It’s not as easy to find a child named after an Apostle as it used to be. Fewer Marks, Thomases, Peters and Pauls are around — which is the polar opposite of when I was growing up. One of my peers has a father, brother and husband all named John. Yet, when she gave birth to a child, she named him Kenya. Kenya is Caucasian and Jewish, and I’m pretty sure no one in his immediate family has ever even been to East Africa.
And so it is with all the kids I know. Many have location names from a place they do not hail from. Like the young New Yorker I know named Raleigh and a Mexican-American preschooler I know called Havana — and their friends London, Lima, Berlin, India and Asia. Then there are the gender-backward names for girls like James, Frankie, Parker, Michael and Elliot, as well as the growing trend in showing off your highbrow English lit or art history degree by naming your baby Daschle, Harper, Emerson, August, Matisse, Tristan or Rosalind.
And before my dearest friends get angry with me — I’m shouting out these monikers because every one of them was on my consideration list for my three children. Nor did I stray from the concepts. One of my daughters is named Coco — not after the designer, but an island in the Maldives where we discovered our pregnancy. That pregnancy turned out to be a boy, so we named him Beckett since I have my own useless drama degree. And my littlest girl is called Sawyer after my father, Tom.
These are the names that I deemed sensible “enough” — although they are not sensible at all. My in-laws speak English as a second language and I knew they would inevitably call my son “Bucket.” Which they do. As well as “Becky” and even “Jacket” once.
But how far is too far? According to The Week, a Brazilian man went to court after authorities refused to let him name his daughter after Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Martina Navratilova. They refused to register “Isabelle Nahvratinovski” because the name was “too strange and would subject her to embarrassment.” Which seems obvious to me but ease in understanding and avoiding ridicule was never my direct goal in picking names.
Yet, if originality was my intent then I also failed. I cringe at least once a week, when I hear another mom yell for her Beckett, Coco or Sawyer at the park. And dare any of us admit that we considered a name from a hit movie? My youngest daughter’s middle name is Trinity. I longed for this name (for my third child) but had to hope her birth was far enough away from “The Matrix” that people wouldn’t think it was one of them.
I’m not alone, though. Three of the most popular names of 2009 were the main characters in the “Twilight” franchise. Even a supporting character, Cullen, has moved onto the most common list — but that’s also Irish and don’t we all know an Aemen, Siobhan, Declan or Limerick. As well as a name in another language on a child that doesn’t speak that language — like Dolce (meaning “sweet” in Italian), Suchari (meaning “sweet” in Swahili) and Zusa (meaning “sweet” in Yiddish). My kids play with one of each.
My own barometer for “too out there” in a name has always been imagining my children at their first job interview. When they reach out to shake the hand of their possible employer, will they be laughed out if they have to say “Hello, I’m Rhiannon/Blue/Cloud/Apple.” I fear even a Harvard degree won’t outshine these social enigmas.
But now that I’m done procreating, I’m planning to call the dog my children will eventually want all of the names my husband refused me for them. So don’t be mad if Dante Allegra Brooklyn runs away from me and leaves a calling card on your lawn. She’s just a bitter “female dog.”
Diane Farr is known for her roles in “Californication,” “Numb3rs” and “Rescue Me,” and as the author of “The Girl Code.” You can read her blog at getdianefarr.com, follow her on twitter.com/getdianefarr or contact her on facebook.com/getdianefarr.