I had a Great Uncle named Archie Harrison. That’s right, just like the new royal baby, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. Our family’s Facebook group page erupted in delight and laughter over the coincidence, with many saying how Uncle Archie would have gotten a big kick out of the new baby’s name. My own son, who could be a stunt double for Prince Harry, complete with red hair and beard, is named Harrison, after my maiden name, so we’re feeling as if we received a royal wink from our distant English family.
Names have always fascinated me to the point I bought baby name books long before I was married. I cleverly hid them, lest any boyfriend happen to see them and be spooked off by unrealistic ideas. I really just liked reading about the meanings behind each name. The books came in handy when I named my dog “Mabel,” which means, “lovable.”
Like the quilts on our beds or a recipe handed to you in the church parking lot and now tucked between Acts and Romans, our Southern names tell a story. We all know Vernella is obviously the daughter of Vernon and Annella. Gennie Sue’s real name is Imogene Susan, after her two grandmothers. There’s a method to our madness and a difference in our quaint old-fashioned names that honor our history and just plain weirdness.
The hippie generation started the trend of taking uniqueness a little too far with names like “Prairiebelle” and spiraled out of control from there into making people think it’s OK to invent spellings or even give a baby a nickname instead of a full real name.
Biblical names are always a safe bet. My mother’s two uncles were Paul and Silas, which was inspiring, but you have to know what you’re doing to avoid names like Judas or Lucifer. You don’t want your son bringing Jezebel Jane home from college.
My family used my double name so much, when I was younger, I’d actually tell people my name was “Anne” because that’s the only part I caught. I dropped the Anne in middle school during an unfortunate incident that can’t be printed, but it bounced on and off over the years with family using one thing and friends using something different, but both names were rejoined by college and since that’s how my husband met me, it stuck. The double first name has seen a resurgence over the last few decades since we believe the more names you have, the better your story must be. However, when you see some baby names, you know their story is, “Once upon a time, your parents didn’t know how to spell — bless their hearts.”
Teachers can rattle off good name stories. I had one mother correct me when I called her son, “Timothy.” Even though the paperwork clearly said, “T-i-m-o-t-h-y.” “It’s Tomothy!” She bellowed, then added, “I don’t know why everyone calls him “Timothy!” I was a new teacher and thought any woman crazy enough to name her son Tomothy would pull out some whoop-up on me, so I didn’t have the nerve to state the obvious, “It’s because that’s how you spelled it . . . you phonetically challenged woman!”
Because of my family ties, I adore the royal name, Archie Harrison, and am thankful they didn’t spell it R-chee Hairsin. But you know that version will pop up somewhere soon.
This story first appeared on AL.com and will be featured in the Mobile Press Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.