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Friday, December 21, 2012

Baby Boy Virus-with-a-K, Brother to Henry Palmer

J. writes:
We are struggling with coming up with a boy's name we like for our next child, a boy, due in the spring.  Our son is named after his grandfather's, Henry Palmer--and, we actually used his grandfather's middle names because their first names DID NOT work  It's a classic name and we discovered after his birth and naming that it was becoming quite popular in our demographic, much to our annoyance.  That said, we still love his name and it suits him perfectly.  We want our next DS to have a name that's equally connected to both of our families.  BUT, the thing is, the only names we have on the male side of our families that we liked we used for our older son.  Thus our options are--using a male name w/o the familial significance (which I'd prefer not to do); using a male name (of a family member) that we don't like; or male names of family members we never really knew or felt connected to; or names that NO one else would like.  We have three main criteria--we must have a "reason" for the name (eg family name; favorite disciple) and it must go with Henry and our last name (rhymes with Virus, starts with K sound). 

That said, these are the family names we have to work with: Kermit, Gordon, Forrest, Bartholomew.  So far, our list for consideration includes: Peter, Kermit, Bartholomew and Forrest.  Peter would be our first choice by a long shot, it's the name of my partner's favorite disciple, but it also happens to be the name of a disliked, distant relative.  We thought about going with the names of favorite theologians--but my favorites are Reinhold and Martin (Buber), neither of which really work for us.   Oh, and if we did go with one of the odder choices I worry that our next child may be resentful that his brother got a perfectly normal, mainstream name (which is why we aren't just going with Kermit...).

I know you're flooded with questions but if you have the time (and we're interesting enough)...



I can see how you're stuck: you want a name that has family significance AND that you love---but there AREN'T any names that meet both preferences. You find the name of someone you love, but you don't love the name; so then you find a name you love, but it doesn't have the right kind of family significance. At such times I think we have to stop spinning, throw our hands up, and say, "What we want does not exist. And so, given that situation, what is our second choice?"

I think it's going to come down to which is more important to you: using a name you love, or using a name with positive family significance. This is a common choice to have to make: it's rare that the people important to us coincidentally have names that match our own personal tastes. This is why those families with a Grandma Ellie are all fighting to honor her, while Grandma Mildred's name goes completely uncontested---despite the fact that Grandma Mildred was awesome in every way and Grandma Ellie was an irritable old bat. It's one of the things that make honor names so honor-y: we use them for love and significance, not because we would have chosen the names anyway.

If I were you, I would go with a first name you love. The love becomes the reason for using it, and a very nice reason it is, too: "We gave you this name because we loved it so much." And perhaps you will find a name you love that has significance of a non-family variety, as with the idea of using disciple/theologian names. (I suggest Lewis, if you like C.S.; or George, if you like MacDonald.)

Then in the middle name position, I'd use the name of a beloved family member (if the child has one parent's surname, then I'd use a name from the other parent's family to give him the connection to both sides you're hoping for), accepting the dislike of the name as the cost of honoring someone important. Or, if you don't want to accept that cost, I'd use another name you love.

If the relative named Peter is a distant one, I think the favorite-disciple thing can trump it. If anyone in your family says, "Oh, after second-cousin-once-removed Peter?," you'd just say, "Oh! No, it's after Partner's Favorite Disciple." Peter is not such an uncommon name that there has to be an obvious connection, and Henry and Peter is a nice combination.

Edited to add: I just had one final thought: you mention looking at the names of male relatives, but are there any names of female relatives that would work (unisex names, names with feminine/masculine versions, surnames)?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

A common tradition in my community is to use the first initial of a loved one's name, but choose your favorite name with that initial. So my nephew Jordan is named after grandfather Jacob, and his sister Hannah is named after grandmother Harriet. Maybe something like that would work - pick the favorite relative who hasn't been honored yet (and bonus - it could be female or male), and choose a name you like with that initial.

Anonymous said...

