It’s funny how the most unremarkably pleasant days can suddenly swerve into something kind of concrete and momentous (or as “concrete and momentous” as anything that happens in this mortal coil). We were just pulling into the coffee stand today when my oldest child repeated his desire to legally change his name.
This isn’t the first time he’s told me he wanted to change his name to this particular choice. When we talked about it last I told him it involved a bit of trouble: mostly paperwork and assisting friends and family in remembering and respecting the new name (which means friendly and persistent repetition). I don’t have the kind of disdainful judgment the name-change can sometimes invoke in some people* as I’ve had one of my closest friends change her name and my own sister has changed her name more than once; I’m all about people self-validating.
I was also very impressed with my child’s choice as it is a very powerful name and one that suits him well.
Still, there is something kind of scary about the whole business.
Names do mean something – otherwise people wouldn’t agonize over these choices; otherwise you wouldn’t hear anyone mock certain names (especially names relating to out-groups, races or ethnicities that the dominant culture scorns). I won’t deny I felt an odd fear at having to call my child something else than the name I’d known him by – his entire life, which felt like a big part of my life too.
Still, I can tell he’s serious about it. He called both his father and grandmother and told them; they were enthusiastic and supportive.
I know I have to get some kind of court order to change a name in my family. I know I’m going to have to call doctors and the YMCA and a few organizations blah, blah. I know I’m going to stop calling him “_______” as I have done for years.
But even today in the grocery store when I called him by his new name he immediately snapped up and came to me. He has been calm and happy in this way I recognize when he’s made a choice that really, really works for him.
Welcome to our home, Phoenix Fire Hogaboom.**
* Although of course, the people who sneer at name-changes often have no trouble with married women taking their husband’s surname.
** You can email him at phoenix.fire AT hogaboom DOT org to congratulate him – I know he’d love it!
way to go Phoenix Fire and Mama! congrats email has been sent 🙂
What a beautiful& powerful name:) I think it fits perfectly!
it totally suits her.
and it makes sense to me that people could choose their own names rather than just live with what their parents picked.
My mom named me shelley because it was close to her name (sally) and that kind of upsets me, but I don’t have a better name in mind, so have never really looked into all of that. I switched my last name to Will’s last name, partially because it was a combo of my dads and step dads last names and I didn’t like my step dad. But I use my dads last name for creative stuff I do, mostly because he was creative, and is now dead.
At the same time, if Boots didn’t want to be called Boots I would probably be kind of sad, since it’s been his name, and I have loved him with that name (of course name change wouldn’t change the love). But if he wanted to use his first name (a big fat mistake in my book) I would like it less than a special name that he chose for his own reasons.
and i forgot to add that this new bloggy-look has got me all happy inside 🙂
I can hear it now, “Phoenix Fire Hogaboom! You get in here right now!” This would be especially entertaining in public.
Ok…I know you would never need to resort to middle name calling, but it just popped in there.
I know what you mean about being sad. Sophie has been a dear person to me, as dear as you might imagine. She is still the person I loved but I do mourn the name. OTOH I am joyful for her in her choice of Phoenix (or Finn for short). I am still a bit rattled and surprised and I am a hard mama to surprise usually.
If we lived back in PT this name would barely be a blip on anyone’s radar; here things are a little more conservative name-wise in my peer group.
Thanks for the compliments! Ralph and I worked hard on it last night.
Thank you! I will pass this on to her.
I think it’s great that she has such a clear idea of who she is that she can pick a name that she feels really expresses who she is. I can imagine, though, that it must be hard to not think of her as Sophie, since that’s the name you imagined her growing up with.
I once read something (book, short story – can’t remember) about a society where kids were allowed to choose a new name at puberty or something like that. Strikes me as something I read in a women’s studies class but I’m not sure. Anyway, if our society as whole did that I think I would have changed my name, since I got stuck with the ubiquitous Jennifer, which I hate as it’s so common that it sounds like nothing. My father wanted to name me Astrid. He lost. I used to stand out with my maiden name (Snijders) but I changed it to Scott’s when we got married (another story entirely). So maybe that’s why I’ve chosen relatively uncommon first names for my kids.
Then again, I wonder about the kids who get stuck with really unusual – sometimes strange – names at birth. When I was teaching high school I had a student in my homeroom who had a baby girl. The child’s name was Qwes. I didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl until she brought in a note explaining that she was absent because Qwes was sick and she had to take her to the doctor. And then there’s the kid I once saw on a court tv show whose name was Jordache. Really? I mean, really? And then there’s the kid who was in my nephews’ second grade class. His name was Courvoisier. Again, really? You named your kid after a cognac brand? Oh, and least I forget, there was a kid at the high school where I taught whose name was Fukwon (pronounced Foo-kwahn) and you can imagine what people called him. So many times I see people on the news with unusual names or spellings and they’ve been arrested or something and I have to wonder if they act out because people made fun of their names. Or if because they don’t fit the norm for names they’re singled out by the authorities. I know someone did a study a few years ago about people in the prison populations in the US and how unusual names seemed to abound.
