<span style=”color:#0000ff;”><strong><em>Note: I’m always excited to have a name story to share, but this one is different – the enthusiast is a dad!</em></strong></span>

My story is a little unusual right off the bat in that I’m a guy. I work with words for a living, and their meanings and histories have always fascinated me. So when I found out my wife was pregnant, I joined all kinds of online baby-name communities and began doing research. I found that I was one of very few men on most of the sites, but I was always welcomed wherever I went. It had simply never occurred to me till then that baby-naming was, or even should be, the exclusive province of moms. But the deeper I got into some of the sites I frequented, the more I discovered that (1) most men seem to either not have an interest in names or come up with lousy suggestions, and (2) a lot of women believe that since they’re the ones who have to carry the baby for nine months and go through the anguish of labor, they’ve earned the right to bestow a name on the baby, and the dad really doesn’t get much of a say in the matter. Fair enough, but I charged ahead anyway, and my wife was totally supportive. I think she got tired of all the baby-name test balloons I kept floating, but she always remained a good sport about it.

The first thing we both did was decide what kind of names we <em>didn’t</em> want to use:
<li>Family names. We wanted our child to be his or her own person.</li>
<li>Bible names. No <strong>Matthew, Michael, Joshua</strong>, or <strong>Jacob</strong>. Just not our style. We’re not terribly religious people.</li>
<li>Anything too popular or trendy. This meant that <strong>Zoe</strong> fell of my list of likes fairly quickly.</li>
<li>Place names, virtue names, and occupation names. No <strong>Austin</strong>, no <strong>Charity</strong>, no <strong>Mason</strong>. However, I didn’t mind the name <strong>Alexandria</strong>, only because we lived in Alexandria, <a title=”Baby Name of the Day: Virginia” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2010/10/25/baby-name-of-the-day-virginia/” target=”_blank”><strong>Virginia</strong></a>, for several years, so choosing that name would have at least had special significance for us.</li>
<li>Anything made up or misspelled. I don’t think “cre8ive” names do children any favors.</li>
<li>Gender-neutral names. We believed that a boy should have a name that’s clearly male, and a girl should have a name that’s clearly female. Is Hayden male or female? I have no idea. What about <strong>Skyler/Skylar</strong>? (I would have used <strong>Schuyler</strong> anyway.)</li>
<li>Boys’ names on a girl. That went not just for the likes of <strong>Aubrey</strong> and <a title=”Baby Name of the Day: Ryan” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2010/07/09/baby-name-of-the-day-ryan/” target=”_blank”><strong>Ryan</strong></a>, but also for patronyms-as-first-names. I was not about to name a daughter <a title=”Baby Name of the Day: Madison” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2011/05/13/baby-name-of-the-day-madison/” target=”_blank”><strong>Madison</strong></a>, <strong>MacKenzie</strong>, or anything else that means “son of [name].”</li>
Eventually, my wife started showing interest in focusing on boys’ names — which was fine with me, because I was having a much easier time coming up with girls’ names. Her initial favorites were <a title=”Name of the Day: Trevor” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2008/12/04/name-of-the-day-trevor/” target=”_blank”><strong>Trevor</strong></a> and <a title=”Name of the Day: Sebastian” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2008/06/27/name-of-the-day-sebastian/” target=”_blank”><strong>Sebastian</strong></a>. But she eventually settled on <a title=”Name of the Day: Damian” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2009/04/01/name-of-the-day-damian/” target=”_blank”><strong>Damian</strong></a>. I was a little concerned that it would sound too much like my name, <a title=”Name of the Day: Adrian” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2009/03/06/name-of-the-day-adrian/” target=”_blank”><strong>Adrian</strong></a> — long A in the first syllable, long E sound in the second, “un” sound in the third syllable — and the boy and I would both come running when she called one of our names!

The middle name took a little longer to settle. Again, my wife took the lead and at first preferred <a title=”Baby Name of the Day: Zarek” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2011/04/14/baby-name-of-the-day-zarek/” target=”_blank”><strong>Zarek</strong></a>. She came across the name in a book series by Sherrilyn Kenyon, and she liked the character by that name. But Zarek eventually gave way to something even more exotic: <strong>Abraxas</strong>. It was a name she’d come across when she was doing some fiction writing of her own and used it in her story. She liked its “magical” overtones. So Damian Abraxas it was.

My suggestions for boy names were:
<li><strong><a title=”Name of the Day: Henry” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2008/05/22/name-of-the-day-henry/” target=”_blank”>Henry</a> David</strong>, for Thoreau, my favorite author.</li>
<li><strong><a title=”Name of the Day: Alexander” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2008/12/17/name-of-the-day-alexander/” target=”_blank”>Alex</a> Sawyer</strong>. My last name is <a title=”Baby Name of the Day: Rush” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2011/08/08/baby-name-of-the-day-rush/” target=”_blank”><strong>Rush</strong></a>, and I happen to be a big fan of the band Rush. (It tends to catch wise guys off guard when they tease me about my name and ask me if I like the band, and I tell them, “As a matter of fact, I do!”) Alex would have been for Alex Lifeson, the band’s guitarist, and Sawyer would have been for “<strong>Tom</strong> Sawyer,” one of their best-known songs. Using Sawyer would have bent our prohibition on occupation names, but I had to make an exception in this case. How many Rush fans get to show off their fandom with their very own names?</li>
I took the lead on the girl names, and I had no shortage of names that I really liked. The first was <strong>Lyra</strong>. I’m a fan of music and astronomy, and Lyra covers them both, as the musical lyre and Lyra the constellation. Lyra was also the name of the headstrong, clever young girl in the book series <em>His Dark Materials</em>, which I quite enjoyed. It also just happened that the band Rush name-dropped the constellation Lyra in one of their songs!

