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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Baby Naming Issue: Is It Okay to Use the Place Name of a Local Place?

LB writes:
I'm not pregnant as of yet, but we will be trying soon. I've been obsessed with names for as long as I can remember, and I'm really excited about one. It's not often that I get "stuck" on something like this; the name has become a small obsession of mine, but there is a problem.

The problem comes from a male name, since we're able to agree on MANY female names (frontrunners are Celeste and Violet. Our favorite, Olivia, became too popular for our liking).

The name is Brock. I LOVE it. My husband loves it, too, for many reasons. For one, it's an alliterative name to our last name, which is Barlow, which I've always been a fan of. It's not super common, but is easy to say and spell- I feel this is important. I also feel like it sounds preppy, smart and strong. One-syllable names, especially for a male name, have always struck me as really great. Also, we're Canadian, and this name is of significance (in a positive way) to our country's heritage.

However, due to the heritage, many things are named "Brock", including our highway exit, which is where the problem comes in. We live in a small-ish community, which has two highway exits, one being Brock St. As you can imagine, there are also some businesses with Brock in their title... Brock Restaurant, Brock Laundromat etc.

I've grown fairly attached to the name, for all the reasons above, and also because it's a name we can both agree on. Do you think it would be wrong to use a name that our child would hear all over the place? Does it seem odd to you? Please, crush my dreams now before I get too attached, if that's the case! :)

Other details: we plan on having only one child, and we hate creative spellings.

Thanks so much,

Are you planning to stay permanently where you live now, or is it fairly likely you'll eventually move? And is the Brock St. exit area a NICE area, or a dicey one? If it's considered a nice area, and if you might move away from there anyway, I don't think you have to rule out the name; even if you're not likely to move, I think it's still within the realm of okay. Definitely it's something to weigh into the decision, though: if it came down to two names you liked equally well, and one had the location baggage and the other one didn't, I'd go with the one that didn't.

On the other hand, my guess is that a small child would get a huge kick out of seeing his name all over the place, and you'd have so much fun collecting photos and items with his name on them. I'm imagining decorating a nursery with large photos you've taken of just the "Brock" part of various business names, street signs, exit signs, etc. And if you DO move away, it'll be a very pleasant association with where he was born. Hmm, that is swaying me back the other direction. I'm imagining if someone in the U.S. lived near a Lincoln St. exit and wanted to name a child Lincoln. I think the reaction to that would be mostly positive.

Am I right that the Brock association is with Isaac Brock? If so, I notice that the name Isaac shares an end-sound with Brock. It loses both the preppiness and the alliteration, and it's more common and also harder to spell, and it has two syllables and it's a completely different style over all---so in short it's not a likely candidate. But I thought I would mention it anyway, since it does keep the heritage and that hard-C sound, and I like it with your surname. Isaac Barlow.

Or we could look around for other names that capture more of the style and sound of Brock: Burke, Ross, Drake, Derek, Dean, Bryce, Beck, Blake, Brant, Brooks, Barrett, Lachlan, Declan.

Another possibility you've no doubt considered is using Brock as the middle name. The middle name position is a great place for names you love that, for whatever reason, don't work as the first name. _____ Brock Barlow keeps the alliteration and the heritage, but lets go of the laundromat and the exit.

The more I think about it, though, the less it feels like it's a problem. It seems like it would be a positive and fun association, and at worst he'd get a little weary of saying, "Yes, like the street." I think we should have a poll over to the right, to make sure I'm not just getting swayed by the fun nursery decor. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "How are you feeling about a baby named Brock living near the Brock St. exit?" (357 votes total):

I think it's fun and cool! - 204 votes (57%)
Fine, but better to find something else - 80 votes (22%)
I don't like the idea - 45 votes (13%)
I can't decide -  28 votes (8%)


Bea said...

My son, Boston, LOVES seeing his name everywhere. His room is decorated with all sorts of Boston paraphernalia, and he does say thinks like, "There's MY market, mama!" He thinks it is wonderful and I love it, too. Driving around gives him lots of opportunities to point out his name.

