Okay, so to dispel any misgivings brought on by that headline, I am not pregnant, nor do I have active plans to have a kid any time soon. Like, probably not for another ten years or so. But I am the kind of person who needs to over-prepare for everything. I show up at the airport six hours early because you never know what’s going to go wrong. I quadruple check my e-mails for spelling errors before I send them. And I have been putting together my list of ideal baby names since I was eleven years old and my dad gave me a copy of Freakonomics for Christmas and I read the chapters about how baby names correlate to parents’ years of education, and babies with “smart” or “high-end” names supposedly do better in life. In hindsight, not a lot of eleven-year-olds spend their leisure time planning for parenthood and reading about economic theory. I was a weird kid.
But ultimately, like, what the hell is the point of being pregnant for nine months and pushing a small human being out of your own body – or, alternatively, going through legal hell for years in order to adopt a small human being – if you’re going to give it a shitty name? Or worse yet, a boring name? No, I want something distinctive. Like, distinctive to the point of obnoxious, even. So I made this list of my favourite names in order to atone for the unreasonable amount of time I spend laughing at people over on Baby Names Discussion who want to name their kids “Bruleelyn” and “Novella.”
I feel like this one’s gathering steam, actually. It was the 982nd most popular baby name in America in 2011, and this year is the 492nd. It’s good for a few reasons: it pays tribute to the ass-kicking ass-kicker pioneer lesbian Willa Cather – whose full name was actually Wilella, who knew – and it’s also adaptable enough to be gender neutral.
I do lean toward neutral-ish names, just because I’m bigender and my given name is extremely feminine so picking out a new name for myself at 20 was kind of a clusterfuck. Unlike Willa, which is easily shortened to Will, or lengthened into William. Ideal.
This one’s a holdover from when I got really into Grey’s Anatomy for about five seconds last year. There’s a really pretty combination of vowel sounds here, and it’s, like, impossible to shorten, which means people are going to have to say ALL THREE SYLLABLES of my daughter’s name if they want her attention. I grew up with a four-syllable name and strangers were aaaaaalways snipping it down to one or two syllables, and like? Fuck you? Who gave you the right? Take the extra two seconds and say my whole entire name!
Anyway, if I went with this one I’d have to come up with a better rationale than “you were named after the main doctor in Grey’s Anatomy, which started out strong but eventually just devolved into Shonda Rhimes throwing natural disasters at an increasingly weary cast and playing mid-2000s soft rock over montages of people boning in supply closets.”
Oh, bonus: according to Wikipedia, Meredith, “as a personal name, was until recently usually given to boys.” Another win for gender neutrality.
So when I was a kid, my dad unilaterally decided that my brother and I were going to be competitive Scrabble players. He forced us to memorize the list of legal two-letter words, and every time we went for a long-ish drive he would drill us by making us rattle off the whole list. He timed it with a stopwatch. When we had that down, he made us learn to recite the list backwards. We were like, six? This is the same man who gave me Freakonomics as an eleventh birthday present, by the way.
But I digress: a crucial skill in competitive Scrabble is knowing what the fuck to do when a Q or a Z lands in your lap. Using a Q or a Z in any capacity nets you ten points; using a Q or a Z right can win you the game. (One time, I played “quixotic” on a triple word score. Yes, bitch, I bingoed with a Q-word on a triple word score. I am God.) And one of the words under Q in the Scrabble dictionary was “quiller,” and from the moment I read it, I have never loved another word more.
It’s basically an archaic word for “writer.” In the 1960s, there was a moderately popular series of spy novels about a British secret agent named Quiller who knows Shotokan karate and fights Nazis. I would hope that my offspring also enjoys karate and kicking Nazi ass; perhaps naming them Quiller would impart these valuable qualities. Also, their name would be worth sixteen points in Scrabble.
For about five seconds after Kim Kardashian and Kanye West had their first baby, there were rumours flying around that the kid was named “Kaidence Donda.” I was simultaneously delighted, because Cadence is a beautiful name that I have loved forever, and fearful – because Kimye giving this name to their daughter would surely inspire a wave of copycat babies and forever ruin Cadence’s indie cred.
As we now know, they named the kid North West – which, by the way, is sincerely the greatest name ever given to any child – so Cadence never hit mass culture. Cadence remains the fresh, downy, unspoiled snow of baby names. It’s musical, it’s literary, and it’s out there but not too out there. Thanks, Kimye, for doing me this solid.
