The Name Game


As Sophia Petrillo would say: Picture it, Summer 1987.

A young girl is rocking a side ponytail, two pairs of fluorescent colored socks and acid wash denim shorts. She is playing hopscotch with her best friend on the sidewalk of her suburban street, chewing bubblegum and talking about all the things young girls talk about. The topic turns to what the two friends are planning on naming their children. Specifically, their female children. Her best friend confidently announces, “I am going to name my daughter Brooke.” The other replied, “Mine will be Jennifer.”

What these two trendy young ladies weren’t aware of yet, was that life would eventually grant them husbands, in-laws, more friends and even more experiences that would lead them to abandon the names they planned and envisioned at 10 years old. Fast forward 25 years and these girls are now married and expecting their first child. When discussing baby names, they both find out the name their 10-year-old selves declared that summer is no longer an option. For one of them, the name is not favored by her husband. The other is pregnant with a boy, so girl names need not apply.

They now go back to the drawing board or, as I call it, The Name Game.

The Name Game is a game that many end up playing and it can be tricky because of its nuances. There are many different versions of the game and it can be played with a variety of players and ages. Like any good game, there will be a wide range of emotions displayed throughout. The key to this game is to pace yourself because you are in it for the long haul, or at least until you are holding that baby in your arms and they ask what name to put on the birth certificate.

So, if you are expecting, here are a few things to expect when playing The Name Game:

Pressure. There is a lot of pressure in this game. You have one shot and this kid is going to be stuck with this name for the rest of his/her life (at least that was the thought going through my head). It has to be perfect. So you purchase baby name books at the grocery store checkouts, you scour the Internet and you make lists. Lots of lists. And then… you cross out every name on every list and throw them away and give up hope of ever finding the perfect name. Ok, maybe that is a bit dramatic and maybe I am speaking from experience, but hey, you’re pregnant and entitled to be a little dramatic. 

Rules. This game has a lot of rules with it. Self-made rules, that is. Rules such as: you both have to agree on the name, it has to sound nice with the baby’s middle and last name, the name cannot conjure any negative images/feelings (like the bully from elementary school, the awful boss you had working a part-time high school job, or a character from a horror flick), the name must/must not be the same as anyone in your extended family, the name has to be original (or not), strong sounding, a certain number of syllables, start with a particular letter, etc. AND, the pregnant girl reserves the right to change the rules at any time. Partners, consider yourselves warned.

Conflict. This game, like any game, can get heated. It could definitely cause fights between you and your partner. After all, you are both different people with different ideas. I remember when my husband and I were playing The Name Game with our firstborn. My husband thought he was being “funny” and kept suggesting the same name over and over because he knew how much I was against it. Well, as you can imagine, my baby hormones did not find him funny at all and I gave him the silent treatment for a while.

Critics. I would feel a bit remiss if I didn’t warn you about the critics. In any game, there are always critics, those who don’t agree with the outcome. In the Name Game, your critics come in the form of those you love most. Speaking from experience, if you are sensitive to other’s remarks, I highly suggest you keep the name to yourself until the baby is born. I did this with my first child but not with my second, and I regretted that decision. A loved one scoffed at my chosen name when I revealed it prior to the baby’s birth, and it hurt me very much at the time. I also witnessed my sister-in-law being hurt by a family member’s reaction when she revealed the name of her baby-to-be, and one of my dear friends told me that her family member once provided her an unsolicited list of suggested names to “help her out.” Names are a personal choice yet everyone feels it is their business to weigh-in, especially those closest to us. Do yourself a favor and keep the name(s) a special secret between you and your partner. Once the baby is born and you announce the name, no one can advise you otherwise.

As a result of playing The Name Game, you will find the perfect name for your little bundle. In the end, it will be a W once you hold your little one in your arms and speak the name you have chosen. Until then, good luck and keep your eye on the prize!