Now that we know what flavor of baby we're having, the next inevitable question is, "So, whatcha gonna name him?" In my family, names are taken very seriously. When I was born 29 years ago in Seoul, Korea, the nurse came into the waiting room and announced to my father that he had a baby girl. Instead of following her, he glanced up at the clock and ran out of the hospital without a word. The waiting room was full of scandalized relatives who thought he'd gone totally insane. He came back two hours later, totally out of breath, but looking triumphant because he had my name. Apparently, he'd gone across town to pay a visit to Korea's most renown fortune teller who consulted numerology and other ancient prognostication devices to come up with the most auspicious and lucky name for me -- Minsun. Literally translated: Min means "clever" and Sun means "warm-hearted."
My grandmothers shook their heads and scolded him for spending such an extravagant amount of money on my name and for not even setting eyes on his first-born child before gallivanting across town. Despite all the teasing he had to endure, my father was stubborn in his belief that the right name was the most important first gift he could give me and when he saw me for the first time, he wanted to come bearing that gift. He was convinced that the name would bring me good luck and so far, I have to say that it was money well spent. My father passed away three years ago and his greatest regret was that he would never get to know his grandchildren. Now that I'm pregnant, not a day goes by that I don't regret the very same thing.
Like my father, I am very serious about finding the right name
for my son. I don't agree with Shakespeare's assessment that "a
rose by any other name would smell just as sweet." There is no
one objective reality, just different perceptions of it and your
name is an important part of how people perceive you. It precedes
you and speaks volumes about you. A good name just has a certain
"je ne sais quoi." It should be euphonic and connote something
positive. In contrast, a bad one dooms the person to a lifetime
of teasing or worst of all, it becomes the stuff of urban
legends. We all have stories of a friend of a friend who had a
little too much fun naming their kids. I've heard of a couple who
named their daughter Crystal Shanda Lear or of a poor woman named
Porcelain Latrine, but goes by Porrie for short. I've even heard
of a man named Mr. Hogg who named his twin daughters Ima and Ura.
Maybe it seemed funny at the time, but when the laughter dies
away or that dime bag of pot is all smoked up, the day-to-day
reality of a bad name really sucks.
The baby name question is a slippery slope for me because I do have a few names in mind, but I'm reluctant to disclose them for various reasons. The main reason is that I'm simply not interested in other people's opinions on my choice of names. If other people knew anything about good names there wouldn't be an epidemic of Codys and Dylans or Britneys and Madisons running around. No offense intended if this applies to your offspring's moniker. But hey, what the hell do I know, right? It's just my unsolicited opinion. And since everyone feels entitled to his or her unsolicited opinion, the last thing I want to hear is why you hate my choice of names. I really don't care if your ex-boyfriend had that name, or that kid who teased you in elementary school had that name, or worst of all, your pet has that name. Your opinion simply doesn't apply to me and the last thing I want to do is have my favorite names shot down in flames, after all the energy I've expended compiling this meager list with my husband.
There's also another element at work here and that's plain ol' paranoia. Maybe I've spent too many years in Hollywood, but I never share a story or script idea for fear of having it ripped off or stolen. By the same token, if I find a perfect name that's unusual without being obscure, I'm not going to share it. It's not like I guard my name choices as zealously as the Coca-Cola recipe or KFC's 11 herbs and spices, but why give anybody any ideas? Yet some would argue that I should call "dibs" on the name now so that just in case somebody else wants to name their baby the same name, they won't think that I've "stolen" it.
This brings me to my next pet peeve. Next to playing pregnancy police, there's no other recreational pursuit that people relish half as much as playing "Name That Unborn Baby." The worst offenders are the friends who are still single and have a meticulously laminated list of names that are "reserved" for their future children. God only knows when this nebulous future child will appear, with no significant other in the picture and no prospects in sight. But these friends are the most adamant about staking a claim to their names. Apparently there's some unofficial registry of names for future offspring that you would be well advised to consult before having the audacity to get pregnant first and name a real, living child a reserved name.
And if by some miracle you've managed to pick an unreserved name, chances are, you've picked a name that belongs to somebody's cat or dog, usually your own. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned pet names like Rover or Fluffy? I can't tell you how many times I've heard friends and acquaintances lament over the fact that their first choice of names has already gone to their dog or kitty. This strikes me as the height of comedy, even worse than the name reservers are the name wasters. Some say, "Oh well, maybe the cat or dog will die before I have a child someday." As if the name wasn't forever sullied by the memory of a drooling dog or a clawing cat.
Even my husband is guilty of this name waster syndrome. We adopted a stray female cat and I decided to name her Dora because we already had an identical-looking male cat named Dickens (after Charles Dickens, one of my fave authors) and Dora is the name of David Copperfield's wife. When I first became pregnant, Teddy kept lamenting the fact that we'd already named the cat Dora because he really liked that name for a little girl. I happen to think Dora's cute for a cat, but not my cup of tea for a girl. And even if I didn't feel that way, I will never associate Dora with anything else but a fat, feisty orange feline who snores like a freight train.
I realize that I'm just as hopelessly opinionated about names as
everybody else I've denigrated and I cheerfully admit that. The
strategy that I'm going to adopt is to simply wait till the baby
is born and announce the full name then. That way there's an
element of surprise and nobody can gracefully criticize a name
that's already been bestowed. And if I inadvertently steal a
reserved name from somebody's list or steal your dog or cat's
thunder, I apologize, and oh yeah - tough titties! And on that
mature note befitting an expectant mother, I have nothing more to
say except Happy New Year everyone!