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Stuck in the Middle

Stuck in the Middle


"Don't call me Nymphadora, Remus," said the young witch with a shudder. "It's Tonks."

"- Nymphadora Tonks, who prefers to be known by her surname only," finished Lupin.

"So would you if your fool of a mother had called you 'Nymphadora,'" muttered Tonks.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling


If you belong to Facebook, you can find out how original your parents were when they named you. My grade is listed below, along with the link*. Yesterday’s name post made for fantastic comments**, most of which made me laugh, and gave me more ideas about names.

My mother apparently thought long and hard about naming my sister and me. Not only did she give me an Italian name, while bestowing an Irish one on my sister, but she split her name in half – my sister’s middle name is the first part, while mine is the second part.

I HATED my middle name, which even upsets me more than my possible nickname. My first and last name scream Italian saints.

I confess that I have done something similar with my own children. The Jewish religion has a tradition of naming children after deceased relatives. Most of the closest ones on my husband’s side had already been accounted for, and if I did that on my side, I’d be giving my kids Christian names. Besides, it takes the fun out of naming (I know, I’m a bad Jew). My compromise was by giving my daughter the middle name, Rose, thereby using my husband’s and my maternal grandmother’s name at the same time.

Since my spouse doesn’t have a middle name and I hate mine, we decided to skip a middle name for my son. But it bothered me after I gave my daughter one, so I resolved to add one later, which is my paternal grandmother’s maiden name, Walsh. (She’d already given two of her children her name and her husband’s name, so John and Grace were covered. Young Grace was called Gracie, while young Jack was called Jackie). I haven’t done it legally because I’m lazy and have yet to figure out how to do it.

My maternal grandmother was pushed by her mother-in-law to name one of her first-born twins, Vincenza, but she wasn’t having it. She compromised with, Vivian. Instead of giving any of her four girls her exact name, for one she chose, Rosemarie. Who knew she was a Catholic, Italian radical? But when she had a son, there was another Anthony/Tony, just like her husband. Some habits are hard to break, I guess.

Tradition aside, as girls or teenagers, I think we females know what we want to name our children someday.

Sometimes tastes change. (Was I really considering naming my boy and girl Macon and Muriel from, The Accidental Tourist?)

In other instances, we’ve used them for pets, so it seems strange to reuse them for human beings. (My friend called her cat Sadie, and them mournfully realized she couldn’t use it again.)

We can even get burned out by our name choices. (For about a year or two, my daughter named every stuffed animal, Lily, swearing it would be her girl’s name one day. But I haven’t heard it much lately.)

My husband and I decided that our first-born would be Aaron if it were a boy, and Hannah if it were a girl. Unbeknownst to me, Hannah wound up being the most popular name that year, so I’m glad I had a boy. When I was twenty-weeks along, they did an ultrasound, but the fetus refused to cooperate, so the sex couldn’t be determined.

When I was past my due date, the doctor asked if we wanted to know the sex during another ultrasound. It was already too late to avoid getting mint green and yellow everything, but I was anxious to know because if it were a boy, I’d need to have a bris (ritual circumcision) in my house eight days after the birth (Ugh). We were both sick of the previously picked boy’s name, so we chose one of our alternatives, and when we met the little man, his father and I knew we’d made the right choice.

I met someone who’s a single mother, and she said that she found being the sole namer of her son an awesome responsibility. In fact, a year after he was born, she decided that she’d made a mistake, and began calling him something else (I wonder if that confused the boy). She never had it legally changed, so the schools still have the other name on file.

Choosing a name with someone else is all about compromise. For my daughter, my husband and I quickly found a boy’s name we liked, but my husband only wanted, Zoe for a girl. I wasn’t feeling it. I chose three girl’s names: Bella, Chloe, and a third choice. Then I asked my three-year-old which name he liked best. He picked one, and at twenty-weeks, when the ultrasound revealed that I was having a girl, he began calling my belly that name. Since it was two against one, my husband gave up. (Wait, is that a compromise?)

