Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What's in a Name?

When I was pregnant with Ryan, Herb and I spent many months making lists of possible names. We debated the meanings, how each one sounded with our last name, any associations either of us had with that name, even what nicknames could be made from each one. We agreed on Ryan for a boy, but left ourselves the out that we’d make sure Ryan seemed to suit the baby before making it final. Fortunately, when Ryan was born, there was no doubt in either of our minds that he was, indeed, a Ryan.

And yet, we rarely call him by his name. I usually call him Pumpkin or Pumpkin Pie, or Little Man, or Sweetie Boy, or Buster Brown. His cousin Troy has dubbed him Ry-Guy. His father calls him Buddy or Buster or Bubba or occasionally You Big Load. My grandmother calls him Sweetheart.

I suppose it’s not surprising that we use pet names for him, especially considering that Herb and I rarely call each other by name. It’s always Sweetie or Hon or Sweetheart. My parents were the same way – I think the only time I ever heard my dad call my mom by her name was when he called for her and she didn’t hear him. Then it usually went something like this: “Hon. [pause, then a little louder] Honey? [another pause, then still louder] Mum! [brief pause, then at full volume] MAAAAAR-THAAAAAA!!!” Hee.

But I know the nickname phase will only last for so long. By the time he’s in school and able to write his own name, he’ll want it everywhere and on everything. Ryan’s room, Ryan’s books, Ryan’s pencilbox, soon giving way to Ryan’s laptop and Ryan’s cell phone. Then of course, Ryan’s car (with vanity plate “RYNSCR”), Ryan’s apartment, Ryan’s desk at work. That’s when the name we picked will become truly important – when it has a professional reputation associated with it. And that’s why we also considered how each name would look on a brass plaque on an office door, on the back of an athletic jersey, or in lights on a movie marquee. Because you never know what that name will come to mean, 30 or 40 years down the road.

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