Thursday, February 14, 2008

Naming names

The baby had his bris yesterday. Maybe because this is the third time for me, I freaked out less than I have in the past and even changed the first post-bris diaper myself (not by choice, but I did not leave him in a dirty diaper till my husband came home, which I suppose is some kind of level.)

Having had a bris, the baby also is now the proud possessor of a name. Naming babies in this house is always something of an... well, "ordeal" isn't quite the word I'm looking for. "Process"? That sounds better. Naming babies is a process.

I start thinking names the minute I see that second pink line. First and middle, of course; why have one name when you can have two? And there are many considerations: is there anyone to be named for, is the name already taken somewhere else in the family, how do the two names sound together, do they have a good meaning, are non-Jews going to be able to pronounce the names?

For my husband, things are different. A name should be thought of in the moments immediately before the baby is actually named, or failing that, possibly the night before. Maximal ruach ha'kodesh should be involved--forget this looking in baby name books business, a name should just hit you. But the name should be not only replete with meaning, it should be interesting, and ideally a name that doesn't get used much. A frequently-heard phrase is, "Nobody ever names after him."

So while I was floating names like Dov and Natan and Eliahu, my husband was campaigning for Zebulun and Ovadia and, I am not making this up, Yom Tov. "We are not naming the baby Yom Tov!" I would protest. "It's a real name!" would be the plaintive reply. "And nobody uses it!" With, one might add, good reason.

With Barak, my husband's front-runner name was Chasdai, and I almost went for it. But in the end, we picked the same name used by all of the three boys born to staff members at his school that year. Three little boys, three Baraks. With Iyyar, his name was picked (off a short list) by a friend so there was less discussion. This time around, MHH had his hopes back up--only briefly--with Avtalyon.

"How about Avtalyon?" he ventured one night over dinner.

"Who's Avtalyon?"

Avtalyon, apparently, was the rebbe of Hillel and Shammai. I thought about it. It actually seemed to meet most of my exacting criteria. I liked how it looked in Hebrew, and it was easy to pronounce. I could think of a few okay ways to shorten it into a nickname. I said I was open to the idea. MHH was astounded. "Really? You'd really name the baby Avtalyon?"

Well, I would have until I ran the idea past an Israeli friend. Her reaction--"MA?! Avtalyon?? Ma at CHOSHEVET!?" kind of blew the idea out of the water. "Yes, it is a fine name if you want him to be tortured by the other boys all through school..."

But here on Blogger, there are no playground bullies, and Abba can finally have his way, virtually at least. You'll have to excuse me for stopping here--baby Avtalyon is nursing, and I'm tired of typing one-handed.


shanna said...

Awesome blog name. Can we call him Avi?

Anonymous said...

Being a shameless goy who speaks no Hebrew apart from "mazal tov," I didn't understand the Israeli friend's statement. But the meaning of her reaction came through loud and clear.

I, too, am already thinking of him as "Avi." I could be persuaded to call him "Avtali" if "Avi" rubs you the wrong way.

uberimma said...

A translation would run, "Avtalyon? What?! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!"

Alisha said...

I actually like Yoni better as a nickname, but Avi works. I even know a guy named Tal, but the modern Israeli trend of unisex names is a bit confusing...