Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Favorite Name

Before David and I ever seriously started thinking about kids, I was already seriously thinking about their names.  I'm good with names.  I remember people's names.  I memorize all my students' names by the end of the second class.  When I meet people, I like to know how they spell their names (if I can picture the name written down, I'm far more likely to remember it).  I like to know if there's a story behind a baby's name, whether it's a family name, or if they were named after someone famous, or a favorite character, or a favorite place, or whether a name that was coined just because the parents liked the sound of it.

I felt like choosing a baby name was serious business.  Maybe it was because I think I got pretty lucky with my name.  People often compliment on it (and I say thank you as though I selected it myself).  The truth is that my mom had always wanted to name her daughter Elizabeth but after she married a guy whose last name was Taylor, well, it was obvious that name had already been taken.

(Speaking of which, I was saddened to hear that Elizabeth Taylor passed away while we were in Florida--that lady had some serious moxie.  When I was a kid, I heard something about her having "violet eyes" and I decided that I wanted my eyes to be violet so in second grade on a tell-about-yourself worksheet, I wrote, Hair:  Brown.  Eyes:  Violet.  Which was a total lie because they are a very ordinary blue.)

So since Elizabeth was out, my parents found another name they could both agree on--Brooke.  It was actually inspired by a character on the soap opera General Hospital (although I'm not sure that Brooke was an ideal role model).  I didn't always like my name.  As a kid, I used to long for a multi-syllabic "princessy" name:  Isabella, Sabrina, Bianca, Katerina, Alyssa.  Or, a cute name that ended in "ie" or "y" like all the cool girls in my class:  Lori, Kerri, Kelly, Katie, Nikki, Leslie.

Now I appreciate my name because it's easily recognizable but not overly common.  And although it sometimes gets spelled wrong when people drop the "e" (even my students), it's never mispronounced.

My middle name, Diane, is for my mom's childhood best friend, who died just a few weeks before I was born (it would have been my middle name anyway) and even though I used to wish it was Diana (more glamorous!), I love the sentimental part of it.

I made up my mind early on that my kids would have names that were interesting.  And awesome!  And original!  And smart-sounding!  At one point, I was convinced that my future children would be named Scarlett Wildrose and Sebastian Merryweather. When I was in fourth grade, I read the Baby Name Book that my mom had and selected my favorite cat's name accordingly:  Frances.  Because it meant "free," and Frances had been a stray who wandered in off the street.  I was disappointed that my own name didn't have a more interesting meaning than from the brook (lame!).  And I was jealous of my friends who had names with more romantic or cutesy meanings.  Amanda:  beloved.  Melissa:  honey bee.

Of course I've always been a big reader, so I also thought that I'd choose to name a baby after a favorite book character.  Maybe one of L. M. Montgomery's--Anne, Emily, Sarah.  Or a name inspired by one of the Little Women--Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy.  Perhaps Lyndall from Olive Schreiner's Story of an African Farm.  Or Maggie after Maggie Tulliver in The Mill on the Floss, my favorite George Eliot novel.  For a long time I really favored Emma after Jane Austen's character, but then it was STOLEN by Rachel on Friends and I gave it up.

Of course when I actually got married, I picked a guy with a doozy of a last name:  Duckworth.  I kept my maiden name for lots of reasons (detailed here, if you are actually interested or if you are bored and just want to see a wedding photo) but I felt the weight of responsibility for my future children.  With a last name like Duckworth, you've got to be careful.  There's a whole list of names that (in my personal opinion) are automatically off limits:  Daisy.  Donald.  Hugh.  Louis.  Dewey.  Ebenezer.  Drake.  Also, Lucky.

And when I actually got pregnant and we found out it was a girl, we quickly realized that there were more non-eligible names.

Everybody has a list of names they'd never touch.  Usually associated with obnoxious people you know or your spouse' ex(es).  Since David taught PE at the time and saw every kid in kindergarten through third grade, and I'd been teaching college students for quite a few semesters, we had an especially long list.  Many conversations we'd have would go something like this:

[all names changed, of course]

I'd say something like, "What do you think of the name Kendall?"

"Well, do you want her to be a bad listener and pick her nose constantly?"

"Hmm.  Okay, no.  How about Madeline?  I always liked the Madeline books."

"Madeline is cute but there are about 25 Maddies in my school right now.  The only more common name is Alexandra."

"Felicity?  That's not very common."

"Well, I shouldn't say this about a second grader, but the Felicity I know is kind of a bitch.  She tattles, too."

