Papa Sez by Todd Hunter-Gilbert Issue #4
Papa Sez
by Todd Hunter-Gilbert

The Name's the Thing - December 2002

Past Issues

A few months back I was reading a parenting magazine (probably Parenting, as we subscribe to that one, but others do cross our paths). I found an article on selecting baby names. The author was tauted as an expert who had written 17 books on the subject. 17! On baby names! Who would have guessed there was that much to say.

Anyway, in this article she was going to give her personal experience with picking names for her own children. "Now," I thought, "we're going to see some genius."

She had three children. For the first one, they selected family names from her and her husbands ancestors. The name was perfectly reasonable and all her other relatives (i.e. the ones the baby wasn't named for) got pissed off. For the second child, she and her husband could not agree on names. So they went into separate rooms, each selected a single name, then came together and decided which would be the first name and which would be the middle. The two names clashed and nobody liked it. For the third child, everyone (first kids included) suggested names and then they voted out the ones that were worst. They came up with a name that nobody liked, but at least they didn't hate.


Naming a child is a little scary. All your relatives (blood and in-law) will judge it--even if they say nothing. More importantly, the child itself will be stuck with it for all of its formative years, if not its entire life. As a prospective parent, you start wondering if naming a child Norbert would guarantee nerdiness. Would applying first and middle names of John and Wayne guarantee time on the front page of the National Enquirer?

So here's our experience. First, we have a few family names we'd like to include. We listed those and decided the first child would get one of those as a middle name. But what to do for a first name?

Well, I told Denise that I was a little weary of the common letters which start so many people's names (J being the big contender, but M and L being others on my list). D was happy to avoid those letters. Then we thought, as long as we were selecting based on initial, why not pick a really unusual letter? We looked at Q, V, X, Y, and Z. We started with Q and had Quinn in about 30 seconds. Quinn Darden Hunter-Gilbert.

We're getting prepped to start thinking about a second child, so names have been on our minds again. For a boy, I started lobbying for Denzel. It is a family name and also an homage to one of my favorite actors. I was pushing that for a first name, but we couldn't find a middle name that went with it. No matter what we tried, it just sounded clunky. Then one evening we were watching a TV show and Denise got excited about the name of the male lead, Logan. "Denzel Logan?" I whined. "Logan Denzel." Mission accomplished.

Ah, but a girl's name. I so want a little girl. Last 12 babies on the Gilbert side have been boys. Staring down those odds, we started looking for girl names. We went back to the obscure letter theory (which we'd obviously ignored for the boy name) and started listing possibilities. In the end, the list was about 25 names long and had some very good ones on it (most of which I've since forgotten).

We narrowed and whittled and long before we got to just one name, I could see that we both wanted "Paris". In the fashion that D and I make decisions (i.e. both leaping to the destination at the same moment), I could feel us each looking for that instant when we would both speak. As the moment jelled, my mind wandered off to other cities with names that roll off the tongue. And as Denise opened her mouth to speak I said "Not Paris." She was startled and, probably, getting ready to argue when I told her the name I'd hit upon. Milan. We had a winner.

Middle name? Having lots of time, we threw it on the back burner. Last week the answer landed, and, as with Denzel, the selected name got moved to the middle. We were watching Charmed, with its entire cast of lovely and talented people. Though an enseble cast, most viewers would probably agree that Alyssa Milano is the lead. And, again as with Logan, it was Denise who added the name and placed it first. Alyssa Milan.

Of course, we've still got time before the next child is born and nothing is written in stone. But we're pretty solid with these names. Barring twins of the same gender, we may be done picking names now. Until, of course, grandkids draw nigh and it's time to tell our children what names we think they should pick.

Be well.

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