A lumen is a unit of measurement for light; the more lumens the brighter, basically. And I love that! When you name your kid Lumen, you are saying that your child is a little light. This year, it was the 7892nd most popular name for a boy and the 4152nd most popular name for a girl. Love that obscurity.
This was also the name of Julia Stiles’ character on Dexter, which I have never seen but which I assume is shitty. For a while, this was a strike against Lumen as a naming concept; however, Dexter’s over now, and it hasn’t really retained cultural prominence, so I think we’re safe again.
Look. “Kennedy” is a mainstream baby name. Popular to the point of banality. If it’s cool to name your kid Kennedy, I should be allowed to name my kid Roosevelt. Worst case scenario, we snip it down to “Rose,” and my kid gets to be like, “Yeah, my name’s Rose… short for Roosevelt” and blow people’s minds.
Like Willa, this name pays tribute to an iconic lesbian. Also, my own grandmother is named Eleanor, so it’s kind of a tribute to her, too? In a way? Maybe?I could just name my kid Eleanor, but that wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun. And like, presuming I marry another hippie and we do the double-barrelled last names thing, my kid’s name would just be comprised of… three different last names. There’s a whole world of possibility here.
I have a friend named Phoebe and she is the greatest! Phoebe is the name of that one kid on The Magic School Bus who looks exactly like me! Phoebe was also an Ancient Greek Titaness, but I don’t know a whole lot about that, to be honest.
For a while, this slot on the baby names list was taken by Phaedra – a similar name, and a minor character in A Little Life – but it just doesn’t have the pleasant internal rhyme of Phoebe. And also, being named after a character in A Little Life is a terrible thing to be saddled with. There’s a reason I had to strike the name Jude from my list. But that’s fine! Phoebe is where it’s at! Phoebe is poppin’!
CHILD: Dad, why is my cousin named Diamond?
DAD: Because your aunt loves Diamonds?
CHILD: Then why am I named Prior?
DAD: Because when I was 23 years old my friend Anneka and I bought tickets to see the National Theatre’s production of Angels in America and it was a biochemical event that profoundly altered the course of my entire life and a few weeks later I threw on $2,200 worth of pre-fall 2015 Valentino and walked down to King Street, where I met Andrew Garfield outside of a TIFF press conference and handed him my paperback copy of Angels in America, and he signed it and wrote MORE LiFE! on the title page, and I felt blessed that day and I decided to impart through you, my offspring, this message of queer resilience and solidarity in the face of armageddon.
CHILD: What’s armageddon? I’m four.
All right, fast facts: it’s pronounced free-SAWN, it’s French, and it means “shiver,” but it also means “a sudden, strong feeling of excitement or fear, a thrill.” It’s also the word for that pleasant little five-second rush of body heat that you feel sometimes, often for reasons you can’t quite identify.
I am Canadian and I successfully communicated to two French-speaking customers tonight that their purchases totaled up to vingt-six cinquante-cinq – that’s $26.55 to you unwashed masses – so I feel that I am entitled to give my kid a French name if I want. I don’t know how many French people are even out here naming kids Frisson. In fact, a Google search for “frisson baby name” just now turned up absolutely nothing, which means I am in brand new territory here. I’m staking my claim. Frisson. Get with it.
Virtually my entire family on both sides is Ukrainian, and a lot of Ukrainian names are… unwieldy, let’s say. My last family reunion was full of Fetchuks and Yagelniskis and Lazaruks, for instance. I know now that my embarrassment about these names is due to a quiet but deep-seated and enduring strain of anti-Ukrainian discrimination – seriously, Canada interned 8,000 Ukrainians as “enemy aliens” during the First World War – and I should Be Proud Of My Heritage and its corresponding weird names.
To that end, there is one really fucking cool name in my family tree, and it is this: Zahara. The Zaharas came to Canada with nothing but the clothes on their backs and they withstood the harsh, unforgiving conditions of the prairie in order to build futures for themselves, and they had a cool-as-fuck name while doing it. I’d name a kid Zahara. Khokhol pride all the way.
Like the bull! A gentle, sweet boy who just wants to look at the flowers! Who does not wish to fight!
There is a CGI movie based on The Story of Ferdinand coming out soon and it looks to be… of questionable quality. All I can do is hope that it does not sully Ferdinand’s brand. Or maybe it will be fun and cute and not all that bad! Who can really say for sure!
If I name my kid Violet I’m going to be fatalistic about it and enrol her in like, STEM 4 Kidz and Girls Who Code. I will provide her with ample supplies to invent things. Her entire wardrobe will be purple sailor dresses and she will never want for ribbons. She will never see the Jim Carrey movie.