Since I’m not birthing a boatload of babies and I had to negotiate with someone else, I’ll never get to use all my favorite names on actual people. Being an aspiring writer often makes me fraught with frustration, but one of the parts I enjoy about it is naming protagonists, antagonists, and all the rest. Although I use a lot of names to fit the characters, I also make room to use names I love. Getting to choose my favorite names for my characters just gives me added incentive to get these manuscripts published.


"Get it - get it better or get it worse. No middle ground of compromise."

- Henry Ossawa Tanner


* Here's the link:


Here are my quiz results:

Your parents get a C- for originality

Ranking - 'Theresa' was the 53rd most popular girl's name in your birth year.

Rarity - 59% of girls had rarer names that year. (Grade: C-)

Peak year - 'Theresa' peaked in popularity in 1961.

Current rank - 'Theresa' is currently the 852nd most popular girl's name.

Current name - Your parents might name you 'Kaitlyn' today (current #53).


** Yesterday’s post:


8 Comment count
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Naming a child...

is probably one of the biggest decisions a parent makes. Especially when you consider that is something that is not easily changed and has to be "used" by both child and adult.

I know I thought long and hard about the names for my children. Part of the reason had to do with the fact that my father always HATED his name and always went by "Bud" (he still does, and cringes if he (or anyone else, for that matter) has to utter his real name aloud.

As a pharmacist, I see all these unique names (and even more unique spellings) coming out and I think that these parents have no clue as to what damage may they may caused for these children as they make their way through school. I suppose as the philosopher Nietzsche said, "that which does not kill us, makes us strong." Well, many of these kids will have to be strong.

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Thanks for the Comment

Nancy, I agree with you that naming a child should be done with the utmost care. As you point out, that seems to happen less and less. I figure that some of these people burdened with inappropriate names will change them when they go to college or look for a job, that is, if they rise above their names. I guess that in the right place, almost any name is acceptable.

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Having a name that is so

Having a name that is so anonymous as to seem like a lie whenever I have to give it in public, I thought a lot about naming my daughters. How to find just the right name--strong enough to be president, but clearly female as I dislike ambiguity, and pretty but not fluffy and not the same as ever other kindergartner their year?
And yes, some names now seem like the parents just chose whatever letters came up in their alphabet soup. At least when my ex- and I were choosing names, we ran our possibles by several people so we wouldn't inadvertantly choose something problematic. We didn't choose a favorite relative's name for KidTwo's middle name because it would have given her the initials of an STD, something we didn't want to do to her, however much we loved that particular relative.

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Names are Tricky

Hi Susan,

I agree that it's hard to choose a name, even needing to take initials into account. My husband liked the name Zoe, but I felt like it sounded too flighty. But now it's popular so maybe my impression will change.

I also agree that having an anonymous name is tough. My father's name is so common that his bank confused him with someone else, pronouncing him deceased. He had to prove he was still alive. I should've put that story in the post!

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At a former doctor's office,

At a former doctor's office, I had to identify myself by my date of birth; and at the vet's office, by the name of my cat (at least the vet told me the other Susan Brown was good to her cat); and once I bought and paid for another woman's special ordered shoes as they were the same size and brand as mine.

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Brown is Common

My last name used to be Brown, but I think having the first name Theresa helped avoid some of the problems you faced. My sister had the hardest time picking a name for SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) because her first name and the last name Brown was taken, and almost all the nicknames.

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And I thought Smith...

was common! I jokingly tell people that my name is what it is because I am in the Witness Protection Program...Oops, guess I should not have said that.

Seriously, I have met a few other Nancy Smiths surprisingly enough! Once I met a Nancy Brady (my maiden name being Brady) and when we exchanged coincidences her maiden name was Smith..go figure!

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Smith and Brown

Nancy, I agree that Smith is common, though these days I meet more Browns than Smiths. I miss Brown's simplicity, especially when I'm spelling and pronouncing my last name (een at the end, not ine). I guess Brady is pretty common too.