This is the real, honest-to-god page (in my mother’s handwriting) that my parents used to decide my boy name and my girl name before I was born. They crossed out each one until they narrowed it down to two – one for a girl, and one for a boy. I was almost Della (after Della Reese), but I guess they liked Jennifer just a little better.
When I was born on St. Pat’s Day, they changed “Marie” to “Kathleen” (more Irish), and when I changed my name to Matthew, I added an extra “t” because I liked that spelling better. But this is how I chose my guy name. There was another one on the back burner, but this made the decision easier.
But if you didn’t have obsessive parents who saved everything (yes, even a strand of hair) in your baby book, there are some things you might want to consider if you’re in the process of choosing your new name:
1. Ease of pronunciation – not for other people … for you! There’s something about the way that my palate is shaped that causes people to think that I’m saying “Max” or “Nat” when I say “Matt.” I have taken to saying, “Matt – short for Matthew,” when I introduce myself so that people will understand me on the first go-round.
This potential problem never even occurred to me. So say your new name out loud a few times to make sure that you and your tongue are both comfortable with it.
2. Gender – yours and your name’s. Most cultures have gendered names, although some can be neutral. You certainly don’t have to choose a gendered name, and if other people’s gender confusion is not important to you (or if you delight in it), then don’t give it a second thought.
But if being correctly gendered at all times – even, and especially, on the phone – is important to you, then you’re better off with Elizabeth or Robert than with Pat or Gene/Jean.
3. Ethnic background – yours and your name’s. If you live in the United States, it’s possible that your family attempted to “Americanize” or “Anglicize” their children’s names in order to make them more “mainstream” or widely acceptable.
(I used to have a Polish boyfriend, of immigrant parents, whose first and last names were a complete conundrum for some in the U.S. to spell and pronounce. But his parents gave him the middle name of “Jim” in case he wanted an “American” name. He went with the Polish one.)
If you have an ethnic heritage that you would like to celebrate, you might consider a name that reflects that. Now that you are outwardly becoming the person that you truly are, you have the chance to honor every part of yourself. (And don’t forget – you can change your last name, too.)
4. Age – yours and your name’s. Depending on how important assimilation is to you, you might want to consider the era in which you were born. A 60-year-old woman named Ke$ha or a 60-year-old man named Keanu might stand out some. It doesn’t really matter – it all depends on your goals. There are plenty of websites that will provide you with popular names for your birth year or decade if it matters to you.
5. Fads – coming and going. Certain names are timeless and others tend to be more of-the-moment. If you have always loved Paris, France, then the name Paris will have a special meaning to you that will probably last a lifetime. If you just caught Paris Hilton on some new reality show and thought she was cool, give it a little more time (please).
But the true test of any name is that a) your really love it, and/or b) it means something to you, and/or c) it just feels right. That will be a name you can live with.
What else should people consider? How did you choose your name?