Second Thoughts


You know when you’re talking to a service representative over the phone, and you have to use the phonetic alphabet to spell out your name or something? Professionals use the NATO phonetic alphabet (think alfa, bravo, charlie, delta), but I’m no pro. So I make up my own phonetic alphabet as I go. However, I’m beginning to be concerned about what my personal phonetic alphabet Freudianly reveals about me.

Take last night, for instance. My dear old grandma called to wish me happy birthday and to get Violet’s birth information, and the conversation went something like this:

Me: We named her Violet Fe. “Fe” means “faith” in Spanish.
Grandma: Oh, okay. Violet Say.
Me: No, not “Say,” actually—it’s “Fe”: F-e.
Grandma: Oh. S-e!
Me: It’s F as in Fanny and e as in elephant.
Grandma: Oh, I see. S as in Shannie and e as in elephant.
Me: Hmm. Let me try this again. It’s F as in . . . Fat, and e as in elephant.
Grandma: H as in Hat?
Me: [Tossing my hands up in disbelief, only because Grandma won’t know how amazed I am that she can not understand me.] F! F as in . . . Fruitless!
Grandma: Oh! F! Okay, so F-e. Feh. Feh? Is it capital F and capital E?
Me: No. It’s one word: capital F and lowercase e. [For the love of Pete. It’s a two-letter name. Why are we having such a long conversation?]
Grandma: Alright—F and e.

So, Grandma finally got it (maybe), but not before teasing out the fact that while thinking of my daughter’s name, fanny, elephant, and fat were the first descriptors that came to my mind. Don’t get me wrong—I love fat babies (well, except maybe this one)—it’s just that fat elephant fanny wasn’t exactly the subconscious image I was going for with my little girl.

I’m not gonna lie—sometimes I do second-guess myself about the names we’ve given our kids. I did that the first time someone (yes, a foreigner) called my Halen “Helen” and then asked whether that wasn’t a girl’s name. And now, whenever I say Violet’s first and last name together, in my mind I see the cringe on Joey’s face when he said the two names made odd bedfellows. And then it dawns on me: I am no different from all those Wasatch-fronters who name their kids things like “Braker” and “Runner” and “Tricker.” My name choices are maybe weird too!

The funny thing about kid names is that they’re invariably more a reflection of the parent’s personality than of the child’s (unless you’re one of those lucky Native Americans who get permanent monikers only after their personality develops). Our culture is terribly presumptuous to saddle babies with names they haven’t earned. And yet, what’s in a name? Don’t we with the lives we live define our name on our own terms, even if it is common enough to have been defined a thousand times before? Heck yeah! Forget the naysayers. I love Violet Fe.

Have you ever had second thoughts about the name you gave one of your kids? Or did you get saddled with a name you would have rather declined to define?