What’s in a name?

I oscillate within a spectrum of emotion regarding the task of naming our baby. I have always had difficulties naming things. I struggle to name characters in short stories, for whom I am responsible for only five pages. If it takes me a night to write a story, it probably took me three days to imagine the names of the characters within the story. This goes back further. Stuffed animals. I was never satisfied with their names. They went through a process over the years, the names changing- morphing into nicknames- until the beginning was unrecognizable.

Perhaps this stems from a confusion identifying with my own name. My given name is: Lorraine. For some reason the sound of the name reminded me of walnuts when I was little. Walnuts, and old ladies. No one in my generation was named Lorraine, besides me. But very few people called me Lorraine. I got Rainie, Rainie-pooh, and pooh-bear. As I grew up I did some research into what, “Lorraine,” meant. I learned that it was French, which I wasn’t, and one book said that it meant, “One who weeps.” I was a big believer into confessing things into existence and actually believed that my name acted as some kind of prophecy, causing me to be depressed and emotional. Strangely enough I have never found that book again, and all of the websites I look at now claim that Lorraine is a derivative of, “Laurel,”  which means crowned- as in holy or royal. I have never identified with that definition though. Eventually, after years of nicknames, I settled on Kojishi, which isn’t even related to Lorraine. It is the Japanese constellation of the little lion, and it fit me much better. I never officially changed my name, and I doubt that I ever will, but I definitely feel like I am Koji more than Lorraine.

So, the first issue with baby-naming is that I don’t want our child to go through that period of dissonance. I also still believe strongly in the power of prophecy and am hesitant to give our child a name that will not be positive later in life, while at the same time not giving it a name that will be too much, or is irrelevant in today’s world. Also, not being a Christian, any saints names are out, which means most Bulgarian names are not going to work for it.

Which brings me to the second issue in naming: Bulgarian law. I don’t know why I thought that just because I am American I would get to name my kid according to American law when we are having it in Bulgaria. American law = anything you want that isn’t offensive. Bulgarian law = highly patriarchal. Since the father and I are married the baby is required to take the father’s first name as his middle name and either the father’s last name or grandfather’s last name as a family name. This leaves one name that we are allowed to choose (the first), and even that could be denied as being not Bulgarian. Now, last names aren’t something that I worry about too much, usually. I didn’t change mine during our wedding simply because Nikola and I wanted the SAME hyphenated last name (Nikolov(a)-Daggett) and they would not allow that. One of us could have Nikolov-Daggett, the other would be Daggett-Nikolova, which made no sense to us considering we wanted to share a last name. We figured that, for the next few years at least, I would keep my last name, he would keep his, and we would just hyphenate the kids. Turns out that Bulgaria has such patriarchal traditions that they will in no way allow a mother’s first or last name to appear in the father-family slots UNLESS the child is born out of wedlock. I suppose that we could get divorced in order to get the hyphen, but is it really that big of a deal? So, the baby will be either Something Nikolov(a) Nikolov(a) or Something Nikolov(a) Ivanov(a). Apparently the world is still ruled by the barbaric custom of bloodline decent, which doesn’t sit well with me, but our only other option is to birth the baby in the US, where Nikola cannot get a visa on such short notice, so that is out. Generally this wouldn’t be a huge deal, except there is a fierce feminist-mother in me that doesn’t like the idea of the baby I carry for 9 months suddenly “belonging” to my husband’s family and not OUR family. Honestly, if I could just do away with the last name altogether, I would.

But all of this still leaves the problem of the first name. Unfortunately I had to study Walter Benjamin last year, which is not the philosopher to study before you have to name someone. Benjamin examines how we repeat history through the act of naming, constantly recycling names allows us to recycle and redefine our hopes and dreams of the past and subconsciously try to atone for historical wrongs. Being Jewish he was also concerned with the concept of Adamic naming, and finding the true name of things, including the true name of God. According to Benjamin the day that history will begin is the day when everything is called by its true name, and in that act of naming, is able to take its true form. So this gets me thinking about recycling names, and putting all of the previous hopes, dreams, and also failures of a name into a child. It makes it absolutely intimidating to get it right. I think that I would like to be one of those parents who just doesn’t name their kid and lets them choose their own name as they grow. Of course, that is not about to happen in Bulgaria. Ultimately that leaves combinations of letters that form sounds that have not been used as names (or at least not to our knowledge), unless I want to saddle my son or daughter with the whole weight of human “history.”

I guess that I have about 4 more months to worry about this and then it will be done. We will have picked a name, and we will use it, officially, but in the end it is a journey that the baby will go through as they grow and I am sure there will be plenty of nicknames and eventually this child may find their true self, just as I have. As its parent I can just be there to help it explore who and WHAT it is… <sigh> the first in many many MANY steps of surrender as a parent. 

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