I think Brock would be a great name and don't think it is a problem. I love the idea of snap shots decorating his room. Have pictures of him in front of the signs would be adorable.

Noelle Spooner said...

We were living in Manhatten when we had our son and wanted a New York name for him. We both fell in love with the name Hudson. We knew we would eventually move to be closer to family but even if that wasn't a factor I would still have no problem using a local place name.

Katrina said...

I say go for it!
I'm also from Canada & the community I lived in also had a Brock Rd/St/Plaza/and more! I do remember a guy in high school who had the name Brock but I don't think I ever associated it with any of the place names in the area.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Ontario and Brock pops up a lot due to the historical association. My current locale has Audra this and that. I don't think place names that are accepted people names are an issue in the slightest. Even above mentioned Boston and Hudson seem suitable to me. If you were writing in with the name Keswick I'd be a little less inclined to give you the thumbs up ;) I've only met one Brock my entire life, in high school. I always thought it was a nice name for a nice boy. Kids get excited when they see their name somewhere else. A friend of mine has a Sophia who was just gobsmacked to meet another Sophia at school. The girls thought it was the coolest thing ever, and here the parents were probably disappointed that they'd picked such a popular name!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to throw out one other suggestion that seems very close: Brooks

Anonymous said...

Growing up, my friend's older brother's name was the same as the first half of our town's name. The connection just occurred to

Nothing But Bonfires said...

I lived in Charleston, South Carolina for a few years, where it seems like EVERYONE is named after a street, so a Brock living near Brock Street doesn't seem too weird to me. Seriously, one of the main streets in town was Rutledge Avenue, and I knew, like, five Rutledges alone.

I think if you didn't go with Brock, and then you still had to see it around town all the time, you might end up ruing the fact that you didn't use it!

Caitie said...

I am also Canadian and the first thing I thought of when I saw Brock was General Brock. And I think it would be an awesome name to use. It's another surname name but it's not common and none of the associations are negative. I actually think its "overuse" for things like street names is a benefit because I don't see anyone saying "Oh like the street" because everyone already knows the name Brock. If you were to name your child 'Yonge' or 'Bloor' or 'Hastings' you would be more likely to get "Oh, like the street?".

Jenny Grace said...

I used to babysit a Devon who lived on Devon Way. And I THINK that's where his parents lived when he was born. But I always thought it was kind of weird. couldn't think of ANYTHING to name your son besides your STREET NAME? Devon of Devon Way? Are you kidding??

But, I was bratty, and fourteen.
I find that as an adult I am less judgy about it. For one, who cares, if it really is the perfect name. Two, maybe they moved their afterward and that was part of the charm of the house, like it was meant to be (although I dont' think this is the case as I babysat him from the time he was quite literally a baby). Maybe they had their own special reasons for using the name and the street name was a coincidence.
Anyhow, looking back, I think I was being needlessly judgmental because that's what teenagers do.
Although some of the feelings remain.

Wendy said...

I have a cousin who is named after the county in which his mother's family's ranch is in (it was homesteaded in 1898). And it's always been cool that he was named for it. Kind of like a family name, but not really.

When he was little, he lived in that area, and there are pictures with the county line signs, etc. And now that he has moved away, it's a fun anecdote.

Anonymous said...

There are a definitely couple of local placenames that are also in use as people names that have been ruined for me by association - Aurora, Everett. However, the ruining is because those particular places are not positive associations (seedy motels, ladies of the night, suburb with high crime, etc.).

If Brock is an area and series of businesses without ill repute, it's a very different thing. I've encountered other, more positive local placenames used as names on children and my response was much more positive, with perhaps a bit of curiousity about what the particular significance of that landmark was to the parents.

So, I would give Brock the green light as a baby name if it's just a normal area that you perhaps even had some positive feelings about. In that case, I think it would not be a problem at all.

I would be prepared for the eventuality that someone might assume that it's a conception name at some point, but I don't think that would be enough to dissuade me from using it. Particularly because you can say, "Oh, NO! Like the Canadian!" instead.

