Thursday, September 17, 2009

What’s in a name?

When Ian was born we let his gender be a surprise. This had pros and cons.

The biggest pro was that when he was born the “It’s a boy!” came as a revelation.

Suddenly all those half-formed imaginings of what life could be like took on color and shape and spread before us in a future. Before that moment all we had was a possibility. After that moment we had a BOY. Ian.

I think JD, Ian, and I all started to cry at the same time. Although I am sure Ian wasn’t crying of happiness, the way his parents were.

The biggest con was that we could do no planning. A couple people who were DYING to buy gender-specific gifts (especially if it was a girl) were quite grumpy with us. We had to make up two lists of names. And when Ian was born, and he was a boy, the girl names and all the half-formed imaginings that went along with them faded away.

I felt a little sad, looking at them, as if those amorphous imaginings actually had a life… we had just somehow failed to turn it into reality. The sad feeling faded quickly in the joys and terrors of figuring out what we DID have – a brand new boy person to take care of – but the list of names still sat there, unused.

For this baby we decided to find out the gender ahead of time. Partially because we wanted to prep Ian so he was not disappointed on B-Day, but also because we needed that little bit of additional control. The illusion that we could foresee and plan our lives in advance. Haha.

Later I was even happier that we were going to find out because Ian really was getting confused. We would refer to the baby as “your little brother or sister” and eventually he decided he was having a little brother AND a little sister.

He would insist on giving both of them a kiss at bed time, which was cute, and he told everyone at the daycare, which was not so cute. Rumors spread from the daycare and soon I had coworkers randomly coming up to me and congratulating me on the twins. Oh no. No, no, no!

When we did the gender ultrasound it was different from finding out Ian’s gender. It was exciting, but still not real. With Ian we found out we had a boy, and we REALLY had a boy – one that we could see and hear and touch. This time all we had was the same little belly bump and a very alien-looking ultrasound image. We went home in a kind of daze. Huh… a girl. Now what?

The only concrete things we could do were shop and pick out names. We went for the names.

Whenever I brought up the subject of names JD started looking like a cornered animal, so I decided to make up a list and have him either add to it or pick ones he liked. This is roughly how we picked out Ian’s name. I came up with the following list:

  • Asa
  • Evelyn
  • Adriana
  • Asling
  • Samantha
  • Nell
  • Emma
  • Mia
  • Riley
  • Andrea
  • Ariana
  • Logan
  • Katrinn
  • Ellisann

JD looked it over and announced he liked the first three, with the current favorite being Evelyn.

I already had a Word file containing just about every name under the sun, along with pros, cons, and meanings, so I moved those three to the top of the file and researched them a bit more.

Hey, documentation is what I do!

Meanings of the name Evelyn

Hebrew: Alive, life
Old French: Hazelnut, bird, the juniper tree
Norman: Lively, pleasant
Celtic: Lively, pleasant
German: Desired
English: Desired, beautiful bird, hazelnut

Meanings of the name Asa

Hebrew: Doctor, healer
Scandinavian: Goddess
Japanese: Morning, born at dawn
Nigerian: Hawk, little hawk
Swedish: Pet name referring to the pantheon of Gods

Meanings of the name Adriana

Latin: Woman from Hadria; dark one

A short time later my Mom, unaware of the list of three, sent me an email of names she had extracted from our family tree.

-----Original Message-----
From: Elisabeth
Sent: Monday, August 24, 2009 10:40 PM
To: Hanna
Subject: names

Skimmed through the Dutch family names, but any attractive ones are pretty thin on the ground. Here are some;

Oma Benders side
Carolina (pronounced Caroleena)
Ineke (pronounced Eenukuh)

Opa Benders side

Then there are the inevitable Gijsbertha, Geertruida, Henrietta, Cornelia, Albertina, Klazina, Trientje, Vassarina, Francina, Neeltje, and the doomed Annetje, who was renamed four times in one family.

There is also a recurring Barbera. One that I'm rather fond of is Antonia Magdalena Louisa, but she married into the family. Had a last name of Vinju. Strange.

Have fun.

Love you

The ones she suggested are really pretty, but the ones that really caught my eye were the horrible ones. They were AWESOME!

I knew how at least one of them was pronounced (Geertruida = Hair-true-dah), but not the others. I demanded a pronunciation guide and she sent me the following:

There is no phonetic corresponding to the ij sound in English. The letters ij do correspond to the y in most other languages, a sort of straggler from the olden days. The closest I can come to it is the ea sound in break.

Gijsbertha = Heas-bear-ta

Klazina = Klah-zee-na

Trientje = Treen-tjuh

Neeltje = Nailt-juh

Or something like that. I don't know
how to do the phonetic stuff. The tje at the end of a name connotes the diminutive. They quite often put it after a girl's name; Annetje, Jannetje. But they also put it after a girl's name if they gave the girl a masculine name like Hendrikje. Lots of those.

There are a few sounds in Dutch that have no corresponding sound in English. The one unique sound that even Germans have trouble with is the "ui" sound. They used passwords and phrases in WWII using that sound. You'll have to ask me to pronounce it the next time you see me. Young children can do a good job at reproducing it, but not after their native language has got a hold on them.

The potential to forever torment my new offspring was enormous. Truly, I would never do such a thing as saddle her with something like Evelyn Gijbertha Hepsibah (Hepsibah is from my Dad’s side) but the temptation is there. If she ever complains about the name we DO give her I will just have to whip out this list.

Once JD comes makes a concrete decision I'll come up with some options for middle names. Ian has a middle name from my family's side so I feel like I should go with some names from JD’s side this time. I will have to think on it, and yes, do more research!


  1. How about "Fear", as in Fear Brewster. Now that's a good one. Strangely, they called their son "Love". I think they were a little wacked after a few years in Plymouth colony.

  2. And don't forget the youngest son: "Wrestling!"

    I once read a book where the characters were born in that time period and all had similarly weird names. For example, or the the characters was called Armor. It was short for "Armor of God." When I read that I wondered if Love, Fear, and Wrestling had been named using the same convention.