Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?” But let’s be real, he was probably drunk and trying to monologue his way out of paying a killer bar tab. Little-known fact, actually: to make the line work for Romeo and Juliet, he actually had to cut out the last word, which was a rather slurred, “maaaan.”
Names are important. They have weight. They are more often than not the first things given to us after we suck in an airy, non-amniotic breath. A name is so important that a parent has to bestow it, and for the most part, we are expected to keep it forever. (Notable exceptions to this rule include every person born post World War II named Adolf Hitler, and Joaquin Phoenix’s first-life as Leaf Phoenix.)
Our names paint a picture for better or worse. When a guy named Atilla is all, “FOLLOW ME TO YOUR DEATH IN BATTLE” you probably do it, and not just because he is wearing a scary hat. Had the dude been named Ned the Hun, there would have been a lot more hemming and hawing before the battle-axes were picked up, of this you can be sure.
For much the same reason, when Hannibal was all, “ELEPHANTS, TO THE FRIGID ALPS WE GO”, off they tottled, with dreams of peanuts in their hearts. They did this because his name was Hannibal. If his named had been, say, Steve, the elephants would have stomped him, and then gone to the beach to take a vacation where they would have worn sunglasses to amuse themselves and others. Because Steve is not a name that inspires epic feats. It’s a great name, I know a lot of Steves. They do stuff like make their own gin and sell locally sourced key lime pies. Steves drop stuff and go, “oh shucks”. They do not invade nations. What’s in a name? Everything.
That’s why it’s so galling to me that me in the past year 146 people have named their newly born daughters Khaleesi. Yeah. Take a minute. People are looking at their newly born little girls, at their perfect pink toes, their suckling mouths, their shockingly wide attentive eyes and the vast possibilities in store for their fledgling lives and going, “I shall christen her after the mother of all dragons, played by an actress who I have seen pantomime reverse cowgirl on a former professional wrestler with lustrous kohl-lined eyes.”
THE HELL PEOPLE.
I mean, I love Game of Thrones as much as the next person. Probably a little bit more. But I also love Star Trek: Next Generation. This does not mean I plan on naming my firstborn spawn Riker. Unless, God grants said infant with an especially impressive fully grown beard of excellent quality. But in such an instance, WHO COULD FAULT ME FOR IT?
In all seriousness, I’ve definitely read names of characters in books (I’m looking at you, American Girl Doll Kirsten) and seen characters in movies (Helen in Sliding Doors) and thought their names were beautiful. But I feel like a name should have resonance -- it should speak to hopes for a future yet to come, or tie a child to their roots.
Naming my child after a plastic doll designed to teach people about being a Swedish immigrant to America has no resonance. I am not Swedish. Nor am I plastic. And naming a child after a lovelorn Gwyneth Paltrow sets her up for a life of hoping she meets a sexy-funny Scott in an elevator and doesn’t wind up with too-long hair and a cheating live-in boyfriend. That’s a lot of pressure, y’all.
If I had been born with the name of say, Prudence, I feel my life might have unfolded a little differently. I either would have adhered to the word itself, buttoning even my top button and considering a life in the holy orders, or going the other way and becoming a furious punk rock fiend, forever spitting at people and breaking bottles over the heads of those I deemed to be affiliated with “the man”.
As it stands, I’m a Rebecca. I’m a Becca when I feel trusting, and a Rebecca Jane when I feel mysterious. I am never a Becky because it doesn’t suit me. When people call me Becky it makes me feel like they are talking about someone else. I look over my shoulder for the girl jumping up and down in place and waving. Becky is not anyone I know. Rebecca, she’s someone I can get behind.
It’s a common name, but it’s my own. Would I feel the same if my parents had named me after Danerys? Probably not. Now Arya -- that’s whole other deal.
Have you ever wanted to change your name? To what? I wanted to be named Anastasia for a while. If you had to name your kid after a character in a T.V. show, which would you pick? I’d go Don Draper and give the child a prop cig and a prop baby-bottle full of scotch. I KID, I KID. To the comments with us!