I walked home in a light drizzle the other day after a delightful coffee with a former student. He’s in his mid-50’s and proud of his first grandchild, a girl name Jefri. He didn’t much care for the name, but, of course, he had no say in the matter. I’ve read a few studies about how names can affect a child’s psyche. Whether or not those studies are definitive, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure a girl named Jefri is either going to develop a sense of humor or suffer a lot of bloody noses.
My sainted stepmother swore that when she was a Wisconsin farm girl, she grew up with a classmate whose surname was Inch and whose parents thought it would be a hoot to give her Ima as a first name and Little as her second – Little being her mother’s maiden name. Ima Little Inch is what she answered to at roll call to the delight of her sniggering fellow students.
I don’t know if the story is true or a tall one. But it should serve as a cautionary tale to parents who get too creative with their child’s name. Jefri is going to spend a lot of her life explaining why she has a boy’s name and correcting the spelling of it on countless legal documents. What’s more, I’m pretty sure her classmates will have plenty to say about a girl with a boy’s name while she’s growing up.
Ima Little Inch might have been happy with a name like Jefri, all things being relative. Still, it’s a pity well-meaning parents can’t be trusted… a pity they’ve forgotten the scabbed knee, elbow awkwardness of being young. The last thing a kid wants is a weird name to make him or her stand out.
What’s in a name? Plenty.