What’s In a Name – by Marie Lydon

Read Marie Lydon’s column in the November 15, 2013 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin. Marie is a Reference Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library.

When our daughter called and asked me to pick up some books on baby names, I was shocked at the weight and thickness of the newer ones. Just out of curiosity, I checked to compare our oldest books on the subject, “What to Name the Baby (A Treasury of Names) 15,000 Names to Choose From” by Evelyn Wells (1953), at 326 pages and “Naming Your Baby: Rules to Follow When You Name Your Baby” by Elsdon C. Smith (1970), 94 pages. Compare these to “The Complete Book of Baby Names: The Most Names (100,001+), Most Lists, Most Help to Find the Best Name” by Lesley Bolton, checking in at 675 pages and labeled “#1 Bestselling Baby Names Book!” or “60,001+ Best Baby Names” by Diane Stafford (2011) coming in at 588 pages. It’s hard enough to decide among the books, let alone deciding on a name.

It used to be so simple, making this important decision, but that didn’t mean it was
always better. My parents both had rather unusual names. My mother was named after her aunt, Sister Mary Stella and she was often called Maytel for short. My father was named Hubert, after his father. He chose his own middle name, Aloysius, so naturally he usually identified himself and signed his checks and letters with his initials, not his given names. When my mother met my father, she did not like either of his names so told him she was going to call him Mac (his last name was McBride) and that was forever what everyone in my mom’s family and those who worked with him in the South called him. My father’s family in Pennsylvania however, continued to call him Hubert.

My mother’s favorite name was Cecelia and she and her brother had a running friendly argument that whoever had the first daughter would get to have the name Cecelia (the Irish spelling for St. Cecilia, according to my mother) and that lucky person turned out to be yours truly. However, my parents thought Cecelia Marie sounded awkward so they named me Marie Cecelia. My two sisters were Regina Elizabeth (translates as Queen Elizabeth, I’m told) and Helen Ann (using my father’s initials after my parents had second thoughts about naming her Huberta Ann.). All of this was fine and dandy until I got my Social Security card and my drivers’ license. It just got frustrating filling out forms, going to the first day of class year after year and correcting the teacher, in front of the whole class, that my name was really Cecelia and not Marie even though all the records said I was Marie Cecelia. By then I was being called Ce, CeCe and mostly Ceya and there was a “Cecilia” song from the 30s and 40s, “Does Your Mother Know You’re Out, Cecilia” before the Paul Simon “Cecilia” was even more popular. This went on for 22 years or so until I finally made a fresh start when I went to graduate school, where no one knew me, and let it slide when the teacher called the roll. My name, from that time on until I got married, was Marie McBride. It was very easy getting used to and a lot more inconspicuous.

There were little problems every now and then. I had to make two piles of Christmas cards based on who I knew when in order to remember how to sign the cards. When my husband Jack met my family, he didn’t know whom they were referring to when they talked about “Ceya.”

I’m told that when I was little, I couldn’t pronounce grandma so I started calling my grandmother “Mimommy” which seems a little precocious. Anyway, my mother’s grandchildren adapted this and called my parents “Mamommy” and Granddaddy. People have asked what we would like to be called when we are grandparents and I guess I always thought that was something the baby figured out but we’ll need to research that. When my sister and her husband were asked what they wanted to be called as new grandparents, they decided they would call themselves the names they wished they had been named, Katy & Tony, instead of traditional grandparent names or their real names. One of their daughters was fine with this but the other thought it a little too unusual and opted for the traditional family “Mamommy” and Granddaddy for her children.

Celebrities aren’t the only people naming babies unusual names. My sister’s daughter and her husband named their baby Enzo because his family comes from Italy and Ferrari is his favorite car. Our next door neighbor’s little girl’s name is Winter. My son’s friend wanted to name his son Tiberius but his wife put her foot down so it’s his middle name. There certainly are more than enough choices but speaking from experience, it seems best to name a baby something you wish you had been named or would be happy to hear yourself called. Judging from all the book titles and the names, most parents definitely put a lot of thought into the process.

When our daughter returned the library books on the subject, she said it was really overwhelming looking through them. They didn’t want any of the Top 100 names or names any of their friends or relatives had used, which narrowed it down a bit. They don’t know what they are having and so far haven’t shared the names on their list, except for the rejects. My daughter-in-law Kristin (now there’s a nice name) said that I need to practice my poker face when we talk about name possibilities so I’m working on it.

Two of my favorite book titles on the subject are “Baby Names: Choosing the Perfect Name for Your Little Star” by Emily Harper (2013) and “Perfect Baby Names: a Parent’s Guide to the Most Important Gift ever Given” by Ruthie Cheung & Rosie Cole (2011). Look for these and other books on the subject in the 929.4 section of our library. As an aside, today someone called the library to reserve a popular book, “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty and the main character’s name is Cecelia. From the spelling of the name, she must be Irish.

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