Then David would make a suggestion.

"Do you like Lucy?"

"Omigosh in third grade I watched this girl named Lucy puke up her lunch onto her lunch tray and it looked like pink mashed potatoes.  I'd think of that every time I said her name."

"What about Andrea?"

"Isn't that the name of that girl you took to prom?  I don't think so."


"Oh, I had a student named Meredith and she was tardy every day and handed in every assignment late and then said I was unfair when I gave her a C.  Also she smelled like beans."

And so it went.

I honestly can't remember how we landed on the name Eliza.  I know that it's a name I'd always liked. It always seemed to me rather unfairly assigned to spinster aunts and strict school teachers in nineteenth-century novels.  But I thought it was a really lovely name, a derivative of Elizabeth that sounded more musical.

Most important, it met all of my crazy made-up criteria.  First of all, it was a real, easily recognizable name.  No one on Jersey Shore or The Hills was named Eliza.  It felt classic to me, in an old-fashioned sense.  It wasn't too weird or too cutesy so it matched well with the last name Duckworth.  It wasn't too stuffy or too silly, and it was somewhat serious without being boring.  Neither of us had ever had a student named Eliza, so it wasn't tainted by tattling, nose-picking, eye-rolling, or tardiness.  My husband had never dated an Eliza (that I know of!).  And I felt like it was the sort of name that was suited to a variety of respectable future career paths.  I could imagine it looking impressive on a business card (of course I typed it a lot, in various fonts, to make sure).  I thought it was the sort of name that had enough sparkle to look lovely in Broadway lights, but was solid enough to be followed by a phrase like "Supreme Court Justice."

In other words, it was the perfect name.  Versatile, elegant, sparkly, solid, not overly popular, slightly bookish but adorable, and (I think) slightly British sounding.  Eliza Duckworth seemed to me reminiscent of Eliza Doolittle, and any association with Audrey Hepburn was a positive in my opinion.

Of course, we had a few other options we were considering, and for a long time I thought we really weren't sure about it.

I had a moment of truth when I made a friend named Eliza--she introduced me to her PEO chapter (which I decided to join).  This was a make it or break it moment, because we all know that whether we know someone casually or intimately, sometimes a specific association is enough to eliminate interest in a name.  This is why names move generationally.  Nobody my age is naming their babies Amanda or Jennifer because we were surrounded by Amandas and Jennifers when we were in school.  Likewise, my mom's generation did not give births to Debbies and Connies because they knew so many of them.  Most of our favorite names don't belong to anyone we know in real life, or belong to a friend or family member we want to honor.  So even though I really liked my friend Eliza, did I want to name my baby Eliza now that I knew another one in real life?  In the end, I told my friend Eliza that although I'd liked the name before I met her, knowing her didn't change my mind about it, and I meant that as a HUGE compliment to her.  (She's always been partial to her name, so when I told her it was in the running, she rooted for Eliza as our choice.)

And then my great-aunt Beth sent an e-mail listing various family names I might want to consider, and the list included the name Eliza (as well as Azulah, Elvina, and Thankful, which did not make our short list although if we ever have another baby and it lives, we might totally follow the Puritan tradition and name the baby something like Thankful Hopeful Joyful Delightful Holy Shit Balls We Are So Glad You Are Alive Duckworth).  Eliza was the name of a great aunt born in 1809 on the Talcott side (my mom's side).  We had decided to use Taylor as a middle name no matter what (which eliminated the possibility of Sophia or Stella--both previous favorites--because I wasn't going to saddle her with the initials S.T.D.).  I liked the idea of paying homage to my mom's side of the family with her first name and my dad's side with her middle name (of course David's family was represented with his last name).

We practiced saying it.  I imagined singing "Little Liza Jane" to her.  I wrote her name in cursive and then printed it.  I imagined a teacher calling role for "Eliza Duckworth."  I considered how it looked with our names:  Brooke, David, and Eliza.  We knew David's grandmother wasn't a big fan of the name (she preferred Elizabeth), and that gave me pause, but David (perversely) seemed to like it more after she expressed her (unsolicited) opinion.  When my friend Stephanie mentioned that she liked old-fashioned names and was favoring a girl's name that began with an "E," I sent her a somewhat frantic e-mail--"Are you considering Eliza?  Because it's my favorite name" (Fortunately, she named her baby Evelyn).

So even though I kept telling people we hadn't decided, or we had it narrowed down to two names, we knew by late November that she was going to be our Eliza.

