At least once a day, someone asks me if we’ve thought of names for the baby. While I’m sometimes tempted to pretend that this has never once occurred to us, I actually think it’s a perfectly reasonable question to ask a friend who’s expecting. It’s just a thing you say.
I know that baby names can feel intensely personal. Many Anglo-Montrealer parents-to-be are in the same unique position as us – they need to come up with a name that works equally well in three languages: English so they feel comfortable while yelling at the child, French so the child’s name isn’t mangled by teachers and SAAQ clerks, and then of course, whatever language their in-laws speak. Some people are brave enough to give their child a remotely interesting name that sounds cool in just one of the two languages but rather unfortunate in the third. I can’t give examples here as I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But anyway, no name is safe from distortion or ridicule: even my own last name, Pinto, was regularly reinterpreted as “Pitoune” in elementary school, which loosely translates from French into something like “bimbo”. And poor Riccardo was “Retardo” for a brief period during kindergarten until, he says, he nipped that in the bud.
To me, the language of my in-laws is certainly a factor. I would hate for Riccardo’s Italian parents to be forced to struggle with spelling a name like “Grayson” or “Phinnaeus”, never mind that those aren’t even saint names. But the clincher is his last name, Cellere, which in my view simply doesn’t sound right following a non-Italian name such as “Keith” or “Derek”. Yet another consideration is that since his surname is already unpronounceable by over 97% of non-Italians (true story), it would possibly be cruel to give our child an equally difficult first name. (By the way, it’s pronounced TCHELL-e-ray, but don’t even try.) All things to keep in mind.
With all these considerations, it seems normal that people are curious about what we have in mind, so I try to remain patient when the question invariably pops up. After the slightest of hesitations, I usually get into some form of the schpiel above before rattling off a few of our choices. Inevitably, the asker then sees fit to indulge in some visceral reaction ranging from full-on gagging to launching into a diatribe on why a certain name is fundamentally flawed. Just last night, a dear friend who shall remain unnamed, upon hearing one of our choices, helpfully pointed out that all of the people he knows who have that name are either 5’2”, or a thug. (I remain undeterred; I don’t mind if my child grows up to be either of those things.)
Despite the enormous pressure of naming a human and the plethora of factors involving in such a decision, I don’t mind discussing our name ideas with friends or even strangers, for the following simple reason: I pretty much don’t care what anyone thinks. It does not matter in the slightest that a mean classmate you had in second grade has caused you to harbour a lifelong aversion to a certain name, or that your Anglo-Saxon background prevents you from being able to pronounce another.
Anyway, I have a feeling that everyone will get used to whatever name we pick, just like how we all giggled when the restaurant “Grinder” opened on Notre-Dame, but now we don’t even associate it anymore with the gay dating app of the same name. See? People are fickle.
Anyone else have a name dilemma? Share it below!