Szyperski: A Sophia or Jacob by any other name would be as sweetWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been a big fan of baby names since at least my teenage years, even receiving a much-wanted book of baby names for Christmas one year. Thankfully, I grew up in the age before teen pregnancy pacts and “Teen Mom” became popularized from sea to shining sea. If my teenage daughter asked for a baby name book today, I would likely place a book titled “Your Parents Aren’t Ready for Grandkids Yet” under the tree instead, just in case that was the real motivation.
I pored over baby name book after baby name book long before I actually had reason to pick a name out. Through my appellation exploration, I found that I seemed to like familiar names with common spellings that weren’t too popular. I wanted to be distinct without being eccentric for my own children and was more than confident that I had a stellar list of contenders chosen by the time I was set to deliver my first child.
We named him Jack Michael.
I can only assume that the reason my husband, Mike, and I ultimately landed on the name “Jack” is likely the same reason that so many other parents landed on the same name — it’s the only one we could agree on. I was set on “Lincoln” and Mike was set on “Nicholas,” so we obviously went with “Jack.” That’s just what you do when you’re off in two different directions, because who doesn’t like a kid named Jack?
Against my original judgment, our son entered school life with a fairly common name that we assumed would surely cause him to henceforth be known as “Jack S.” Surprisingly, upon entering preschool he didn’t become “Jack S.” (which was just as well since I eventually figured out that it kind of sounds like “jackass”). There was another Jack, but he just happened to also be a “Jack S.” Thus, my son went through two years of preschool as “Jack Szyperski.”
Even though there wasn’t a Lincoln in sight, I actually became quite comfortable with the conventional nature of the name “Jack.” While I was pregnant, my husband had done the seemingly impossible and sold me on choosing a nondescript name with five simple words, “but he’ll be our Jack.” The name actually fits him to a tee, and, regardless of how many other Jacks there are in the world, he is and always will be our Jack.
After experiencing my own epiphany about commonplace names, I was a bit dismayed to read the comments regarding this year’s top baby names. Commenters seemed overwhelmingly relieved when names they had chosen for their children did not show up on the list. Reading things like, “Thank God my kids names aren’t on that list!,” “Ugh, I specifically chose Noah because it wasn’t on the list at the time. Damnit!” and “I am always THRILLED to see my daughter’s name not show up! I don’t even want to see it in the top 100.” made we wonder what in the world is wrong with us.
I realize that online comment sections are generally to the pulse of society what “In Touch Magazine” is to the state of world affairs, but they do hold some sort of insight into American thought. I find it interesting that the popularity of a baby name could evoke such outrage and disappointment among our people. I understand that a tenet of our culture is supposed to be individuality, but I honestly think we need to take it down a notch.
Both “Jack” (actually “Jackson”) and “Michael” showed up on the list of “The Most Hated Baby Names in America” that recently made the Internet rounds. As a longterm, self-admitted name snob, I have to say that I felt neither upset nor victorious that the rest of the country supposedly doesn’t care for my son’s name. As obsessed as I am with name lists, they surely have no bearing on how I feel about my children’s names. This may be a shocking revelation, but I picked them because I like them.
Yes, my older daughter was semi-named after “Elaine” on “Seinfeld” (much to the chagrin of a nurse in the hospital who deemed the character too sarcastic to name a baby after) and, yes, my youngest daughter, Lucille, does have what some may consider to be an “old lady” name. Yet, “Laney” and “Lucy” seem to suit them just fine. Besides, I’ve found that it isn’t the name that makes the kid but rather the kid that makes the name. Whether their names are one in 6 billion or one of 6 billion, I love them just the same.
Shannon and her husband, Michael, are raising three children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.