“Helping” with the name

March 5, 2021


Before the day comes when I get a daughter-in-law of my very own, I think it’s wise to go ahead and make a list of all the suitable baby names available for our family. Don’t you think that’s a thoughtful way for me to “help?”

This list was created by the guidelines of the Committee for the Preservation of Loveliness, which boasts an award-winning baby name subcommittee. 

A child’s name is of great importance, and Southern mamas have a harder time than most because they can’t just stop at one or sometimes even two names. They have to come up with three or four, often like a password, incorporating upper- and lower-case letters plus on occasion, a few numerals. 

Named after three generations, “Jonathan Jefferson Cuthbert Clower IV (pronounced, the-“fow-urth”) has pizazz, so his baby sister needed an equally prestigious name and landed “Rebecca Charlotte Rachel Clower.” Little “Lottie,” taken from “Charlotte,” was the happiest baby in town. The committee awarded the honor of “best name of the year” at a wedge salad luncheon. “Good use of consonants” said Luveena. “Excellent monogram and nickname potentials” said Liza Jo.” “Biblical ties, a nod to foreign missions, R.C. Cola, and family connections put this name over the top as winner” concluded Dibsey Lu.

Initials can’t spell out anything rude or silly. Garland Oscar Parker’s monogram may keep him from being elected the Democratic state representative someday and Deborah Olivia Grady may grow up to be a cat lady — after she endures 4 years of therapy figuring out why the other children barked at her. You just never know how the initials will work until you see them embroidered on the side of a golf bag or pocketbook. 

After deep contemplation, running computer data, flipping coins and earnest prayer, I think my top recommendation for my future grandchildren boils down to . . .  “Beatrice.” It’s dignified, traditional, and has the most awesome nickname of “Trixie.” You can’t tell me Trixie Tarabella won’t be the cutest little girl to ever walk into a Kindergarten classroom someday. I can see the hair bow bee-bopping up and down now. I’m so excited, and positive my sons will love me for “helping.”

Just as important as a list of preferred names, is making a list of forbidden names. No one wants a grandson named after an old boyfriend or a granddaughter with the same name as the town floozy (unless that’s who your son marries — bless her heart). Some names conjure up the image of a mug shot on the evening news, a screaming attorney on TV, or a 15-year-old with a cigarette dangling from her lip, addressing the P.E. teacher as, “hey baby.” 

A little-known fact I keep tucked away for a future appearance on Jeopardy is that Jesus’ grandparents were named Anne and Joachim (debate amongst yourselves). Grandparents to the most perfect grandchild ever, their naming opportunity was usurped by the Angel who broke the news and provided naming instructions. Since then, the naming job has fallen to the mothers-in-law of the world, so it’s literally angelic of us to help with baby names and wise to start early. Little Trixie will thank me later. 

This story first appeared in AL.com newspapers in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville.

  • Altho not spelled the same, our last name is pronounced the same as that of a very famous female aviator. We had more than a few suggestions to name one of our daughters Amelia. We did not.

    • Although I love the story of how brave Amelia was, I can see where it would cause a stir. Especially if you lost her in a crowd. “Where’s Amelia Earhart?”

  • Ellen Shook says:

    Well I have laughed all the way through this — so thanks for that. I needed it.

    About Beatrice: My mother’s mother’s name was Mettie Beatrice Sullivan. This was her third given name, because her biological mother died shortly after her birth, and had given her one name (which was my mother’s name). Then a short-lived stepmother gave her another, but I don’t remember what that was. Then the second stepmother (acquired when Granny was four) named her the aforementioned Mettie Beatrice. The only thing wrong with this was that the ENTIRE CLAN pronounced Beatrice as “Bee-AT-tris.” Fortunately, only one unlucky granddaughter was hung with this middle name, but mercifully it was a only middle name, and they called her by her first name. We won’t talk about what happened to her at a very early age, but I always wondered if it could have been the mispronunciation of her middle name. Trixie is pretty cute, and when I hear it, I think of two things: one was a cute little comic strip character and the other is the cute little blonde nurse on Call the Midwife. That I could could support.

    • That’s quite a name-story! People used to think it was okay to rename children. My own mother’s family tired to rename her until my grandfather stepped in and told his mother to lay-off. I do remember Trixie in Call the Midwives. she was a number. Maybe that’s what was stuck in my head, or maybe it was Trixie Belden books. Thanks for the good story Ellen.

  • You are such a thoughtful MIL2B! When we lived Houston, I quickly learned the legend of the lovely Miss Ima Hogg. They may have been the wealthiest, most well bred family in the entire state, but what were her parents thinking?!?

  • haha, thanks for the smiles! I will say I did step in and chose my grandmother name, Gigi, I did not want to be called Memaw or Gaga or other gag producing name! So keep that in mind when your first grand baby is on the way…

    • Wow, you are right. That’s a completely new story in the future . . . how to get them to call me “Your highness.” That’s acceptable, right? Thanks Jenna.

  • How generous for you to be thinking far in advance how to be a helpful MIL when it comes to choosing grandbaby names! I’m sure it will be appreciated. (But stay away from Trixie. It’s taken!)

    • We’ll arm wrestle for it. On second thought, I’d be better off flipping a coin!

  • So True and so important:)
    I did the double name thing with my son naming him after both granddads and with my daughter her middle name is my granddad’s name. And monograms are always in the back in the mind. I am awaiting the next grandson and they haven’t picked out a name yet. It is killing me! Name choosing is the talk of my age group with grandchildren…hoping for good names.

    • You are an expert naming machine! I’ll consult you when I need help. I love that you used so many family names. Happy weekend to you!

  • I like to read your columns out loud with a southern accent. I thought it was so cute our family of four had the exact same initials until I started putting them on things like water bottles or school supplies. Hate to think what would happen if I monogram bath towels…ick

    • Now you are the wonderful “reader of the day!” I love thinking about you reading my stories aloud! As for the initials, I’ve always used a “J” or “H” on the calendar for my boy’s appointments and have been thankful they weren’t the same. I’m sure your name choices are all perfectly adorable! Thanks for reading!

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