Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Name Game

Next week we find out if we're having a boy or a girl. I can think of pros and cons to both genders, so I've decided to think that either would be good. (Although if you look/sound disappointed if we announce it's a girl, I will probably punch you. What's wrong with girls?) Once we find out the gender, then I can finally start thinking about names. As a parent, you have to consider not only the first name, but nicknames, middle names, first-name last-name combos, what the initials spell, how many other kids have your child's name, and what's going to sound really dumb in 20 years.

I like discussing names. I go by my middle name, so I've had quite a few name discussions over the years. Going by your middle name is great. You get a distinguished initial in front of your signature. You can go with whatever name you feel like that day. In fact, if someone calls me on the phone I can tell who they are and how well I know them just by what name they are calling me. I like finding out that someone I know is also using their middle name, because then it's like we're both members of a secret club. The Cool Middle Name Club.

However, there are a few things that annoy people who use their middle name. And by people I mean me. (Mild annoyance, not I-will-instantly-go-home-and-viciously-blog-about-you annoyance.)

1. The question: "What's your real name?" I'm not a superhero, people. My middle name is on my birth certificate, thus making it "real." Perhaps you meant..."What's your full name?"

2. Forms that assume everyone goes by their first name and only have space for a middle initial instead of my full middle name. Because then do I put my middle name under the space for the first name? Because it's not my first name.

3. When a receptionist asks me what my name is and I sound stupid because I go, uuuuuhhh...and try to remember whether I previously gave them my first name as my name (for easier medical billing) or my middle name as my name.

4.  People who leave off the first initial when writing my name in formal situations. (Like on my credit card. Or my temple recommend.) The E. in front makes my name dignified. Leave it off and my name looks like a snowman without a head. Just not that impressive.

Which leads to the dilemma I faced when I got married. I couldn't really figure out what to do with my maiden name. Lose the first initial and use my maiden name as my middle name? Not a chance. I love that first initial. Hyphenate? Overkill with middle name usage and hyphenation usage. Keep it? Disrespectful to the concept that my husband and I are becoming one. Make Austin use my maiden name instead of his? Really, really tempting, since I had an easier last name. I didn't want to look like a dominating wife though, so I just dropped my maiden name altogether. Maybe I'll use it as a middle name for this next kid.

So now for the question you've probably already asked me if you know me. "Why do you go by your middle name?" Well, I have had a lot of answers for that question over the years. Here are some: (My first name is Elisabeth by the way. With an S.)

1. I had a really bad nickname. Lizzy. Sometimes "Lizard Breath." How did I get the worst nickname for Elisabeth? There's not even a 'z' in my name. I really like Liz, but right when I got old enough for that we moved, and there was a girl in my class named Elizabeth who went by Liz so I didn't want to seem like I was copying her.

2. In conjunction with this, growing up, I didn't know any other Lizzys, but once we moved I met a couple more Elisabeths...and I didn't really like them that much.

3. My parents named me Elisabeth because it was the only female scripture name that fit with their "A,B,C,D," + "scripture name" naming pattern. (I have actually realized recently that my parents could have named me Esther.) I like the biblical story of Elisabeth, but my middle name has a rich heritage and interesting story behind it, and reminds me of my great-grandma who also set aside her more conventional first name, Mary, in favor of using her middle name. Which is also my middle name.

4. I asked people to start calling me by my middle name when I was 12. It was a very transitional time in my life. I was going through an existential crisis and searching for my identity. I knew it wasn't "Lizzy."

These are are all good answers to the question of why the middle name, but the truest and also shortest answer is that I just like it better than my first name. I would splash my name all over my blog here, but sometimes I blog about stuff I don't want my husband's coworkers to read, and I'm 100 percent sure it would turn up in a google search for my name. (And no, I'm not being paranoid, apparently they google spouses from time to time.)

As far as our girls go, our Polish last name made it hard to get too crazy with the first name. (Hopefully they will get married someday, but I can't predict a good name combo for that.) Our strategy has basically been to pick first names that we both think are special and have positive associations with. Both middle names have been my pick. Sammy's middle name, Gene, is a variation on her dad and grandfather's middle name, so she has a bit of heritage there. Cici's middle name is Page, because I love books but also because her first name was more of a risk and she needs a solid second option. Both of our girls could actually go with their middle names if they don't like their first names, but that's for them to decide. 


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