My first thought was actually Swistle's last. Why do you have to use the names of male family members? I'd start looking at the names of female members of your families. & I'd consider using maiden names too, if you have any that could work-maybe your maiden name could be an option?

Amie said...

I actually have brothers named Henry and Gordon. I think that Peter is a great brother name if you can overlook the negative association of the distance relative. I'd also suggest John (nickname Jack), George, Paul & Louis or Lewis. I actually like the name Forrest as a first name or middle name. Maybe the association with "The Gump" has passed, but I still associate Kermit with "The Frog".

Manday said...

I was also going to suggest looking at family girls names. I would look for one that has a male version. Like, you could name him Nathan after Aunt Natalie, or Michael after Grandma Michaela. You could also check out maiden names from the females who have married.

For the record though, I love Gordon!

StephLove said...

We did something similar to Swistle's last idea with my son's middle name. We wanted a family name, but none of the male ones were grabbing us so his middle is Louis after my grandmother Lois.

I do like Peter with Henry.

Emmy Jo said...

My vote would be for Peter Gordon -- I think Henry Palmer and Peter Gordon sound amazing together.

What is the reason Martin won't work? Are you just not a fan of it? (Because I think Martin is rather nice.) Henry Palmer and Martin Forrest. (Are the initials MFK to suggestive of a swear word? Maybe Martin Bartholomew instead?).

Fourandcounting said...

Ooh, what I wouldn't give to have your list of family names - my husband and I both love Bartholomew and (believe it or not), we've been discussing Kermit as well! A family connection would cinch the deal for us.

I think you should use a name you love and not worry about a family connection (or, as Swistle suggested, use a first name you love and a middle name with some sort of family connection.) I understand where you're coming from. I have 3 boys, and they all have family names (one less so, but the connection is still there), and for baby #5 (don't know if it's a boy or a girl), I'm really torn with using a name I love and one that honors another side of our family, but those honor names I'm just not keen on.

So I think I'm giving you advice that I'd be happy and relieved to hear told to me - it is just as special to give a child a name you love. Weren't most honor names, in one way or another, a name that a parent loved?

And - I think that distant relative Peter doesn't nix the name. It would be one thing if he was distant cousin SuperUniqueName, but Peter, though not very common these days, is familiar enough that you can use it.

Henry and Peter is such a darling pair.

Anonymous said...

Peter is a great, strong name and goes wonderfully with Henry.

Peter Bartholomew?

The disciple Peter's original name was Simon,known as Simon Peter, which is a great name with Henry too.

Henry Palmer and Simon Peter
Henry Palmer and Peter Simon?

Simon Bartholomew perhaps?

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

We actually have a Henry and Peter and bias as I may be it's a wonderful pair! Love it! Peter is traditional yet somewhat unexpected now a days and we've had lots of positive comments. It's so sweet on a little boy!

Anonymous said...

Not sure what is meant by 'must go with Henry' but Christian Bartolome (K)irus is a nice name that honors your family and religion. Henry and Chris?

Claire Wessel said...

I'd recommend using some maiden names of relatives as first names if any of those are wearable. Also, if any of these relatives you wish to honor are still alive, perhaps you can ask them for three names they love and use one as a first or a middle, then your child can have a name you love that goes well with Henry, and a second name that you could say "Grandpa Kermit chose that name for you", etc.

Lashley said...

I think Swistle's suggestion for having a line in your back pocket for family member's who ask about Peter is a nice solution. It's very difficult to pick a classic name that doesn't have overlap somewhere in your life. I also think you could look further into other family names for to get a middle in there, especially since Palmer is surname-y.

Happy naming!

Anonymous said...

I think Gordon is a great name. I also think Peter can be used when it is a distant relative. The association will fade after Peter is born.

Anonymous said...

Thanks all! I think we have an option we have settled on...and once the boyo is born I'll report back (if he LOOKS like the name we're thinking). It's tough when the maiden names are things like "Smith"