Baby names can evoke a range of emotionsBy KATHERINE SNOW SMITH
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 14, 2002
One of the most frequent questions people ask expectant parents is: "What are you going to name your baby?" These days one of the most frequent answers is: "None of your business."
It's not said in those exact words, but more and more parents are shying away from revealing their babies' names in advance to avoid criticism or a campaign to change it. And some like to keep us guessing so that there is more news to spread to eager ears on delivery day.
One of my best friends in Raleigh, N.C., named her daughter Surpell, after her grandmother's maiden name. She still loves the name, which rhymes with "lapel," not "purple," as most pronounce it. But she wishes she hadn't revealed it before her daughter was born.
"After my experience I wouldn't tell ahead of time again," said Beth Williamson, mother of 2-year-old Surpell. The name drew raised eyebrows and some outright negative comments from friends and family.
"I don't know if they're telling you because they are trying to convince you to change the name," Williamson said. "But I think people are a little better about holding their tongue once the name is on the birth certificate and it's a done deal."
But even after the fact, some people seem to have no problem criticizing a baby's name. Another friend, Jean Galanos, named her first daughter Shalla after her late mother's maiden name.
A neighbor, upon hearing the infant's name, said: "Oh, you've ruined her for life.' "
"You put so much thought into picking out the perfect name for your child and then to have somebody say it's not a nice name, it just struck us as funny. It makes us work that much harder to tell (their children) what special names they have," Galanos said. So far, 6-year-old Shalla and her 5-year-old sister, Quinn, love their names.
The Galanos, who now have four children, have come up with a system that seems to work. They share potential names with friends but not family members. That way no key figures who will know the child forever are on the record as hating the name.
Marcia Hill, a labor, delivery and baby nurse at Bayfront Medical Center, said it seems the moms under 30 tell everybody their unborn babies' names, while older women are less vocal. Either way, the names don't always stick anyway.
"I'd say about 40 percent will say: "Oh, we're not sure now that we've seen her,' after the baby is born," Hill said. Then they go with a different name.
Another friend who is due any minute with her first baby has told people the name she has picked but jokes that maybe she should have announced it and copyrighted it before she was even pregnant. Buffy Hall plans to name her baby girl Lilly, but has ruffled a few family feathers with the name.
"My aunt asked my mom what I was going to name the baby and when she said "Lilly,' my aunt said: "She can't. That's Molly's name. She's always wanted to name her baby Lilly,' " Hall recently told me. Molly is Hall's 24-year-old cousin -- who isn't married, isn't dating and has no plans to have children any time soon.
This brings up another issue. Copying names.
If you keep your name a secret and then someone else gets pregnant shortly after and reveals her baby name and it's the one you've been secretly planning, you're in a tough spot. Now when you name your baby, you look as if you copied her name.
There are hitches either way. With both my children, we told people the names we picked if it was a boy or a girl ahead of time. But as the grandparents became more opinionated this last go around, I think we'll keep it quiet when we have our next.
If you have your heart set on a name and don't want to be pressured to change it, you should steer clear of a book called The Baby Name Survey Book: What People Think About Your Baby's Name.
More than 100,000 people from across the country were asked what image came to mind when they heard certain names. The respondents were all ages and races and lived in urban, suburban and rural areas.
The thumbnail personality profile for Brandon, for example, says people think he sounds like an all-American boy who might grow up to be student body president. Brett, however, is an uncontrollable brat who may grow up to be a yuppie businessman.
Jessica is thought of as a spoiled rich girl. But Jessie is a cute, funny, smart tomboy.
I had already decided I didn't like this book or its sweeping stereotypes before I looked up my girls' names. Olivia is thought of as either a "stuckup sexy blonde" or an "old-fashioned woman who is motherly and sweet." If I have to choose, I obviously prefer the latter. This mundane profile matches her sister, Charlotte, who is supposedly "old-fashioned, motherly, fun and plump." At least she gets to be fun, but she pays for it by being plump. But then how else would two girls turn out when their mother is named Katherine, and she is thought of as "old-fashioned and motherly"?
Of course my husband gets all the luck. His name conjures up an image of a masculine man who is quiet and smart.
I hate baby-naming books.
I think one reason there is so much discussion and criticism of baby names is because there are so many different and unique ones these days. The Parenting magazine Web site, Parenting.com, lists the 10 most popular baby names from 2001 all the way back to 1880. Look how many have changed.
Riviera Day School's Spring Fling will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at the school, 175 62nd Ave. N. Kids will enjoy touring a fire truck and police car and playing games for 25 cents a ticket. A bloodmobile will be on site taking donations. Call 525-8866 for more information.
-- You can reach Katherine Snow Smith by e-mail at Oliviachar@aol.com; or write Rookie Mom, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.
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