Sunday, February 15, 2009

What's in a name?

I love etymology. I'm such a word nerd. Thinking about a word being born amazes me. I suppose it makes sense, then, that I wanted my kids to have names that have meaning. I didn't want my kid to be the 4th kid named Alyssa in her Kindergarten class. No offense to any Alyssas--I just lived quite a few years at Markofer Elementary School as Heather S. I wanted my kids to just be able to go by their first names.

Here's the etymology of the monkeys' names:

Addie was going to be named Jillian. We had decided on it for sure. It had been between Sydney and Jillian for a long time, and in the end we decided that we liked Jillian the best and we were going to call her Jill. I have a tendency to morph names and nicknames (although I believe this part was E's contribution) so while she was in utero we started calling her Jilly Bean, and this became Bean and then just Beanie. We called her Beanie the entire time I was pregnant. I remember when we moved into our house the week before our due date, and the whole time we were painting her room and nesting, I was talking to her... Beanie, we're getting ready for you to come...Beanie, hurry up. This isn't funny anymore...

That all changed on a trip to the family cabin with E's folks (I don't know the exact date, but I know it was sometime close to when she came--which must have been after my due date). I was up early and the only other person up was his mom, and we sat out on the swing together looking out over the river. While we were talking, she asked if I had ever thought about using my mom's middle name, Adele. I said yeah, I loved Adele and we had previously considered it as a middle name, but it didn't really go with Jillian. Once upon a time we had loved the name Bethany Adele, but that was before one of my good friends had a child and named her Hannah Beth, so it was out. She also knew we really liked names with a nickname, so she said what about Addie? I was completely, totally in love. That was it. That was the name.

We started talking about middle names, and she suggested Marie. You couldn't find another name in both families more prevalent than Marie. Marie is my middle name, her (E's mom's) middle name, E's paternal grandmother's middle name... and then the variations: my mom's name is Mary, and my mom's paternal grandmother's name was Maria. We have the Marie thing covered. Giving her that middle name meant that there was one Marie in our family for four generations straight. I had been hoping for a family name, so this was the natural compliment to her first name.

We owe E's mom for her name. It's a wonderful gift. I'm glad she talked to me that day. The other awesome (and funny) part of this story is that 10 months later, when we were in Yosemite with the fam, E's mom let it slip that she was so glad we didn't use that ugly name, Jillian. Up until that point, that name was being saved for future Partingtons. I laughed so hard. No way we were going to use it after that.

Buddy Bear was a little bit different. I had major anxiety related to boys' names. I tend to like the more traditional, old-fashioned names, but I didn't want to just go with something bland. The other problem we were having is that between us, we have cousins named Max, Sam, Josh, and Zach. All of those were out. I was stuck. I didn't like any of E's names, and he didn't like any of mine. It felt so much harder to name a boy.

So since we're totally weird, we decided we didn't like calling my stomach "the baby" and "he". I especially couldn't stand "it". We knew he was a boy by that time, so on a trip to the bay area to look at a car part (oh yeah, that's romance!) I flipped through a name book and we convinced ourselves that calling my belly Hank as a place-holder until we found a real name was freaking hilarious.

So we called him Hank. Addie called him Hank. I distinctly remember her putting her hands on my belly and her mouth right up next to it and asking Hank? What are you doing in there? Are you playing and sleeping? Meantime, we were trying to find a real name. Once again, we decided on one together. We were going to name him William. I had major reservations about William because I know how our families are about nicknaming too, and I wasn't sure I was comfortable with Willie... but I decided that I liked Will Partington enough as a name that I'd let that go. We sat Addie down one day and told her we decided on a name. She asked what it was. I said William, honey. We're going to name the baby William. I could tell that she didn't understand what I was saying, so I asked, Addie, who is William? She smiled and answered: Mommy's Hank.

At this point, we had to ask ourselves a few questions. Could we actually name a kid Henry? I mean, I wasn't going to just name the kid Hank--he needed a real name so he could make something of himself, right? But Henry? Was I dooming him to getting beat up on the playground and a high school career spent talking about Dungeons and Dragons in the Library Quad? I just couldn't commit to it. I liked the name Hank, but I wasn't sure on Henry. E was on board. He liked it. I just couldn't do it. I kept putting it off by saying I needed to look at him.

Well, look at him I did. One glance and I was absolutely certain. The funny thing is that I was going with Henry just as a backup, so he'd have a formal name, and we probably both call him that more than Hank. Already at (almost) 4, he is comfortable with his many monikers. He told me a while ago that he has lots of names: Henry, Hank, Buddha, Buddy, and Grandpa calls me Hank-o. His middle name was a cinch. It was always going to be Scott, my maiden name. I like how it functions as a first name. It reminds me of my dad.

She gets called Roo most of the time, and he is most often Buddy. Roo comes from absolutely nowhere except my weird little mind--when she was a baby I called her Addie Roo, and Roo just kind of stuck. I'm really proud of their names. I think they both suit them well, and they were everything I wanted them to be--old fashioned, easy to spell, unique, formal enough for the corporate world, but casual enough for me to call affectionately down the hall. I love that with their names they each have a story. Man, I love those little monkeys.

Now, if I can just figure out how the heck I ended up with a name like Heather.


  1. Probably from the bushes outside the window of the hospital bed.

  2. I've always liked uncommon (though not incredibly unusual) names. I'm even more sure I don't want to name my kids something common after working in an agency with 67,000 employees. Scrolling through the global address book, I'm happy my last name is listed as Partington and not Smith - there is one Partington, there are about 50 Smiths. Same goes for my first name. :)

  3. I'm not sure how I got all the way back to this post today but I love the names you have for your kids! I also love hearing about them. Their personalities come out through your stories of them. When I think of having kids I really hope that I can have the relationship you have with yours :)