But then it was December 6th.  And she didn't have a heartbeat. 

And there we were, shell-shocked and heartbroken, and the nurse wanted to know what we were going to name our poor, sweet, dead baby.

To tell the truth, I wasn't sure I wanted to call her Eliza.  After all, that was the name for a live baby.  A baby who would grow up and need business cards.  A baby who might be an actress or a writer or a Supreme Court Justice.  A name we would shout at t-ball games and write on birthday cakes and print on the inside of jackets and lunchboxes.  A name we would say out loud everyday for the rest of our lives.  That was why I had so carefully selected the perfect name for her.  I thought maybe we should save it.  I didn't want to let go of the possibility of introducing people to "My daughter, Eliza."

When I read Elizabeth McCracken's An Exact Replica... the naming of her baby was one of many things that resonated with me.  I understood why she named her baby "Pudding" because my first impulse was to name our baby "Baby Duck."  We hadn't started calling her "Eliza."  We'd still been calling her "Baby Duck."  That had been her name as long as I knew her! Maybe we should call her something else now, something we hadn't thought about before, when we were so happy and hopeful.

But when I suggested calling her something else, David said no.  (And I am forever grateful for that.)  He said that Eliza was her name.  It had been his absolute favorite all along, even when I declared I was still undecided.

And so Eliza is her name.  It's the name of my first daughter and the baby I miss with all my heart.  It's the name that's spelled out on the silver bracelet I wear everyday.  My Brazilian friend Carol pronounces it "Eleeza" and I think it's adorable that way too.  It's a name I love to see written or hear said aloud.  I happen to think it's the most beautiful name in the world.

It's my most favorite name and since there was so little I was able to give her, I'm glad I could give her that.

And I would really like to hear about your favorites names--why you named your children what you did or the story behind your own name (and it's ok with me if you talk about living babies--I wish we all were talking about them).


  1. Julius got his name way before we were even thinking about kids. D and i are very opposite for everything, and children names was no exception. he liked more common names, and i like names that aren't too out there, but aren't too common. so one day as we were driving we were having the discussion of names. boys names were always the hardest for me (i had quite a few ideas for girls names), so we were tossing out boys names, and i just happened to say Julius. D immediately liked it, and quickly said that he thought his middle name should be "Cesar" (that was just as quickly vetoed). though i agreed to it during that convo, when i got pg and we found out he was a boy, i continued my name search. but i just never found anything that we both liked better. plus in the u/s pics he really *did* look like a Julius (whatever that means). so it just stuck. Luciano came a few weeks before he was born inspired by the little boy in the movie Gladiator (his name was Lucius). and that's how my Juju got his name. i always thought that it was a very regal name. that i was setting him up for greatness. i just hoped that his greatness would come during his long happy life. :'(

  2. We had decided on a few girl names but did not share them with others. We had compiled a list on our computer. During the pregnancy I would call her baby and our last name. I don't like naming a baby before he/she is born but when our little girl came we settled on Leia. My hubs and I both have middle names that start with L's so I think we both liked that. I liked the spelling Leah but hubs like Star Wars. He won. I love her name. I also think Eliza is a beautiful name.

  3. Landon was inspired by the movie, "A Walk To Remember," I just hope that one day he finds a life-changing love like that.
    And our youngest, Hanson, was inspired by the crazy Hanson brothers in the hockey movie, "Slapshot", as chosen by my husband since I got dibs on our first. Coincidentally, they are only two letters apart.

    For the record, we also have a surname that complicates the naming process: Layer. I joke about naming our next child "Ozone".

  4. I apologize in advance for what is likely to be a very lengthy comment.

    Otis came to his name in much the same way Eliza did. I am a teacher, and my husband has worked with high school kids doing drama workshops on and off for about 15 we had LOTS of names ruled out for the same reasons you and D did.

    Then, also, because we are some of the last of our friends to have children, many of them took some of our favorites. My best friend and I barely recovered when she named her daughter Talulah, a name that I had called "dibs" on back in 1980 when I first saw Jody Foster in Bugsy Malone...we couldn't believe that we hadn't discussed my extreme attachment to that name. (I sometimes still think she is lying that she didn't know.)

    So thank goodness we were having a boy, because there would be no Talulah problem.

    But we wanted something uncommon, but not crazy-California hippy style (I was also a yoga teacher, so I couldn't do something so predictable as Shanti or Rain or River or Blyss -- not that I EVER would, but still...) I also grew up in Berkeley with a fair share of Rainbows, Sunshines, Miracles, even a Rapunzel and a Vahjeena (seriously.)

