naming your daughter after a chandelier

Abigail Ruby

Smelly just had a baby girl and named her after a chandelier. I don’t know if she realizes it or not. I tell all expecting parents to paw their way through the Pottery Barn catalog for a good baby name. So Marlowe was named after a bookcase and Remy’s a chandelier. Big whoop.

As Jews, we name our babies after dead people. We snag the first initial of a departed relative and name our daughter after a man who accused us of replacing his GE light bulbs with Kmart brand. It’s tradition. Though I don’t know how I’ll one day explain to my son that he was named after a woman who’s goal in life was to own a Cadillac, a huge diamond rock, and a mink.

A name for a baby can mean many things. You can go through all the trouble to pick the “right” name, the perfect meaning to reflect her demeanor, nothing that will commit him to a lifetime of being called upon last (Oh, but I love the name Zachary!). You can ensure the name you select doesn’t rhyme with any offensive adjectives or nouns like “knucklehead” or “diarrhea,” but the bottom line is, if kids don’t like you, they’ll find a way, without rhyme or reason, to let you know it. Not much rhymes with Stephanie, unless you find “bo-befanie” vulgar, yet as safe as my name is, kids still slapped me but good with the merciless moniker “Moose.”   

When it came to choosing names for our unborn twins, of whom we refused to find out the sex(es), my husband and I set out to agree upon three sets of names (if it was two girls, two boys, or one of each).  We couldn’t very well name two girls “Gabby” and “Abby,” but if I birthed a boy and a girl, either name was fair game. It was all about the combination, and as with most couples we know, we couldn’t agree on a single name, not even their intended surname.

“We’re not giving them first, middle, and two last names, with or without a hyphen. It’s ridiculous,” my husband said.
“What if we blended our two last names?”
“Are you high?”
“Well, why do you assume just because convention says so, that I have to give up my last name?” I didn’t think of it at the time, but that question ought to have been phrased differently. It wasn’t about relinquishing my name, but rather fighting for our children to retain a concrete connection to their ancestors, right there on a dotted line, even if it was a blend.
“What, you want to chop them off right here?” My husband found the notion of our children taking my name—in any manner—emasculating, despite my argument that many a machismo Latino retained his mother’s last name without ever passing it on.
“Yeah, that’s because the mothers weren’t sure who the father really was.”
“Hey, smartass, biblical times aside, they still do it today, even with Judge Judy paternity tests.” But as soon as I said it, I realized that “they still do it” translated to “follow tradition,” an argument I was trying to foil.

I tried to bargain, insisting that if I gave up my last name, in turn, I’d get to choose their first names. But each time I’d offer a suggestion, my husband insisted I was picking stripper names. “Emmanuelle? You’re kidding right?”
“How about Savannah,” I swooned, “and we’ll call her Savvy, for short.”
“That’s not just a porn name, it’s a city—a city, I might add, that refers to the civil war as ‘The War Of Northern Aggression.’”
“Yeah, but it’s pretty,” and really, who can argue with that?
“Okay, I have an idea. Why don’t we name it Smithers?”
“Which one?”
“Both of them.”
“Like ‘Thing 1’ and ‘Thing 2’ only with a Simpson’s flair. I dig ya.”
“Mmmm. Hmmm.”
“Mmmm. Hmmm.”

My husband continued to refer to our unborn twins as “Smithers,” insisting because the name ended in an “s” it was automatically plural. Eventually, I maintained that the best way to come upon names we both liked was to paw our way through a Pottery Barn catalogue.
“They’re onto something here,” I said as I surveyed the names of their ottomans and bureaus.  “How about Wynn, Stratton, or Pearce?”
“Pearce?! As a general rule, I think we should avoid all names that double as verbs.”
“What about Campton?”
“No way is a kid named Campton not getting his ass handed to him on the playground.”
“Oooh, ooooh, here’s one. Ready? How about…”
“It’s not gonna improve with time, honey.”
He ruminated then replied with an unwavering “Yes.”
“Really?!” I squealed.
“Sure, I can picture it now, our little Porter climbing onto my lap. ‘Poppa, where did I get my name?’ I can’t wait to tell him he was named after a lateral file cabinet.”
“How about Mercer or Cole?”
“Let me guess, console tables?”
“Sleeper sofas?”
“Please, I’m not perverse!”
“Earthenware, then? A high-quality outdoor collection?”
“Ah, I’ve got it. A set of stylish sconces.”
“How do you even know what a sconce is?”
“You going to tell me? What?… What was that?… A little louder. I can’t quite hear you.”
“Bathroom fixtures, all right?!”
“Bathroom fixtures, I might have known.”
“Well, they do have solid brass knobs, and what boy could want for more than that?”
“It would’ve been a stronger sell if you told me they were glasses blown by hand.”
“Ugh, you’re such a sectional.”
“Wanna go mess around?”
“Sure, then I officially won’t know who the father is, and they’ll have to take my last name.”



