Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Name Game: Leah

I love names. In high school biology, instead of actually paying attention to the teacher, I made a list of girls names in the back of my notebook. Alphabetically, I wrote down every girl's name I could think of. Useful, I know. I even wrote down the name I didn't like.

In college, this love of names was reinforced in my literature and theater classes, where it was pointed out that usually authors selected their character names deliberately, not just by plucking them out of the air. I LOVED this concept, and when presented with a new book or play, I'd eagerly head to my favorite baby name sites to see if the meanings corresponded with the characters at all. Usually they did. (I tend to be a bit analytical sometimes...)

So you can bet that when presented with an opportunity to name my very own child, I did not take it lightly. Oh no. I am NOT one of those people who can just choose a name because "it sounds nice." There needs to be plenty of thought and symbolism put into the choice.

OH, and Aaron should probably like it, too. This actually proved to be the first step in the culling process, which helped greatly since I tend to like just about every name under the sun.

And he does not.

We found out about 5 years ago that we would be having a daughter, and the Name Game started. We agreed that her name should be something Biblical, since our faith is very important to both of us. Also, Biblical names tend to be solid, classic names (well, a lot of them anyway) that would generally be thought well of.

OR, her name should be a family name.

Then we eliminated all the names of our nieces, my cousins, and our close friends and their kids. This took care of the majority of Biblical options. However, there was a NON-Biblical , somewhat family name we both liked: Nora. Aaron's grandma's name was Cora (and she was a piece of work, they tell me...I really wish I could have met her.) Nora spelled N-o-r-a-a is Aaron backwards. However. Norah Jones was really big at the time, and our last name is too reminiscent of that songstress to get by.

We also had, of course, the name "Leah" on our short list. A solid Biblical name unclaimed by anyone else we knew, it fit all the requirements. PLUS, it means "weary" (the poor lady had 10 sons, you know, even if she didn't actually give birth to all 10) AND I spent 5 hours pushing while in labor with my lovely daughter - who stubbornly chose her own unique position in the birth canal. Somewhere in that five hours, I decided that "Leah" it was.

Reader Noel mentioned possible literary references, and indeed, there is one. I had recently read The Red Tent, and although I question the accuracy of the relationship between Leah and Jacob in that novel, I loved that Leah was presented as a strong, independent woman, not the unattractive weakling that I had imagined from Sunday School. Also, and probably more to the Biblical facts, if Leah was the lesser loved sister, it would appear that God heard her cries of misery, and gave her that enormous amount of children to provide her with honor, affection, and caregivers.

Leah's middle name, Elizabeth, was already determined. And not because it's MY name, either - but because it is the middle name of my beloved grandma, Gail Elizabeth. I'm not sure how many generations carry it, but this name has some serious roots in my family.

I'm actually completely convinced that "Elizabeth" may be the world's most perfect middle name. Its syllables can help even out any awkward last name, and it is historical AND Biblical without being stodgy or out of fashion, or weird. And, of course, there are the limitless nicknames.

Like Liz. The world's most perfect first name.

(Ha! You knew I had to go there, people.)


Noel said...

On Thursday, there may be some gender news to cut the name candidates in half ... leaving only 20,000 - 30,000 to pick from.

Tonight "Ben" and "Leah" are leading me to the Biblical patriarchs which then should be cross referenced with books Lyz had listed as "have read" on an earlier blog post. Take the names on both lists and weight them based on preferences expressed by Lyz in her posts. Run the top names through a filter modeling Aaron's cognitive processes to get a short list. Consult a medical database about attributes of third deliveries and correlate with names in the short list. Sort names by correlation value to obtain the ranked final candidate list.

And to think I make a living by coming up with ideas like this....I could actually start the eHarmony of baby naming.

Aaron said...

In "The World According to Garp", Garp gets his character names from the phone book. Maybe you could try that technique?

Ruth said...

ramona quimby named her doll "chevrolet" because it was the most beautiful name she had ever heard.

srsly, that's my favorite naming story. cause if you stop, and slowly say "chev-ro-let," it really does sound beautiful. yay ramona!

Aaron said...

If you are going for a phonetically pretty name, no English major should overlook "Cellar door".

Anonymous said...

Your great-great grandmother's name was Elizabeth (Larness) Coulter. She had five children, two boys and three girls, Etta, Ruth(your great-grandmother) and Ada,whom you met but probably don't remember. Elizabeth spent the last years of her life with Ruth and her family. Your grandmother was her favorite so check with her for more Elizabeth stories.


JJ and EJ said...

Leah Leah bo Beah banana fana fo feah me my mo meah... LEAH!

Lyz said...

Noel - Dude. You think too much.

Aaron - I don't know if the phonebook would work to well - too many initials now.

Ruth - I love that story too. And ironically, "Ramona" is a lovely name ruined forever by that "the Pest" association!

Aaron - Totally don't get that reference, unless it's to "Talk Dirty to Me" - but then I don't get the English major part.

Dad - Thanks! I DO remember Ada, in fact - when GiGi took me to Chicago we visited her for a bit.

AJ said...

"Talk Dirty to Me"? How old are you Lyz? And what did your parents allow you to listen to anyway? Actually it was a funny connection to your brothers strange reference and made me laugh. Good Sport!