New parents worry over everything from the very important, such as the baby’s health, to the extremely mundane, what color to paint the baby’s room. Somewhere near the top of their list of concerns is what to name their child. Some families are blessed (or cursed as the case may be) with a naming tradition. Whether it’s naming the baby after a parent or grandparent, at least the decision is out of their hands. Others create their own conventions. Examples I’ve encountered include keeping the same initials for everyone, naming them after someone who shares their birthday, or something else – I know one family whose children are named after mountains.
The importance and pressure of naming the new child often goes beyond the mother and father. Besides the potentially rival traditions of the two sides of the family, there are also religious customs and cultural traditions that intercede. These range from the formal Hindu Namakarna ceremony to the less formal Catholic tradition of using saints’ names. You may have heard of the Icelandic Naming Committee (there are currently 1712 approved male names and 1853 female names), but there are naming laws in quite a few countries and even a few US states governing the naming of children.
Given all the pressure of tradition, culture, and even the sanction of the law is it any wonder that there’s an entire cottage industry dedicated to the naming process? As somebody famous once said, nothing creates a market need like emotional exploitation, government regulation, and a pinch of fear. Well, it might not have been exactly that, but it’s close enough.
With that in mind, I’m happy to throw Map Monday into the naming solution game. Many people in the US can trace their roots back to Europe. As such they often feel a special connection to their ancestral homeland. One way to share that with their rapidly assimilating children is to give them a name popular in that country. To help those parents here are two maps of Europe (that’s right today is a 2 for 1 Map Monday).
If you enjoyed this foray into naming, please feel free to read some of my more serious blogs on naming characters in fiction; You don’t have to be a philologist to create great fantasy names and What’s in a fictional name?
As always, thanks for reading.