Why I Don’t Hate When People Ask About Baby Names

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!


12 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Hate When People Ask About Baby Names

  1. Oh my sweet, how I miss thee! I love to read you. teehee..and I agree with you a hundred percent. We’ve had our names picked out for a long time now and some people have mentioned; don’t you think you might want to wait until you meet him/her? Everyone always has something to say..sometimes just to say…like right now! lol… x0x

  2. I work with kids and had a terrible time picking a name that didn’t remind me of some trouble maker or something……..such a difficult decision. good luck!

    • Oh, poor you! I can imagine the dilemma, but I think I’d just forge ahead with whatever named I liked… because once it’s your baby’s name, whatever idiot has the same name just becomes irrelevant! Right?

    • Oh, that must have been tough! But I always think that once the name is picked – like say you pick Riccardo – it usurps all other Riccardos you may have known in the past, and just becomes THE NAME. In theory, anyway!

  3. Haha!! You’re hilarious!!! My mother Natasha named me Natasha because she a) wanted to give me a Russian name (3rd language!), b) she loved the name and c) her other option was Nadia but opted out when she heard people “butchering” the name. “It’s pronounced NAH-dya, not nah-DEE-YAH”. Oh, the Russians 🙂
    Pssst…I still tell Cassady that he was named after David Cassidy of the Partridge family. My mom was a huge fan <3.

    • I’d actually wondered about Natasha/Natasha! Makes sense!

      I guess what it comes down to is that names are incredibly personal and everyone’s got their reasons.

      I was almost Roxanne… it was a popular song back in 1980. Not sure my mom understood the context.

  4. Oh wow, you and I would have been quite a pair! Roxanne & Natasha. You & I travelling through eastern Europe would have been interesting :p
    And did I mention that it took 6 months (exaggeration!) for my mom to come around and give me her own name. Ha!

  5. Ha ha! How I can relate! I was lucky to have only 2 languages involved (French and English), but one grand-mother was a secretary in elementary school and we quickly realized she had known a terrible kid of every possible name on the planet! 😉 We settled for names that are written the same in both languages : Eloise and Simon. They suit them so much!

    • I think you chose stellar names, and they certainly work in both languages! Good call not letting your grandmother’s experiences get in the way – I think whatever name you choose supersedes any previous experience with that particular name.

      Oh, and as a Carolyn myself, I have to say your parents chose well (and dodged a bullet with Ludivine…)

  6. My partner and I had strong feelings it was going to be a girl, and we were so dead set on this one name, then we found out it’s a boy! So we’ve been going through names, but I really only like one. And both his mother and my mother do not like the name, and while I can be pretty upfront with my mother, I do not feel the same way about my level of ‘tact’ with his.

    Butttt at the end of the day, it’s our child, and even if we name the kid Cornelius, everyone will get over it, especially the grandmas.

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