I just happened to peruse Babycenter’s 100 most popular names tonight and almost lost my grasp on reality when I noted that my daughter’s name, ‘Katherine’, is not even on the list and that my second son’s name, ‘John’, is freaking 57th. What the Hell? (‘Will’, in case you were wondering, isn’t listed, but William is #15. I think most people are abbreviating it as ‘Liam’ nowadays, given that ‘Liam’ is 4th on the list.) Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want my kids to have the same name as everydamnbody else in their class. I don’t want them to have to use their last initial to separate them from the 1000 other Sophias and Aidens in the classroom. (Those names were the #1 names. I’m not hatin’). That being said, in what kind of world does a traditional name like ‘Katherine’ not make the list, but ‘Neveah’ does? (‘Neveah is ‘heaven’ spelled backwards, in case you missed that little slice of cleverness.) And what about ‘John.’ It’s the quintessential male name in the English language. It was so common at one time that they came up with ‘John Doe’ to describe the anonymous Everyman. Prostitutes refer to their anonymous clientele as ‘John’. We call the toilet ‘the John’. That’s how common the name John used to be, and come to think about it, that might be why it’s not so common now. Still, it’s a good solid name. Nonetheless, ‘John’ isn’t even in the top 50, but ‘Jayden’ is in the top ten? How can I live in this world?
Being a teacher, I’ve encountered many different names. Because I teach high school, I’m not so good at telling you what the current popular names are unless I google it, but I can tell you the top names in, say, 1995. I get really interested in this every year because every year has it’s repeat offenders. For example, this year, I inexplicably had three Henrys and three Victorias. My class rosters read like a listing of the Kings and Queens of England at best, and Burke’s peerage at worst. Fortunately, the Henrys weren’t in the same class, because if they were, and you think I wouldn’t have referred to them as Henry I, II, and III, then you don’t know me very well. Then there was the year of ‘Caitlin.’ This year almost ruined me because there was NO consensus on how to spell ‘Caitlin.’ I think I had six ‘Caitlins’ that year and every one of them spelled it differently. There was Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelyn, Kaitlynn, Caytlin, Kaitlin, and Caitlynn. Every time I wrote a hall pass for a ‘Caitlin’, I lost at least 2000 brain cells trying to sort out how this particular Caitlin spelled her name.
At any rate, the process of naming a child is a daunting task. It’s probably the most significant thing you do for your child, aside from conceiving them in the first place and indoctrinating them to like your style of peanut butter (my kids’ like crunchy, which is Bill’s preference. I like ‘creamy’. I feel like I’ve failed as a parent.) Names are important and I personally found the task to be so intimidating that I just named all my kids after family. In short, my children have secondhand names, or in Will’s case, fourth-hand names. Will is the William Lowe IV, John David was named after Bill’s grandfather, my great-grandfather, and my father. Katherine Elizabeth is named after my maternal grandmother, after whom I was also named, except my middle name came from my paternal grandmother. I felt safe in making this call because these names are super traditional and therefore unlikely to raise any eyebrows. I proudly announced my children’s names as soon as the ultrasound revealed gender. Nobody had a problem with my boys’ names. On the contrary, everyone seemed to like them… then I announced that my girl would be named Katherine and we would be calling her ‘Kat.’
Bill loves the nickname ‘Kat’. He thinks it’s the quintessential sporty tomgirl name. I like it because my grandmother went by ‘Kat’. Nonetheless, when we announced this to family and friends, a few people audibly rejected our child’s name. I wasn’t/am not currently offended by this. As Bill pointed out to our non-Kat-fans, the good thing about Katherine Elizabeth is that the potential nicknames are infinite. The only thing that is out is ‘Katie’ since that’s my name. Some people are calling her ‘Katie Beth’ these days. I call her ‘Katie Beth’ sometimes, but other times I call her ‘Kat’ ‘KB’ and ‘Katherine.’ Bill exclusively calls her ‘Kat’. My side of the family calls her both ‘Kat’ and ‘Katie Beth’. Bill’s parents call her ‘Katie Beth’. Others in Bill’s family have said that they’ll call her ‘Katherine.’ Will calls her ‘Katie Beth’ and ‘Baby Kat’ and John just calls her ‘Baby’. All of this is fine except for the fact that sometimes I feel like she’s the baby with no name. She has so many names that she actually has no name at all and will therefore grow up constantly searching for identity and reinventing herself, which will undoubtedly involve multitudinous piercings and hair colors. Or, she might end up going totally off the deep end and changing her entire gender like Chastity Bono and come home and tell us that her name is now “Kent” and we can all just fucking deal with it. (Because she’ll be using hard core profanity by then too.) Seriously though, I’m sure that one day, probably when she gets to school, she’ll ultimately choose her own name and I just hope it’s not something like ‘Killer’ or ‘Aquanet’ but is rather a legitimate derivative of her own name. It’d be easier though, if we’d all just come to a consensus on what to call this baby and save her the trouble. So what do you think, internet? Please name my child.
You’re gonna call me what?
Help a sister out! What do I look like to you?