    So we were at a standstill for a long time. Otis jumped out very early on as a favorite for both of us, but we were kind of surprised that we both loved it so much.

    But it held up under all our tests - just like you did for Eliza...We could see him being a rock star or a professor at Yale. Being a very cute toddler and an equally handsome groom at his wedding. Smart, funny, quirky, but also old fashioned. With some soul. We joked about naming him Otis Redding Nidy but instead settled on giving him my dad's name as his middle name: Allen. My dad passed away three years earlier and I very much wanted to honor him as I named my firstborn.

    It was awkward because both of our dogs have O names - Oliver and Oswald - and we never ever wanted to be *that* family with matching initials - and we almost didn't name Otis Otis for that reason - but in the end, we loved it too much.

    I listened to lots of Otis Redding through my pregnancy and fell more in love with the name. Every time we got in an elevator and saw the name Otis we smiled.

    I have had some of the same sadness, knowing that I never get to have a LIVE Otis. I never get to see his name on a business card, on a diploma, on a speeding ticket, on a mother's day card. I don't get to hear his friends calling for him on the playground. I don't get to hear a girl calling for him on the phone for the first time, giggles in the background, "May I speak to Otis?"

    It breaks my heart. I love his name so much. And at the same time, I love that HE has that name. He is none other than Otis.

    Now of course as we face the possibility of a second, we are stupefied. How could we ever pick a name as perfect as Otis? (Not to mention that Milo has also always been a favorite of mine, but Milo and Otis? Geez, it makes me gag just thinking about it.)

    We have a chalkboard painted onto one of the walls in our home. During my pregnancy with Otis, we kept a running tally of names that we liked, along with some clear joke names as well, in bright colored chalk. All the names are still there: Blaze, Peregrine, Nutello, (all jokes, btw) and right across the middle of the board, in big capital letters, stand OTIS. I don't know that we'll ever erase that board. We have photos of my pregnant belly silhouetted alongside the chalkboard, the biggest spot lining perfectly up with the O in his name.

    Brooke, thanks for letting me write this all here, so much of what you wrote resonated perfectly - our perfect children really did have the most perfect names.

  5. Oh, and PS - I LOVED your thoughts about a name for a future child (Thankful Hopeful Joyful Delightful Holy Shit Balls We Are So Glad You Are Alive Duckworth - it really rolls off the tongue, do you mind if we steal it - amending of course to our last name?) - my most recent (very dark) joke about a name was that all I could come up with for a name for a future child was Not Otis; but, to be fair, that was before the u/s this week where I fell in love with *this* baby, so it's back to the drawing board for us.

  6. Thankful Hopeful Joyful Delightful Holy Shit Balls We Are So Glad You Are Alive Duckworth-- this is great.

    I have loved the name Eliza since I was a Little House on the Prairie fan. Even though Almonzo's sister was kind of a PITA, I named Barbies and Cabbage Patch Kids Eliza Jane anyway.

    Jack is my grandfather's name, and Harrison was the only name we could agree on. Now Ben wants to name a future son Truman, but I told him there is no way I am going to yell, "Harry, Truman, come inside." Ridiculous.

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  8. OMG-- to the other sarah-- I LOVE the name Tallulah more than any other in the world, but I have a niece named Lucy who goes by Lulu, so Tallulah (with its natural Lulu nickname) is off the table.

  9. Eliza is perfect.

    For us, we were undecided on names but had seriously discussed Samuel as a possibility. It is my husband's first name, but he goes by his middle name. I was on the fence, due to his last name starting with an S and I'm not usually a fan of alliteration when it comes to names. But, when he came out and he was lying on my stomach, naked, perfect and very much dead, I knew his name was Samuel. I call him Sam though, as I would have if he lived. His middle name is Marc, after my twin brother. I guess I'm a bit boring as I tend to go with family names. I named my second son George after my father, as he helped me so much in the aftermath of Sam's death. He was very honoured; it is the only time I've seen my father tear up.

  10. Once again, you are singing my song, Brooke, lol. ; ) LOVE names, love hearing about how people got theirs -- used to read name books, even when I was a little girl.

    I totally agree with your philosophy of naming. Some of the names I hear people giving their kids right now (not to mention the spellings...!) drive me up the wall.

