8 Ways to Name a Baby After Someone…Even if You Hate Their Name
It's a funny thing about our ancestors: they're all older than us. Worse yet, they were born in the real past. That's the past where babies had names like Bernice, Mervin, Gladys and Wilfred, not the rose-tinted baby name past populated by names like Oliver, Julia, Gracie and Max.
What do you do when you want to honor a beloved relative's memory but her name doesn't fit your contemporary taste? Here are 8 strategies for naming after the name-fashion challenged:
1. The International Variant. If your relative had a traditional name, try looking to other languages for attractive translations. Ellen and Johnny could become Helena and Gianni, or Eleni and Ian. Past eras of English naming can help too; an uncle Peter could be honored with the medieval equivalent Piers.
2. The Nicknamesake. Great-Grandpa Wilfred's name may be a no go, but how about his nickname Will? Your little Will can still be a namesake, even if his full name is William or Wilson. Get creative with name roots and you'll find a surprising number of problem names can yield attractive "nicknamesakes."
3. The Middle Name. This is the most popular approach for today's parents, and the easiest. Just move the name down to the middle slot and choose a more stylish first name. The middle name solution preserves the honoree's name in its original form, and gives you an opening to tell your child stories of the wonderful individual they were named after. The downside is that you'll probably never use the middle name, so it won't conjure up memories the way a first-name namesake will.
4. The Surname. Don't forget that your loved ones had more than one name. A surname honor can come across as less specific, honoring a branch of the family rather than an individual. But if that family heritage meant a lot to your honoree, it may be a fitting tribute.
5. The Monogram. When more direct namesakes aren't an option, fall back on initials. Sharing initials with a special person is a subtle homage, but you can think of it as a secret message -- an unseen but powerful link between generations.
6. The Meaning. Most names have a literal derivation you can delve into for ideas. Leonard, for instance, comes from Germanic roots meaning "brave lion." You might honor a beloved Leonard with the name Ari, which is Hebrew for lion. WARNING: If you find yourself turning to this option, it probably means you've gotten desperate in your search for some kind of literal namesake. Before you make such an abstract connection, take some time to consider the next option.
7. The Non-Name "Namesake." Naming in honor of a person doesn't necessarily mean naming after him. Did your honoree have a personal hero? Was there a place that was special to him throughout his life? Did he have a passion that he passed on to you, that you hope to share with your child? Connecting to something a person loved can be a beautiful way to honor the life he lived.
8. The Original. Okay, you've run through all of your options for Grandma Martha. The international options stop at Marta. Grandma's unpronounceable surname is out of the question. An initial M won't sound like an homage to Martha, because your name is Melanie! And Martha is from the Aramaic for "lady," which is no help at all. Well, then...how about naming your daughter Martha? Give the original name a chance, it just might grow on you.