What’s in a Name?

Since I started writing in my spare time (oh, 20 years ago give or take), I have been obsessed with names and their meanings. It started by wanting to have the perfect name for each character, which grew into wanting to have options for the perfect name for each character. I started with a baby name book, the kind that new parents can get free if they sign up for certain things, and a notebook with built-in alphabetisation. That notebook was colour coded, meticulously kept, and the source of hundreds of “perfect” character names. My handwriting changed, and the notebook underwent some heavy revisions, but it was my personal name bible for a long time.

20 years later, I don’t have the notebook any more but I do possess no less than three baby name books as well as several books on etymology, and the development of written and spoken language. When I say that I proposed a thesis to do my Masters in the connections of language, naming structure, and symbolism between the Egyptians and the Mayans, I am not lying. I was accepted into the program – I just chose not to go.

I am a huge word nerd.

When I can’t sleep at night because I’m fighting with flashbacks, latent anxiety, and night terrors, I comfort myself by doing something soothing and repetitive. I go through the alphabet, one letter at a time, and think up names. Sometimes I start with girls, sometimes with boys. According to my rules, I am not allowed to pick the same name twice. Other rules might include a set number of syllables per name, or names I would never, ever burden my children with. And so it goes.

Matt used to freak out when I randomly spouted, “What about Siobhan?” during tv shows. Now, he accepts that we are talking about mythical children we might someday discuss having, and we can talk openly about the names we like and dislike. And since it’s so hard to find a name that you love that isn’t also the name of every other little boy on your block, it’s nice to be able to have these kinds of things picked out well in advance. You know, just in case.

Currently, our top-runners are names from a breakfast food and a physics genius. But that too may change. If said mythical children ever enter the realm of possibilities, at least we will have explored all the options and, I’m sure, picked out the perfect name.


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