Then I drifted into Greek names, and I found a treasure trove of names I adored, from Zoe to <a title=”Baby Name of the Day: Irene” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2010/07/12/baby-name-of-the-day-irene/” target=”_blank”><strong>Irene</strong></a>, <a title=”Name of the Day: Iris” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2008/06/12/name-of-the-day-iris/” target=”_blank”><strong>Iris</strong></a> to <strong>Helen</strong>. The one name that jumped out at both me and my wife was <a title=”Baby Name of the Day: Penelope” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2008/03/01/baby-name-of-the-day-penelope/” target=”_blank”><strong>Penelope</strong></a>. I loved the story of <strong>Odysseus'</strong> wife, and we were both familiar with the name from having watched the TV show <em>Criminal Minds</em>, where the FBI techie is named Penelope. I thought it sounded quirky, old-fashioned, slightly refined, and a little bit British. Recognizable, but not overly common.

Penelope settled in as our middle name of choice. But what about the first name? For a while, I thought it would be nice to use a name that meant “peace” or “love,” so Irene and <a title=”Name of the Day: Carys” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2008/11/05/name-of-the-day-carys/” target=”_blank”><strong>Carys</strong></a> both made appearances for a while. Those combos didn’t quite work for us, so we kept searching for something that sounded right, had a nice meaning, and wasn’t overly common.

Ultimately, it came down to three names:
<li><a title=”Name of the Day: Beatrix” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2009/07/27/name-of-the-day-beatrix/” target=”_blank”><strong>Beatrix</strong></a>, the blessed traveler. Talk about quirky, old-fashioned, and British! I adored this name, and we even started telling people it was going to be our girl name. My wife liked it well enough, but she hated the thought of the nickname <strong>Trixie</strong>, which to her is all stripper/porn star. It just made me think of <em>The Honeymooners</em>, but then I’m weird.</li>
<li><a title=”Baby Name of the Day: Miranda” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2010/06/18/baby-name-of-the-day-miranda/” target=”_blank”><strong>Miranda</strong></a>, “worthy of admiration.” A Shakespeare invention. I liked this one, but it wasn’t at the top of my list. Can’t go wrong with a literary reference. The only strike against it for me was that as much as my wife didn’t like the nickname Trixie for Beatrix, I disliked <strong>Randy</strong> for Miranda.</li>
<li><a title=”Baby Name of the Day: Saoirse” href=”https://appellationmountain.net/2010/12/10/baby-name-of-the-day-saoirse/” target=”_blank”><strong>Saoirse</strong></a>, “liberty.” I fell deeply, madly in love with Saoirse. Not only did it speak to my Irish heritage, but it also encapsulated the spirit of wonder, openness, and adventure that I hoped our girl’s childhood would be filled with. What better name for a child who you hope becomes a true free spirit? Unfortunately, after I got my wife on board with the name, I started to question whether I wanted to subject a child to a lifetime of having to spell and pronounce her name for everyone. That got my wife thinking about it as well, and by the time I’d come to peace with the name again, my wife’s misgivings remained. But she knew how much I loved it, so rather than tell me to forget about it, she simply agreed that if we were to have a girl, I could choose the name, while she’d choose the boy name. When I asked her what her choice for a girl would be if it were up to her, she said Miranda.</li>
We wanted to know the sex of the baby ahead of time, but the baby had other plans. We had two ultrasounds, and the child refused to show us the goods both times! So we ended up painting the nursery yellow and buying neutral-colored clothes and just waited for the baby to show up.

The day arrived about three weeks ahead of the due date, only four days after my wife was full term. Labor went very quickly — so quickly, in fact, that our midwife almost didn’t make it in time! I got to catch our baby and make the call on the sex. It was a girl!

Now the pressure was on me to come up with a name. But when my wife asked me what the baby’s name would be, I didn’t hesitate for a second: She was Miranda Penelope. Somewhere during my wife’s labor, I let go of Saoirse. After seeing what my wife went through to bring our baby into the world, she got to pick whatever name she wanted — and I suddenly understood what all those women on the baby-naming sites meant when they said the woman earns the right to do so.

When it came down to it, the choice really was my wife’s to make — but at least I got to offer my input over the course of her pregnancy, and for that I’m grateful.

Now our daughter will just have to put up with my silly nickname for her: Miranda Penelope, for me, has become <strong>Mandy-Penny</strong>. I figure she’ll either love it or hate it when she gets older! Time will tell. But for now, I think it’s an adorable nickname for an adorable little girl.

<span style=”color:#0000ff;”><strong><em>Congratulations on your new daughter, and what a lovely, lovely name!  Readers, if you have a name story to share, you can submit it to appmtn (at) gmail (dot) com.</em></strong></span>

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. When my husband and I were just engaged, not even married yet, we went through a baby name book over the phone. I only read to him the names I liked, and of those, he only wrote down the ones he liked. We whittled that list down to one name for a girl: Rachel Marie (the Marie is a family name and Rachel is blblical; we’re the opposite of Adrian and his wife). Three weeks later, my uncle, whom we had NOT told about the name, called to say that my aunt had given birth to a little girl, and that they’d named her … Rachel Marie! So when our daughter was born about 8 years later, we picked another name (Rebecca Lynn). She’s Becca at times, but NEVER Becky. Rachel went on to get married some four or so years ago, and last year had her own baby. She and her husband couldn’t agree on a name for their son (they knew ahead it would be a boy). He kept coming up with names, but she kept saying, “No!” but pronouncing it “No-ah”. One day he suggested they call him Noah, and they did! He’s absolutely adorable.