By Ruby Coats Mosher
Do you have names picked out yet? Every expectant parent hears that question dozens of times before their bundle (or bundles!) of joy arrives.
Why is everyone so interested in “Baby’s” name? Because it gives him an identity, almost a personality, answers those who have studies the phenomenon. “Every name sends out signals,” say Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran, authors of the book, Beyond Jennifer and Jason: An Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby. “It transmits messages and reverberations of its own: a level of energy and intensity of color and sheen, a texture.”
Although it is often difficult to come up with a name for one baby, let alone two, three or more, the following are some basic questions expectant parents choosing multiple monikers are best advised to ask themselves.
Is each easy to pronounce? Since your children’s names will be spoken many times over their lifetimes, try not to saddle any of them with a tongue-twister. Catch potential problems with pronunciation by repeating the name aloud several times in succession. Practice with and without the middle name. Zane Noble, for example, looks great in writing but when spoken, the repeating “n” sounds can fuse into something sounding like Zane Oble. If the speaker tried to pronounce each “n” separately, the name might then sound like Zana Noble.
Does each have a pleasing rhythm? While practicing a name for pronunciation, also note the rhythmic quality. Does the name roll off your tongue like a melody or do you prefer it to sound more “sing-along”, as in the name “Mary Jane Rein?”
Do the initials spell F.A.T.? Children can be charming, kind and innocent. They can also be thoughtlessly cruel. Historically, a school-age “game” many children play is inspecting each other’s initials for dirty words or unflattering names, then taunting their owners. Think of the fun they’d have with Patrick Edward Eubanks, Frances Alice Tatman or Bradly Michael Wright? You can’t outsmart a child, but you can do your best to think like one. Examine the initials of a name in every combination of first, middle and last. Watch not only for words but also abbreviated sentences formed by letters that sound like words (a, b, c, I, m, n, p, r, u), Ida May Butts might not be happy with her initials when she goes to school.
Is the spelling of each unusual? Rosenkrantz and Satran advise against deviating the spelling or pronunciation of a common name. For instance, you should think twice about changing the spelling of Cindy to Cyndi because of the potential confusion involved. Also, don’t expect others to pronounce Maria with a long “I”, no matter how clearly you explain it on a kindergarten form. Both Cyndi and Maria can expect to spend the rest of their lives correcting other people’s attempts at pronouncing and spelling their names.
There are many considerations when choosing names for your multiples. Some are more important than others, but more parents will agree that the following hint offered by Bill Cosby in his book, Fatherhood, is one to pay attention to: “Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell, the name will carry…”
SPECIAL DO’S AND DON’TS FOR NAMING MULTIPLES
Don’t Rhyme. Resist the temptation to choose rhyming names. Twenty-two-year-old Karla remembers the confusion caused by her sister’s rhyming name. “At school, classmates and teachers would sometimes call me Marla, my sister’s name. That really bothered me. The only reason people were confused was because of our names. I mean, I had short brown hair and Marla’s hair was long and blonde—we were totally different.”
Don’t Make A “Precious Pair”. To foster the individuality of your multiples, avoid the temptation to give them names that make it easy for others to lump them into a category; it will be hard enough to keep them from calling your children “the twins”. Naming your girls Heather and Daisy, for example, may forever brand them “the flower girls.”
Don’t Fall Into the Same-Initial Trap. If you cannot resist using same-initial first names, make sure the middle initials are different. There is too much potential for the mix-up of records and other information when there are two J.A. Smiths that went to the same school, have the same parents, same address, same birthday, etc.
Don’t Forget Nicknames. We live in a society that loves to shorten names into nicknames. Be sure to consider all possible nicknames. Will it sound like fingernails scratching a chalkboard to you when your daughter, Elizabeth, is called Liz, Betsy or Libby by her friends?
Also, avoid choosing names for your multiples that have the same nickname. Parings such as Robert and Roberta, or Christine and Christopher, offer the potential for mix-ups—some of them embarrassing. For example, does Gerald or Geraldine get to open a letter “To Gerry” marked “SWAK”?
Do Maintain Consistency of Style and Tone. Names can be grouped into categories such as contemporary, classic, artistic, attractive and studious. Rosenkrantz and Satran recommend selecting family names out of one category or another. Keep in mind that some names such as Brittany, sound contemporary, while others, such as Pearl, have an old-fashioned ring to them.
Do Choose Several Names for Each Sex. The ultrasound technician says, “Congrats! You are going to have twin girls.” Does that mean you can totally concentrate on names for girls? No way! These tests are not always 100 percent accurate in predicting babies’ sexes. Furthermore, there have been cases of a third baby remaining undetected by an ultrasound. Your best bet would be to have an extra name or two for each sex—just in case.
Ruby Coats Mosher, D.V.M., of Emporia, Kansas, is a veterinarian and mother of fraternal twins.