I really, really like.  But in my obsessive state, any name in the top 25 was an automatic no-go.  Just to be on the safe side, I widened it to the top 100.  I wanted something that reflected that us as parents; we aren’t really William or Caroline people, but neither are we Jupiter or Echo people. (We lived in Brooklyn, don’t forget, I’ve heard just about everything).

If you knew me in high school, you would have assumed that I would have named my kids Siouxsie or Morrissey.  Or Ursa Major or Cassiopeia.  But remember the license name plate.  If we gave our children names that were nigh on impossible to find on a ready-made door plate, would they hate me forever?  Would they spend hours of their childhood moping about Cape Cod taffy shops and Grand Canyon gift emporiums bemoaning the fact that they could never find anything with their name on it?  Probably.

It took us a full 9 months with both kids to find a name.  And looking back, I hope my children appreciate that we rejected some of the short list candidates at the last minute.  We didn’t know if #1 was a boy or a girl until he was born, but if he had been a girl, he would have been Harper Isobel.  I liked the name Harper and I never would have guessed that I would have met about six of them in my Brooklyn neighborhood.  He (well, She) would have been Harper H-S in school.  Go figure.  Son #2 was thisclose to being Fox.  I still kind of regret not naming him Fox, because I don’t care what you say, Fox is just an ultra cool name.  The problem, we figured, was if we did not have an ultra-cool kid, it would be a hard one to pull off.

In the end, we ended up choosing names that fell smack dab in the middle of the top 1000.  Sort of -kind of accidentally.  And though it wasn’t a conscious decision, both my son’s names begin with R and both mean the same thing.  Kind of weird, but there you go.  And so we have been blessed with a Rowan (Anglo/Gaelic from the Rowan tree, an ash tree with red berries; ranked 476 the year of his birth) and a Reed (English/Scottish meaning red-headed, but also a tall river grass; ranked 405 the year of his birth).  Nine and five years down the road respectively, I still love their names and hope that they can live up to them.  Or that their names will live up to the men they become.

What comes first, the name or the kid?  What do you think?

Custom made by AK
Custom made by AK
Custom made by AK
Custom made by AK
You can buy anything nowadays....Photo: Cafepress.com
You can buy anything nowadays….Photo: Cafepress.com

28 thoughts on “Hello….my name is

Add yours

  1. I, too, have often bemoaned my “unique” name. I’ve never dealt with pronunciation issues, but even my husband has been known to spell it Merideth, Meridith, Meredeth, or to just fall back on Megadeath. I remember being desperate for shoelaces with my name on them in 7th grade, but the display blithely skipped from “Melissa” to “Michelle” without so much as a space for “Meredith.” To your point about which came first, the name or the person, I’ve met several other Merediths in my time, some of whom have gone by the nickname “Merry.” My mother steadfastly refused to allow anyone to call me Merry, something I remain profoundly grateful for. But I often wonder if I would be as snarky and sarcastic and caustic and cynical as I am now had I spent my life being called Merry. Again, profoundly grateful my mother never let that happen.


    1. Merry. It could have gone the other way, you may have ended up as the lead Mean Girl named Merry. Sort of like a reverse Pollyanna syndrome. ;-). I wonder if those of us that grew up with more uncommon names tend to land on our feet a little faster, stand out a little more, talk a little louder or if we try to blend in more because our names don’t. It would still have been nice to have found a keychain with our names every now and again. Just saying.


  2. Wonderful post, the name v. destiny/sociolinguists aspects is so fascinating. Certainly some names are destined to be character builders – I’m looking at you Oedipus/Adolf! My brother was so wrapped up in angst over names that a month after his first was born, the hospital called him to remind him that he had to choose a name! (They chose Aran…eventually)


    1. A month??? I’m far too controlling! Even though husband was given final naming rights with Son 2, it was from a pre-approved short list. Fox was still on there. Do you think it’s too late to change it? ;-). He could rock Fox, I think. I could have gone all geeky, nerdy with the linguistics stuff, I find it terribly fascinating, but I didn’t want to nerd everyone out. And that’s not even going into a sub-category of ethic/socio naming trends….