  1. Only one (obvious) thing I can say: as long as the names are not from the Ikea catalogue…

  2. Ah yes. . .the naming game. I don't have kids, but I went to school in Montana with several kids named Montana, Dakota, Aspen, and Madison (after a river, not the snack cake chick). Plus there were the usual bevy of hippie names: Willow, Autumn, Skye, Karma, and Leaf. But my favorites were the Dishes: Cedar (boy), Crystal (girl), and Candy (short for Candace).

  3. i don't really see what argument needs be said other than, we are both parents, only i am the one whose ORGANS MOVE AROUND and has to give birth out of my DOWNTOWNS. ahem. so there is no reason why the kids should have the fathers last name any more than the mothers, save for personal, emotional ones, which are not really arguable, although they are important. my husband is actually more liberal than me. i'm fine with the kids having his last name (which i did not take when we got married) but he's all "whatever sounds best with the first name can be their last name". good job out-liberaling this liberal, sweets!

  4. Stephanie, I just wrote a similar piece about trying to name my soon-to-be-born baby girl
    She's scheduled to arrive now in less than 10 days, and we still haven't agreed. I think I have a Pottery Barn catalog around here somewhere….

  5. I love, love, love Savannah! And all porn names for that matter. Julie – how about Lola? You can totally steal my baby name.

  6. "woman who's goal in life was to own a Cadillac, a huge diamond rock, and a mink." Was your grandmother's name Lois – because mine is and this describes her to a T. Got to love the Jewish grandmas… :)

  7. Some people use the mother's maiden name as their baby's middle name… In your case it would have worked perfectly for Lucas, as Klein strikes me as a more masculine-sounding moniker.

  8. I love, love, love Savannah! And all porn names for that matter! Julie – what about Lola? You can totally steal my baby name.

  9. "a woman who's goal in life was to own a Cadillac, a huge diamond rock, and a mink." Was her name Lois? Because that is my grandmother's name and this statement describes her to a T…or probably every Jewish grandmother of that era. :)

  10. I know a woman named Aspen and she is absolutely stunning, so I am all about exotic names. I'm also about the gender neutral names as I am bound and determined that a name prevents my daughter from setting food in any door.

  11. We have four named in the Jewish tradition:
    Grayson Matt
    Aria Baker
    Elisabeth Shoshana
    Asher Samuel

    People say "Asher" is trendy, but he was actually named for his maternal great-great grandfather.

    This was a cute post, I love baby names! Can you tell me why I couldn't read it today in Panera? It was blocked (category: other). Good thing, because if someone munching on their frontega chicken panini and cup of soup (cold here in DC today) happened to see this offending post, it would have caused waves!

  12. I have a cousin named Savannah and everyone calls her "Vanna or Vanny" which makes me think of "tranny"

  13. How about a win-win by way of an old southern tradition? You name your boy after your maiden name (ie Klein Beer). I've never heard of anyone doing this with a girl, but I don't see any reason not to if you think it is a good fit.

  14. Ha, we are exact opposites on this issue. If I see a name I previously liked in the PB catalogue, it's immediately stricken, on the grounds that it is way too WASPy (or wanna-be WASPy). :)

  15. Julie,

    My niece's name is Avery. I think it's a beautiful girl's name!!!

    Other suggestions:

    Best of luck with the delivery!

  16. Kim, that made me laugh out loud. LEKSVIK, wash up before dinner. EKTORP, stop taunting your sister. I suppose there is BILLY — but it's an all-caps BILLY.

    I don't know, Steph — I think "Abigail and Lucas Klein" sounds perfectly matched, though I'm guessing it's too late for that now. Beer may roll off your tongue, but only in the most literal of senses!

  17. kim is funny!

    My kids have 4 names. It has never been a problem. They actually like having all four. It has never bothered me that we drop one for filling out forms and so forth.

    We got their names from family names too. You have to be so careful making fun of names because there's going to be SOMEBODY out there with that name. (Like my kids and the 4 names.)

  18. uh, where exactly does everyone think pottery barn gets the names from other than a book of names. any word can be a name, we are all just products of mass marketing psychology – names sound regal or funny or powerful because we assign them to those categories. As for the stipper-name argument, tell Phil to stop going to strip clubs and he wouldn't know the names of stippers.

  19. I believe the MOTHER (who is pregnant for 9 long months and finally births babe(s) has the total right to name child(ren). Whatever the hell she wants.