    I wrote a post awhile back about names, & how Katie got hers:

    A blog you might appreciate, if you don't already read it:

  11. Melissa (yes, that one)March 31, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    This is an infinitely interesting topic, though stressful because I'm always a little worried I'll learn someone has chosen my favorite name before I will have had the chance to claim it.

    For us, Hayden's name was a no-brainer. Our first was always going to be Hayden, nevermind the baby's gender. If a girl, then Hayden Morgan (to lay all homage to one side of the family). As a boy, we decided Hayden for my family, and Jeffrey for Jared's.

    For the next one, I have a girl's name selected. No idea on boys, so that could prove to be a dramatic selection process.

    Okay, since I'm writing it here for posterity, that means NO ONE CAN TAKE MY NAME: Emmeline Scout. Emmeline for Emmeline Grangerford from "Huck Finn," Scout for, well, you know.

    Names are so vital to identity. I love that Eliza's was so carefully considered. Her identity is not diminished by her life's trajectory. She is no less your daughter and should have no less thoughful name. Love you, Brookie.

  12. I wrote this to Carter on my blog a while back:
    One thing I think is so amazing about you is the meaning of your name. I love your name and was so very excited to give it to you, and when you passed, I was heart-broken. But then I learned that Carter means "Tourist or Sojourner" more specifically "A temporary resident." I knew it was perfect for you. You were only a temporary resident on this planet but you accomplished so much while you were here. There are lots of people who do not accomplish much of anything while they are alive, but through your life and death, you did great things. That makes your mommy so proud of you! I am proud that you are mine. I love to show you off and to tell people all about little, wonderful you!

    So, my little "temporary resident" Carter, lived up to his name.

    Our rainbow baby, Abigail's, name means my Father's joy. I picked it before she was even conceived because I knew God would be joyful when she made her appearance.

    p.s. I laughed my hind-end off when I read your could be name for a new baby! Especially the Shit Balls part!!!

  13. Brooke,

    This might be the best post I've ever read of yours. I love your style.

    And like the rest, I love your Holy Shitballs You're Alive thoughts for future babes.

    Eliza is simply gorgeous. Elegant. Timeless. It would've made a damn good name for a Supreme Court Justice.

    An aside... my husband always joked to name our child a "cultured" name as to trick our way into more scholarship money. He also wanted the initials to be something clever-- you know, like Catherine Olivia Wilson. COW. Right, that's a life full of eating disorders in the bag.

    I've been saving a name post in my blogger drafts for months now. It's something I thought of immediately on December 5. Do we name our dead child Andrew? Do we keep his middle name (my FIL's name) as his middle name knowing he will never grow or "become" something. Knowing we will never use the name other than speaking in past tense? We, too, agreed that he deserved the very best since there is very little we were able to actually give him. So Andrew it was. No other reason than a love for the name. It sounded smart. It sounded timeless. It DIDN'T amount to something stupid when the initials were placed on paper. It was easy to pronounce/write/spell.

    As for future Wilson babes... it's an issue. We have two first names chosen but the middle name is questionable. Do we use Andrew's first name as the middle name of a future boy? Do we use my FIL's name as the middle name, again? Is that sacred to Andrew only? Is it fair to my FIL that his name was meant to be used out of love and respect and was only used for a son who never lived outside of the womb?

    Perhaps I'll write about names soon, too. I might just save that for a time when I have a child to actually name... sometime in the future. Sooner that later, I hope.

  14. I was on a similar boat with naming girls, after working in a group home for little girls for 10 years, there was a wealth of names off the consideration list forever.
    Genevieve got her name for a couple reasons, the first being that I always loved the French language, and very much wanted to pick a French name. What cemented it was the book The Ya Ya Sisterhood. Teensy's free spirited, strong, loving mother was named Genevieve, and I loved the French proununciation used in the movie. Although now I've rethought it and would almost prefer to have named her Guinevere, as it's similar in sound, spelling, and meaning, but the shortened version Gwen is much more acceptable to me then the Jen people try to use. But it wouldn't have the same meaning to me, so I'm pleased you asked this question to remind me why I chose it in the first place.
    We did change the name we had for the son we lost. We lost him before we'd found out boy or girl, they told us afterward, so we hadn't been calling him by his name yet. We desperately wanted Oliver to be the baby we got to take home forever, we could not agree on any other names for boys, and wow did we try. So we decided to name the son we lost Thadious, as it is a name I love, and that he didn't particularly care for, but wasn't that opposed to. I have no background stories for Thadious, I just like it.