      1. My brother was a philosophy major…In Cyprus, my workout instructor was named Adonis (and yes, he was!), my GYN was named Aphrodite, and my travel agent was named Odysseus (ok I made the last one up)! I’d love to read your further musings on this- not geeky at all. I do like Fox, but I think I’d always hear Mulder and Scully whispered after it…


  3. I chose my daughter’s name long before she was born, Trinity(no reference to religion). For us, it means ‘you’ll succeed.’ Yes, the kickass character from Matrix, and Morpheus did say those words to her when she was in an impossible situation. I could also have named her 7of9, but parents should resist projecting their own personalities on their kids, which is something many of us are guilty of. A kid’s name can ruin its life(Adolf, Gertrude, Hyacinth, Horace, Rex. Osama).


    1. My son went to school with a Neo (though it was a nickname), which always made me think of The Matrix. Did you click on the link? Did you see that Trinity was ranked in the top 50 for the years 2004 and 2005? Who would have thunk it, right? I have a feeling your daughter could have pulled off 7 of 9, though you definitely would not have found it on any keychains at the Brandenburg Gate. And speaking of sights in Berlin, while I was just looking up the correct spelling of Brandenburg, I saw that there is a Currywurst Museum in Berlin. A whole museum dedicated to spicy hot dogs? Please tell me you’ve been. Please? (And I kind of like Rex!)


      1. She knows a real Neo, minus the human Qualities of the film character. I don’t eat curry wurst, or any other wurst but I know the place – never been in, I’ll go with you when you show up.
        Names usually reflect the culture you grow up in: Rex(and Bruno) are common dog names in Barbados…no questions about Barbados, I hate that place; horrid people.


  4. Dina, I was obsessed with the name Rowena as a teenager and wished my parents had named me Rowena. So when I got pregnant with Dioni, it was on my shortlist but then decided to go with an ancient Greek name and then it had to be a name no one else had. btw I know a few guys with the name Neo. I also know a couple who kept changing their minds about the kid’s name and changed his name 3 or 4 times.


    1. See, now what are the chances that another ‘Dina’ would reply to this? I know your name is only a nickname and I didn’t have time in the post to get into how Greeks, the Israelis, the Egyptians etc. all claim ‘Dina’ as one of their own names, but that was part of it (in my head!). I can’t imagine changing my name now, or my kids. Weirdness! Dioni is pretty (as is Eleni).


  5. My mum, my sister and also my closest friend went with the same starting letter for both children in each family. I wonder if it was so they could blame this when they call a child by the wrong name. Do you mix them up often?


    1. Not as much as you would think. Not as much as my mom did when I was growing up and my sister’s name starts with a K. The worst is that my husband’s name starts with an R as well. I call him by a nickname so it didn’t even occur to me, but when we are being formal, there R a lot of Rs.


  6. First, I am glad you are now using my given name ;-). Poppy, used as a nickname for Penelope, was on our list of contenders if we had a girl (with some other flower names, Iris and Dahlia). I think it’s lovely. When I was pregnant with #2, we called him Baby Z (long story) and I wanted to incorporate the letter Z into his name some how, but, well, there really aren’t that many Z names out there. Having already met a Zephyr, I had to nix that one ;-). You will like this though: My husband’s given name starts with an R. #1 starts with an R. I am a D. I wanted to see if we could come up with a D for son #2 (he was almost Dashiell/Dash), solely so we could sign all family correspondence with R2D2.


  7. The name follows the child. Poor T was nameless for days, but then after some days on hospital T(gift from god) just seemed right. For our gorgeous R, it was an instantaneous match from the short list, within day 1! There’s no logic, but they were also never going to be in the top 25, or find their names pre-printed on something.


    1. They will hate you (for a while) for not being able to find their names on pre-printed keychains and water bottles and magnets and door knockers and pillow cases and…..FYI, LL Bean does cheap monograming, for those of us with children with more…er…unusual names.


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