The Name Game

People ask us about our ideas for names, but we’ve learned not to share. Because when we did, people weighed in with their opinions. That’s natural, and for a while I thought it might be helpful. The problem is, finding a name everyone likes is impossible.

Sometimes a name’s dismissed because people knew someone with that name who they didn’t like or thought was weird. Even when a person is liked, the name can be xed off simply because it’s derivative. I liked a certain celebrity’s name a lot, but friends said, “Nahh – everyone’ll think of the famous Suchandsuch.” Most times though, a name is discarded because it doesn’t feel right when paired with my last name, Gresko. (We’ve decided to go with my last name for this child, rather than hyphenate or combine our surnames into a mutant new one, especially because the two together form the name of a company that used to advertise a lot on NPR.)

We’ve been looking for names everywhere – in the credits of movies and television, while reading, or even looking through our pantry. (Potato Gresko?) Sometimes we get on a free-association kick, pairing everything that comes to mind with Gresko to see what sticks. Asiago Gresko? Sounds like a restaurant entree. Tequila Gresko? Sounds like a thug or gay nightclub owner. Ovenmit Gresko? Too utilitarian. NY Gresko? Too New York. Once we find something we like, I road test it. First, I scold. “Blahblahblah Gresko, get over here. Now.” Next it’s the gleeful welcome. “Hey, it’s Blahblahblah!! You know it’s a party now that Blahblahblah Gresko’s here!” After that, I’ll try out different “real world” scenarios: “Tonight, for the first time on the stage of Carnegie Hall it’s Blahblahblah Gresko,” or “Newly elected Senator Blahblahblah Gresko,” or “have you seen the latest film by Blahblahblah Gresko?” Then there’s “Yo, don’t mess with Blahblahblah Gresko.” Finally I think of the various ways kids could mess with the name in order to tease and make fun of our son. (Oh, the joys of middle school.)

I imagine most parents-to-be must do this. Thinking about something as specific as a name naturally seems to lead to envisioning specifics about the child’s future. I recently talked to a friend who picked out a name because it abbreviates to CJ. She said, “Who doesn’t like a CJ? Ceej’s that guy in college everyone’s happy to see.”

Anyway, besides feeling right, we also want a name that’ll convey a positive energy, and ideally have a nice meaning to it too. (So Tequila Gresko is definitely out.) Because doesn’t the meaning kind of influence the kid’s view of himself? Then again, my name means strong, and when I was younger I used to fret because I didn’t see myself as strong at all. Though secretly I liked it.

All of this thoughtfulness doesn’t actually help us with the selection of the name itself, which is such an important decision. There’s that famous line from Romeo and Juliet, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” and yet I’ve sometimes imagined what it would be like to have a different name and felt a great sense of disconnect. I’m not a Soandso! People hang a lot of their identity on their name, even though it’s something that they didn’t choose. A good name fits. We grow into it, or it grows into us; either way it becomes a part of our mental DNA. Fortunately, S and I have time to keep trying names on.

And when we do figure it out, we now know to keep it a secret. The name needs to work for us. Everyone else will come to like it (hopefully) once they see the kid and begin associating that name with him. And since we’ll be the first ones to use his name when he’s born, it seems right to keep it close.

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2 Responses to “The Name Game”


  1. 1 Mom January 9, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    It is strange that you wrote about names today. I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. When I awoke the name Samuel came into my head. Samuel – “name of God” or “God has heard”. I thought it very strange since I have never had an interest in this name prior to waking up. I must have been dreaming of my grandson and what I will call him. I know whatever name you select it will be one that I will love. I understand completely about not sharing. Have fun in your selection process.

  2. 2 cindy January 13, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    A couple things: I know a girl named Juliet, and I must say, I love it.

    “cindy” is not great. Cheerleadery and 70’s. I like having a formal name and a casual name, though.

    My mother refers to our unconceived child as Sandy (cindy + randy). That creeps me out.

    And lastly, I remember on Roseanne once, Becky was mad because she said her name sounded like a noise a chicken would make. Beeck beeck beeck BECKY! And Roseanne said, “It was the 70s. You’re lucky you weren’t named Chablis.”

    Ever since I heard that I secretly have hoped to have a child named Chablis.


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