  20. Marlee — LOVE Elisabeth Shoshana! My daughter is Elizabeth Rebecca. I also love Abigail and Lucas. Definitely vastly superior to the PB names in this post. Regarding last names, I have no useful opinion. I'm part of a household of 3, each w/different last name. (I returned to my original name after divorce; husband has his last name; daughter has her father's name.) Works OK for us.

  21. I love the fact that I'm not the only one out there who's husband asks if I'm high when I say something strange.
    PS I was named after Crystal Gayle and it makes me cringe whenever I hear her sing.

  22. PB names are great. The WASPier, the better. I was gifted (and cursed) with a name that is read incorrectly as "Bethany" when, in fact, my dear mother could have hyphenated it or done without the silent "e."

  23. “Yeah, that’s because the mothers weren’t sure who the father really was.” YUCK. Surprised no one called him out on this racist nonsense in the comments. you must not have too many non-white readers.

  24. My husband's first name is his Mother's maiden name — Clarke. I like it, but we didn't want to have a Jr. so when our son was born we named him Jack Easton (middle name is the same as Ansel Adams, one of our favorite photographers). Our daughter's name is Ainsley Caroline – it was just something I liked :)

  25. won't be having children for a while, but why do all men think alike? I've thrown the idea to my hubby that I want the names hyphenated so that they remember their ancestors, where they came from and he spits back like I'm emasculating him. I'm latin so my mother's last name means a lot. I also have a first name: Maria and second name: Carolina. But I go by Carolina.

    And discussing names, we like a girl's name, but we probably won't once I'm pregnant. Is anything ever just plain and simple? Everything always have to be a fight?

  26. Thank you Barbara! Does your Elizabeth have a nickname? Our Elisabeth has remained, for the most part, Elisabeth – as I had hoped. Occasionally she gets "Lily" or "Lissy."

    Another interesting naming convention from when I lived in North Carolina – the combining of Mary with the father's name.

    I knew a "Mary Lloyd" a "Mary Todd" and a "Mary Neil." My husband and I joked about having a "Mary Bruce" – but, well, I just couldn't go there.

  27. Marlee — She's Elizabeth to me, but Liz to most of the world. I figured that or some other nickname would happen. I called her Liz once or twice over the years, and she promptly advised me to knock it off. The oddest aspect for me was when she was in high school (she's a college soph now) and I would go to teacher conferences and hear about my daughter, "Liz." It felt like she had this whole other world of people who knew her differently than I did. Which was indeed the case. And now she has classrooms and dorms full of people I don't even know.

  28. Oh, don't get me started on the names! Our son being the first grandchild and great grandchild on all sides, there was so much pressure to name after the *right* dead relative! Hubby and I both had very strong feelings about this.
    Hubby was set on David (after his grandfather) for years; then while I was pregnant my family got sued by a guy named David, which just really soured the mood. Meanwhile, my amazing grandpa named Isaac passed away.. So we compromised on Daniel (starts with D, easy enough) Isaiah (combines Isaac with my other grandfather's Yiddish name, Shaiah). Phew!

    Now I am 19 wks with our 2nd child; we find out the gender next week, and the battle starts all over! We are completely out of boys' names at this point.. so it better be a girl!

    BTW, I LOVE the names Abigal and Lucas. Let's not even go into the last name territory; been there, done that :)

    Off-topic: my nutritionist is doing a FREE teleclass about cleansing this Thursday. It's called "The 10-Pound Detox Cleanse: How To Lose Weight Quickly After The Holidays"
    Check it out:

  29. “Yeah, that’s because the mothers weren’t sure who the father really was.” YUCK. Surprised no one called him out on this racist nonsense in the comments. you must not have too many non-white readers.

    So you're saying all non white people are absolutely at ease with not knowing paternity? Who is racist here? Good luck with everything. You might want to change your blatant racism (or at least hide it in real life, I suspect on a computer it's easy enough) as Caucasians are fast becoming the global minority. Just a thought.

    PS- I'm Caucasian..not all of us are so quick to perpetuate stereotypes.

  30. I would just once in my life like to meet someone with my first name. Every time I speak to a friend and find out they're pregnant, I beg them to name the baby after me. It's not ethnic, or made up, it's just two very simple names hyphenated that are never normally hyphenated. It's very lonely being the only…

  31. I love the name Emmanuelle. I mentioned to one of my best friends I loved that name and she openly laughed in my face and said it reminded her of the little person from Webster. Now I'm afraid of telling her what I choose to name my children when that day comes.

  32. @ Tacky

    Actually I think that Phil's comment (which was said in a private conversation and ironically -i hope)really meant that latinos used the mother's last name because they didn't know who their father was, so I don't see the racism in pointing out a comment that says that all latino women are promiscous.