  15. Oy, it is such a task to come up with a name with a teaching background, isn't it? I can't imagine it with two teachers.

    Also, I had a co-worker named Brook, but she spelled it without the e, and it always bugged me, especially since my younger sister is also a Brooke. (Possibly also a GH name.) It really is a good name though, if our last name wasn't Brooks, and I didn't already have a sister Brooke, I'd seriously use it.

    With Olivia, I just liked it and didn't know any Olivia's (amazingly). Joe wasn't crazy about it at first but it grew on him. We had the same discussion, even though she was still alive and not yet born at the time, it was pretty clear that she was going to die. Ugh, what an awful discussion.

    And you already know how we settled on Lucas.

  16. Also, I think Eliza has the perfect name. :)

  17. Thank you for asking this question! I loved reading all of the posts so far...
    Well, we have a girl name that we have had picked since I think our 1st date. We love the name and had agreed to it from the start.
    But then we had a little boy, and named him Avery. I actually had that on my list for girls. I got it from "The Color Purple" and loved Shug Avery's character. She was such a hero to Celie, and I just loved it. But when we had a boy, none of the boy names fit. He was so small and blonde and sweet, that Avery was the only name that rolled off the tongue. So Avery it was! It suits him still today.
    Then when we had our precious little girl, we didn't really discuss names in the hospital as we were in shock that we were even there. So, when we had her at 21 weeks, we just kept calling her "Love". Like, "hello my Love", "You are so beautiful, Love", "Oh, I love you so much", "Aren't you the sweetest little Love", and so on. So when the midwife asked us what we were going to name her, my husband just said "Love". I couldn't believe he would want to name her that, but it was just so perfect. Also, his dad's mother's maiden name was Love, so it also had a family meaning.
    It's funny, I have always kind of felt weird about Love's name, because it isn't one I would have ever used on a child that I knew was going to live. But I just felt weird about naming our daughter who we knew "wasn't" going to live a normal name that held no true meaning to us. So Love it was.
    I haven't read "An exact replica", but now I want to, because I can so relate with her naming her child "Pudding". Just like I would have totally understood if Eliza had ended up with the name "Baby Duck". I wouldn't have laughed, but would have thought, "what a perfect name for your precious Baby Duck". They were with us such a short time, that we can only give them the names that are right for them, family names or not. It really is, in some ways, harder to chose names for those who are with us only a short time, than to name those who will carry on longer.
    Thank you for this post. Eliza really is a truly beautiful name. Perfectly chosen for your beautiful daughter.
    Oh, and I can't go without saying that as a fellow "Brooke", I totally love your name! ha! I too have been complimented on my name throughout my life, and have said Thank You as though I invented it. Also, it's funny, but my SIL is also named Brooke. So there are two of us in the same family with the same first and last name now!

  18. Brooke you are the first person I've *ever* heard that longed for the name Lori. I giggled when I read that. I hated my name growing up. My mother had wanted to name me Daphne and to this day I'm still a tiny bit peeved that she didn't. I mean, c'mon: Daphne was the svelte beauty on Scooby Doo. Who wouldn't want to be a Daphne? In the end, I've grown into my name; I've turned out to be woman as solid and sturdy as Lori sounds.

    My husband and I often talked about what we'd name our baby when we finally got pregnant. If it was a boy, we'd name him Moses. Except then it was a boy, and Moses didn't seem quite right. Plus, I really wanted to name our first child after my mother, who died 10 years ago. For a while, he was Tennessee (where my mother was from) but that is such a BIG name to live up to. Not to mention hard to spell. And it didn't live up to the Yelling The Name On The Playground test: "Tennessee, get your butt over here right now!" didn't quite flow off the tongue the way I wished.

    When people asked what we were going to name him, we told them Camry. And that if we had a surprise twin, we'd name him Corolla.

    While in the womb, we simply called him Junior. It was "Junior's room," and "when Junior arrives," and "Junior, stop kicking me already!" and I loved that name, too.

    I did more research on family names on my mother's side. I compiled a list of the more interesting names. This being a southern family, there were some doozies: Erley & Perly (twins). Defoe. Herstle & Gerstle (seriously!) Clell.

    But it was Jonah that jumped off the list and into our hearts immediately. My mother's name was Joann, and it was a near anagram of her name. It was beautiful and sweet and lyrical. It sounded just right with the middle name we'd chosen, Free (my husband's mother's maiden name). Jonah it was. Jonah Free.

    God, it was perfect.