Oh, and I like the new blog look, too.
Sorry, I can’t follow you to the hint or implication that people shouldn’t have unusual names because what if someone picks on you for them. Nope. Especially when in the same breath you are a bit sad about your “common” and “nothing” name. Do we want the world to be full of Madisons and Parkers and Jaydens and Olivias and Tanners? Nah. Nothing wrong with those names; my point is, variety is the spice of life.
I love the opportunity to learn new names. Just yesterday I spoke with an Ulysses and the day before I met a Jia Tai.
Most name-trolling I’ve seen in my life was done because either A. people wanted to target that person ANYWAY, or B. as a way basically to make fun of someone’s non-“white” name.
If people are going to target or bully a child it has nothing to do with the name and everything to do with how those bullies have been raised and how our culture supports bullying under certain circumstances. For instance I wasn’t much of a target in school, but I did get name taunts. And my name was Kelly Fisher (ooh, I was “asking for it” with that one!) and I could list a half-dozen of jests along the lines of what I imagine “Fukwon” might have garnered. I’m remembering two boys who were mercilessly taunted in school: one’s name was Curtis and the other Jason (I won’t write their last names here but one of them was literally the most common name in this country).
If people pick on someone for an unusual name that means those people are assholes.
And in the final analysis, the idea of, “Don’t stand out because if you stand out bullies might get you” is A. supportive of bullies and B. the rather cowardly idea that we can’t handle bullies, they’re just too big and powerful. Bullying is a complex, horrid thing that is not solved by all of us just deciding to try to “blend in” a bit more.
people in the prison populations in the US and how unusual names seemed to abound.
Ha, you don’t think there’s perhaps a racial connection involved? Our prisons are seeded with a racially disproportionate inmate population. And then most name-mockery I’ve heard has been aimed at non-whites…. hmm… I wonder if there’s a connection… ah yes, it’s called (institutional and individual acts of) racism!
I did not know how to spell Courvoisier but I’d heard it pronounced ala Ladies Man. I would love to a have friend named that so I’d have the excuse to say it.
For every person who didn’t like their “unusual” name growing up, I’ve met twice as many who weren’t thrilled with their “boring” name. I like my name Kelly as it seems powerful but not aggressive. I like Jennifer too as my mother is a Jenny. JUST last night we were talking about the meaning of the name and she said it just meant “girl”. It’s also a very common name – one website tells me #6 out of 4276 ranked. This must be why you and my mom never went to prison (altho’ my mom was once busted for pot possession or being at a party with drugs or something).
It’s a powerful name for this beautiful strong girl. Way to go, mama…I think I might have continued to mumble about paperwork and hassles and hope it would be forgotten…I think it’s just so cool that you can really SEE her, see that this feels right for her. I bet it took so much courage for her to tell you – I had such reserve growing up about letting my mom see my secret self – and it really speaks to how open and egalitarian your relationship is. Welcome, Phoenix!
Wow, thank you, those are nice words. I kind of DID put up the bit about hassle and paperwork, the first time she mentioned the name. It gave her pause at the time but as you can see she brought it up again.
Of course as parents we often veto what our kids want. But sometimes we give it to them, no?
“My secret self” – oh my, I remember this, right when I was her age! I kept mine secret too! I wonder how many other children (especially our girls with the training they receive) do the same?
A. I have to say that I like the new look of the site.
B. I love that Sophie’s new name is Phoenix Fire Hogaboom! I actually saw you talking about Phoenix higher on up the page and for a minute thought Phoenix was a(nother) friend of Nels’, but then as I read realized it might be Sophie, having changed her name. What a freaking rad kid.
I always hated my name — too prissy, complicated — and liked the short, neat, really American names other girls had. My mom always told me that I could change my name to “christy” (which I loved when I was about Nels’ age) when I was 18, which of course was like saying I could do it in the next life! So the place in me that is the little girl who hates my prissy ass name (which I like now because I’ve grown into it) thanks you for giving your little girl that leeway.
besos y abrazos,
Christ (a nickname bestowed upon me in high school)
Thank you for the site complements. We’re big WordPress fans as, busy as we are and as much as we like doing OTHER stuff besides coding, it was pretty fast to change and reorganize the site.
Nels has been “changing” his name and everything else left and right. Like he said we should call him “Cat Claw” and that we should call our kitty Harris “Tom” (both of these fit). I told Nels I was already having enough mind-difficulty calling our daughter her new name. Good thing as Nels is far more capricious and likely to change things again tomorrow.
Thanks for your comment!