Baby,  Essay

Picking Names


Picking names for your children is a wonderfully optimistic sport, filled with meaning and reverence and nostalgia and hope. We’re not encouraged to feel hope for the future much, most especially when you walk past anyone protesting the government, the environment, mass general hospital (I live near there and the State House, and you know, protesters like to keep things regional). But discussing names lets a small kite soar up within you and for a passing moment or two, the future looks bright.

Maybe you believe the world will be a completely different place than it’s been before, and you choose a name new to your world and social circles. Or you reach into the rock-solid parts of your memory, the place where things have really taken root, and you simply respond and take that as your guide. Someone suggests the name of a person you disliked immensely when you were seven? Absolutely not, off the table, never to be revived. A family name is suggested, one you’ve heard hundreds of times and barely registered, but suddenly it sounds hearty and wise, like an herb that’s healed the sick for centuries. You read the chipped scripts on old gravestones and let the worlds circle around in your head like a sink full of water draining away, trying to sense what they could mean to you after you’d shouted them across backyards for ten years.


I think many of the old fears don’t really apply these days. You don’t really mind if you meet someone who has chosen the same name.* When we thought we were having a boy, Joe and I liked the name Henry. I now know five Henrys that are Lux’s age, but I still love the name and love all these little Henrys running around. You aren’t afraid of those years when your child won’t like their name, or insists on something else; that’s nothing more than an easy indicator of how furiously their creativity and self-awareness has taken root. (The name I found better suited to my character from ages 11-14 was Octavia. Obviously, right? Missed that opportunity, Mom and Dad!)


I was on the phone with a customer service gal (I just love this trend of young friendly Americans at call centers, don’t you?) talking about Lux’s diaper order (*eye roll* oh modernity) and she said, “that’s the secret name I want to name my daughter someday!” And of course it was my secret name that I wanted to name my daughter someday, so I said, “do it for sure! But mention it to your partner early.”

Most of the names Joe and I suggest to one another sound crazy to the each other. It’s like comparing notes on a wine tasting and you’re about to say “fruity” when the other person says “soggy moss.”

This post isn’t ending with a list of names we’re thinking about, ha! But the game is on.

*Baby Lux, “the real baby Lux” twitter account with over a million followers that showed up four months after Lux was born is another story for another time. After 18 months I’ve finally managed to at least unfollow her, ha!

Photos from Paul Octavious’ #pantoneproject on Instagram. The best idea, as usual. 


  • noelle

    haha, Octavia! Where did that come from? Mine was Vesper Holly (I read it in a book).

    Also fun is getting name suggestions from friends and family. Their picks are very telling.

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Vesper Holly is genius. Mine was from an Egyptian infatuation. Basically I wanted to live in ancient Egypt.

      I’m very judgy with name suggestions. It’s terrible. People suggest things and I just think “what??”

  • Christine

    Ha ha. My secret name was Gretchen. An odd choice for a 7th grader, but I just KNEW I was a Gretchen on the inside.

  • Laura

    Mine was (is) Cordelia (yes, Anne of Green Gables). Every time I go into the Anthropologie dressing rooms, I make them write my secret name on the door.

  • Shelby @ Lady Gouda

    I hated my name growing up. I no longer hate it, but I’m still not quite convinced it’s my true name. I like the idea of claiming another – I’ll have to think about that. Which just makes it more difficult to find a name for our baby coming this September. It’s at once a very hopeful prospect (as you describe in your lovely post) and somewhat terrifying.

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      I was just reading your big news the other day! Congratulations. It’s always fun to read a foodie’s experience of the 1st trimester. Everything is topsy turvy! (I craved sub sandwiches and never really bought into the fear of cold cuts)

  • Christy Milford

    I love talking about names! People were always asking me what my full name was growing up, and I suppose part of me was disappointed that I was just Christy, because I started writing stories about a girl named Kristianna. Ha. How tastes change- now that name is too flowerly and girly to me. I love Elodie. Charlotte is an old favorite, but it’s become so popular. I think you did quite well choosing Lux 🙂

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