    When we came home from the hospital without Jonah in February, I noticed that there were a pair of mourning doves that kept frequenting our fire escape. The obviousness of the symbolism nearly made my eyes roll. (I wrote a longer post about them on my blog: ) but there they were: mourning doves.

    I fell in love with them, and did everything I could to keep them coming back to our little 5 sq feet of urban outdoor space. I put birdseed out, I threw sticks in a pot of dirt for them to nest with. They have returned every day to eat and hang out with me; in fact, I'm watching them eat their seed as I type this.

    About a week passed after I'd written about the doves when I randomly looked up the meaning of Jonah's name. I couldn't believe I hadn't done it before - it was just such a perfect name, I hadn't even thought to. And there it was on my screen: "For a meaning of the name Jonah, all sources go with "Dove."

    And there you have it.

    Brooke, I love the name Eliza. Little Eliza. So, so beautiful. Thank you for this post.

  19. I love the name Eliza and the story behind it.

    We call our son Teddy almost all the time now, but before he was born he was Huckleberry. His first name is Theodore, which has the same meaning (Greek origin) as his father's name (Hebrew origin). We liked the play on my husband's name, liked that it was a classic name though fairly uncommon, and we really liked the nickname Teddy. His middle name, Isaac, means laughter; I so wanted laughter to be a part of his life. Also, since he was unplanned I felt a lot of sympathy for the Biblical Isaac's mom while I was pregnant.

    After Teddy died, when I was pregnant with his sister, we went through hundreds of names - a couple from almost every letter of the alphabet, and there were some we liked more than others but we were largely undecided. Then we started looking through the Baby Name Wizard book, and noticed Dot's name listed as a sibling name for Theodore. After that it just kept growing on us until we couldn't imagine any other name. So her name is a way of acknowledging her brother as well as being a name we love. I think I smile every time I say it.

  20. You're right - names are so important. I hate it when someone misspells my name (I am NOT a Sarah) and so I always make an effort to get names right. I share a name with my grandmother and my aunt. It's special to be a third generation Sara, although I'm not sure I'd name a daughter Sara. Wouldn't it be arrogant to name a child after myself?

    Eliza's name is beautiful. Thanks for sharing the story behind her name and yours, too. I love hearing these stories.

    When we went for the ultrasound and found out whether it was a boy or a girl, we had two lists of names but hadn't decided on any. When we found out it was a boy, Mark immediately decided on Henry - a family name on his side. I wasn't convinced; I preferred Hendrix - a family name on my mom's side - with Henry as a nickname. We went on a weekend getaway almost right after the ultrasound, and Mark called the baby Henry all weekend. By the end of our trip, he had convinced me. Now, I can't imagine him as anything else. He just IS a Henry, the same way I am a Sara.

  21. May she always be your daughter Eliza, whose name rolls from your lips amongst those that may one day come after her.
    Cullen, out 'handsome lad' follows his brothers and sister, all with C names... though S and I obviously don't share the initial, I started with 2 C's and couldn't change it up. I still have a few more up my sleeve so we'll see what happens next.
    PS- thanks for the cool view on my name.. Leslie.. I got a laugh at that one.. and PS my last name is hyphenated. I too could not take S's name completely.. it just wasn't me.. so now i have the world's longest last name.. you should see my email address!!

    Thank you again for this beautiful post....

  22. I have very specific ideas when it comes to baby names. Names must be gender specific, not too popular yet not way out there and not impossible to spell. Eliza would meet my criteria so it's not just pretty, it's a great choice.

    There were no big arguments about my daughter's name. We both loved it when it was on an old WB network show and agreed that if we ever had a girl, that would be her name. We never agreed on a boy name but when the baby was born, she was a girl so no problems. Her middle name is from at least 3 family members.

    With baby #2 (hubby refused to let me find out the gender), I looked through every baby name book and website I could find. My husband really liked Jack, but I know too many Jacksons so I vetoed it. I loved Isaac but he vetoed it. About a few weeks before my due date, we were laying in bed and reading more name books and I said "Is Reid too much alliteration? (our last name is a R name) and the hubby said,"No it works." I liked Reid because it means red-haired and my husband is a red-head and it fit my other criteria, including sounding good with big sister's name. (I also liked Scarlett for a girl because of the red meaning but hubby wouldn't agree to it.) We went into the hospital with only a boy name and again, we had the right name ready. We had a few seconds of "We have a boy, we have a Reid" before everything went to fell apart and we found out he had no heartbeat. We hadn't agreed on a middle name before and once we knew he wouldn't be with us to carry any family names forward we decided, he would just be Reid.