I knew a Brock and I thought upon first meeting him that his name was really lovely and interesting.

Angela said...

I grew up in Austin, Texas, and there were PLENTY of boys named Austin in school growing up. There are plenty of kids in Texas named after Texas cities! Dallas is another common one, but more recently.

Fourandcounting said...

I had a student named Brock, and he was wonderful, so the name has real positive connotations for me.

Go for it!

Anonymous said...

If it isn't bad area, to me, it shouldn't matter. I have been floored by the celebrities naming their babies Camden. We live in Philadelphia, across the river from Camden, NJ. I can't even imagine naming my child after the city with like the highest crime rate in the US. But I suppose when you live on the West Coast in Beverly Hills it doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

If it isn't bad area, to me, it shouldn't matter. I have been floored by the celebrities naming their babies Camden. We live in Philadelphia, across the river from Camden, NJ. I can't even imagine naming my child after the city with like the highest crime rate in the US. But I suppose when you live on the West Coast in Beverly Hills it doesn't matter.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine named her child Lincoln a few years ago, and the major road that runs through the small town we live in is Lincoln Way. So, there are a lot of businesses with the street name as well. And honestly, the only time I even connected the two was after reading this post. So I say go for it!

Maureen said...

Another vote for "Go for it!".

I live near a small town called Devon, and Jasper (in the Rockies) is the go-to weekend getaway spot. (There are various landmarks/roads in our area named for both of them.)

I have made the associate when meeting boys with these names, but it is neutral and it the case of Jasper, very positive BECAUSE of the positive association to the resort town!

On a somewhat related note, as a child the license plates for one of the provinces in Canada contained my last name (in their tagline), and I LOVED this!

And my final note: if you don't decide to use Brock, I do love Dean (current contender for a future boy).

Anonymous said...

I'm from Canada and I think I'm from the same general region as LB- I wouldn't associate the name Brock with the exit/street/town just because it's also an easily identifiable boys name in it's own right. People might make the connection but I would personally never think to mention it. It's not like you're going to name your son Vancouver or Saskatchewan.

Jaialaiter Ryan said...

I've always liked the name Brock and I don't have any problems with naming your kid after a place/location.

FYI--and I think this is only positive--Brock is one of the three main Pokemon trainers from the tv show.

Laura B said...

Hi everyone! I'm the original poster, and I just wanted to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for all the wonderful feedback! :) I'm thinking Brock is perfect, now more than ever. Can't wait to enter this chapter of our lives... if we end up having a boy! ;) Will let you know when there is an update!

Anonymous said...

My daughter's name is Victoria. Living in a British Commonwealth country, every town has a Victoria Road or Victoria Ave or Victoria Park (although we don't live near one).

My Victoria thinks it's great to see her name everywhere. BUT her big sister is extremely jealous that she doesn't get to see HER name anywhere.

Probably not an issue for you if you're only planning on having one child. But something to be aware of just in case.


Anonymous said...

I don't have an opinion, just wanted to pop in and say that I went to school with a guy named Brock Barlow!!! Thought it was funny to see his name pop up in this post. He wasn't all that remarkable, but I really love the name!!

Bonnie Jo said...

I live in Sydney Australia and have three locale names that I don't think I could use but love.

Waverley - I love this name for a boy or a girl but it is the council that includes world famous bondi beach as one of its suburbs. I come from a beach that is Bondi's main rival in terms of popularity and tourism. Waverly is also a very wealthy, affluent area and the name may come across as sounding pretentious and posh.

Whistler - is a well known street in my home town and is where my primary school is located, possibly where I would send my own children so it could be out.

And I love the name Adelaide but it is the capital city of the state of South Australia and while I love the name and the city some Australians will often refer to the city as dull and boring which is so unfair as it is a great place.

Having said this they are all still possible and I think the child makes the name his own. Brock Barlow sounds strong and confident and cool go with your gut feeling and name your son Brock.

Kendra said...

I live in a town named Logan, and have seen plenty of parents name their children Logan here. I find it slightly weird, but not overly. I'm betting little Brock would love seeing his name everywhere.