    I'm caucasian, european and Spanish, here in Spain we use two last names , first goes the father's last name and then the mother's last name ( so eventually yes, the mother's lastname is lost). Officially you use both for identification.

    I think Phil said it ironically, no need to call him out, but no need to call racist the person who pointed out that the comment was racist, I think you are being hateful.

  33. Carolina, Carolina is my favorite name- i'm 1/2 latin, so yes, it all means that much to me as well. (my mother is Isabel- really Maria Christina Isabel, but Isabel;and dont get me started on the influx of the Italianated- *Isabella*'s out there… so over it!)
    We have a family friend named Carolina and we call her 'caro'
    I love that name! Que lindisimo. And I hope you dont meet annoying people who pronouce it as in the Carolinas, north and south. how annoying.

  34. My favorite girl names that I can think of right now are: Rebekah, Ava, Olivia, Francesca, Catherine, Gretchen, Giuliana, Caroline, Genevieve, Gisele, and Bridget…. For boys, I like Samuel, Liam and Jacob.

  35. My oldest is Jeremy and he has my maiden name as his middle name. My twins: Jacqueline Marie and Zachary Emanuel. I was drawn to old Gaelic names or Old Testament names. Old Testament names always give make me think of strong, classic and worldy. Of course, their names are variations of the OT names. Middle names though were chosen for living people. My maiden name for my father, Marie is my middle name and was given to me for the same reason I gave it to my daughter for all the various Marys/Maries on both sides of the family. Emanuel is my husband's middle name and my FIL's first name. I LOVE that name!! My FIL is an identical twin and he was the 'surpise' baby. They didn't know 79 years ago like they do now that two babies were growing inside his Italian mom. So it means something to me that the name they chose for him was so natural. Spontaneous. A surprise name for a surprise baby.
    As an aside, the other day someone asked what my Zachary's middle name was and I love to say the name Emanuel and this person actually said, "oooohhh, that poor kid." I bust out laughing because I wanted to say, "um… helloooooo? Do you not realize you're saying THAT to the woman who named him that???"
    I loved the name game when I was pregnant. Learned after my first one though that I didn't tell ANYONE what we were going to name them because EVERYONE has a comment.

  36. I call my best friend Smelly, reading this post for the first time made me do a second take. I give parents a lot of credit for picking good names. It can't be easy.

  37. I have a question.

    If this convo took place during your can you remember everything, word for word? Is part of it plain fiction? I always wondered when you quoted your arguments with Phil..but thought that maybe you remembered those cause they were only a day before (I'm proud of my memory but when trying to remember arguments, I gotta admit, I tend to add bits and pieces..or choose to 'not' remember other bits). How on earth do you do it?

  38. I just helped a friend look through the Pottery Barn catalog for name ideas!! I'm going to hold onto some of them for myself!! :)

  39. My favourite girl's name is Aurelia, because of it's sound. But I still ask myself how parents could have named their boy Adolf Hitler and their Girl Aryan Nation, as happened in Jersey. Naming one's child after a chandelier seems to be very appropriate against that I think.

  40. Oh! Some other favorite girl names of mine are:

    Jaclyn (I like the Jacqueline spelling also)

    I like the Spanish name Marisol for a middle name.. I knew a girl growing up who's name was this, she went by the nickname Solé. Pronounced – Sole and then A (pronounced like saying the letter A)

    Call me crazy, but I also like the sound of Philomena, Rosemary or Penelope.. I don't know if I could name a daughter of mine those names though?

  41. "Though I don't know how I'll one day explain to my son that he was named after a woman who's goal in life was to own a Cadillac, a huge diamond rock, and a mink."

    it's "whose", not "who's." you also regularly confuse "they're", "there" and "their." sorry, but this is a HUGE pet peeve – I'm a college professor, and expect anyone with a HS diploma to know the differences.

  42. Well, I was very fond of my name until I learned about the filing cabinet. Thank you.

    I kid. I prefer to take it as a possible explanation for my fashion addiction, as in prêt-à-porter.

  43. In this single conversation, Phil reveals that he’s racist and sexist. Lovely. In our family, since two sets of genes went into creating our children, we mutually decided to hyphenate with my last name first. We didn’t fight over it, either. It may be earth shattering news to Stephanie and Phil, but not every issue needs to become a battleground.

  44. Favorite (almost) baby names for twin girls: Colby and Bree. I tried to hold out but finally gave up and mentioned to the expectant mother that, “Um, you probably shouldn’t give both of your children cheese names.”

  45. …also, using the Pottery Barn catalog is probably better choice than using the IKEA catalog.

  46. “Yeah, that’s because the mothers weren’t sure who the father really was.” I couldn’t read past that.

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