    Now it turns out the both my children have names from the Young and the Restless (and are even currently step-siblings on the show) so if we ever manged to have another child, their name will likely also have to have been on the show as well. My husband likes this idea because it puts Jack back in the running.

  23. Love this! And I love Holy Shitballs as a middle name! ;)

    When we were choosing names I always pictured an adult man in a suit introducing himself at a job interview with the name. Boy names are tough, because so many sound cute on small kids but don't work on adults. Charlie's name we both loved for a number of reasons. Boston is one of our favorite places to visit and it is on the banks of the Charles River, for one thing. We had a friend we both liked named Charlie as well. Plus it is cute on a kid and has a stronger sounding "Charles" if he wants something like that later. Wesley was going to be John and we were going to call him Jack, until we learned that John Thomas (Thomas was our chosen middle name) is slang for penis in England. No John Thomas for us! I was laughing with a friend about our almost mistake and she started brainstorming for us. When she asked me where I had met Ryan I said "At the Wesley Foundation... THAT'S PERFECT!" I brought it up to Ryan on the highway on the way to the hospital to deliver him and he liked it too, so it stuck. James is my grandfather and I knew before we even conceived him that he was going to join our family and that his name would be James. I can't explain it. We had a girl name picked out too, but I wasn't surprised when we found out he was a boy because I already knew!

  24. I loved reading this post and all these comments. Such thought and love went into all these names.

    George is my father's name and his father's before him and his father's father's name. Dad never had a son to name George. I was the closet he ever got to having a son as I was always the one to play in the dirt, catch lizards, go fishing, and generally behave in a most decidedly ungirl-like fashion. So it felt right to name my son (the only boy) George too.
    Ellsworth is Leif's father's middle name.

  25. Brooke - Love your blog!

    My Madeline (named for the book) was one of David's 25 Maddies. Her middle name is Jeanette after my mom who died when I was 20.

    My second daughter is Mollie Cecilia. I wanted Cecilia for her first name but was not crazy about Cece - which is what people would have eventually called her. Cecilia was my husband's grandmother's middle name. After we agreed to Mollie, I found out that was my great-grandmothers first name.

  26. Brooke, I've been following for awhile- we were pregnant at the same time- I had my little one december 9th and when I finally got around to catching up with the blogs- I was absolutley heartbroken for you and your family. I cried, and thought about you for days- and still do. Im so sorry for what happened.

    About names- I too love hearing how people came about names, I love Eliza for a name (not one i'd choose but I knew of only one growing up and she was a very talented violin player)

    Until we found out little one was a boy I was convinced he was a girl- for a girl we had serveral runner ups and some favorites, one we probably would have picked even but since then we've decided on another we love more.

    When we found out it was little man we were LOST had no ideas for a name- I loved Riley- always had but so many people refer to it as a girl name we didnt really love that, all other names we loved were just to common.

    Then one day while throwing out names hubby (and I can still see him there saying it for the first time) said how about Rylan?
    I told him, i've heard the name once so I know it is a name and that I didnt really like the spelling the way i'd seen it but it was a option.
    So later at work I did a baby name search on google and found other spellings of it and texted him the one i'd decided on "Ryelin"

    It was/is perfect, we both loved it, it was a little more masculine then Rylan, it had a good "baby" nickname "Rye-Rye" and could be used for any profession. It wasnt common but it wasnt out there (like my neice Passion-ugh-)
    So we kept it a secret and it was awesome to be able to share it with everyone when he was born.
    I love hearing people say his name.
    (he goes by Rj on our blog though)

  27. I'm late to this blog and now I'm catching up. I'm not sure you will ever see this comment, but I can't resist. After a year of trying my husband and I found out we were expecting our first child. I was over the moon excited. I told everyone who would listen about my pregnancy. I went to my first OB appointment anxious to hear the sweet gallop of my baby's heartbeat. My doctor asked if I was certain of my dates. Of course I was certain! We had been trying for a year! He told me to come back in a week. One week later I found out my baby was a "blighted ovum". I was numb. I had a D&C the next morning. The staff in the surgical unit SUCKED. They made me feel that I was aborting my most desired child. After several weeks of healing I started researching names. I needed something to call my child. I felt I was carrying a girl so I decided on Mariam Anna. Mariam because it means "bitterly desired" and Anna because my mom's middle name was Ann.