"Oh... you ARE joking!"

Everybody has one. Not everybody likes theirs. Some people have big ones and some people have little ones. Some are really common and some are really rare.
I'm talking about names here people.

I consider myself somewhat of an expert in the area of names. When I was a teenager I checked out a book of baby names from the library. I even carried it around at school. Looking back I am quite sure some people thought I was nuts. Back then I didn't even want to have children. Ever. But since I can remember I have had an intense fascination with names and where they come from, how the originated and who shares them. And yeah... that has a lot to do with trying to accept and like my own name growing up.

I often wonder what other names my mom and dad considered for me. My mother hated her given name and never went by it, she goes by (and recently legally changed her name to) her middle name. My father never seemed to mind his name and with our Irish-American pride I think our last name mattered more to his side of the family than anything. Could I have ended up named Samantha or Judith or something equally common? I've never actually asked them.

Growing up with the name Rhianna was extremely frustrating. When you're a child it isn't often appropriate to correct adults so I was called many variations on the various sounds of my name. From what I can recall the way my parents intended it to be pronounced (Ray-On-Uh) isn't even remotely close to how it is spelled. If I explain this to folks I often get strange looks... as if I had any hand in picking this name!

Going to school was where it was the worst. Teachers, staff and students rarely got the name right and in my elementary days I wished I could be one of the girls named Crystal or Misty. I blame it on my unicorn obsession. But then there were the many Nicoles, Jennifers, Megans, Emilys, Heathers and Kristins. Girls who magically fell into the shared name slots. Girls who had to be differentiated by the addition of the last initial. When you're a first grader the idea of sharing the same name equals a sense of special kinship, something that I wanted at that age. Alas I was the one and only Rhianna and only once in my life have I met another.

Then there is the matter of the Brianas and Breannas of the world. They are secretly still a thorn in my side to this day. Why? Because any time I introduce myself I have to clarify that I am a 'RE' and not a 'BREE'. Somehow my own name picked up no popularity in the past three decades while this variation of it has become massively accepted and therefore well known. Thus the constant need to clarify that there is no 'B' within my name.

So where did my name originate from exactly? If you happened to be around in the 70's you might recall a little band called Fleetwood Mac. They had a song titled "Rhiannon". If by chance you were not around back then you can check out a live version of "Rhiannon" on YouTube. Check out how many people have commented saying they were named after this song or that their parents wanted to name them after it and you might understand how the phenom came to be. Had I not been blessed with a last name that rhymes with Rhiannon I would have been named after the song without the small edit.

It was in my teens that I developed an obsession with understanding the origins and meaning of my name. You'll often hear in mythologies and cultures where names hold power so perhaps on some level I was kind of seeking out the root of my power, or rather... how to have a power over the name I was given. At sixteen it is hard to find that happy medium between following the crowd and being an individual. My name was certainly one of the more obvious unique things about me and therefore it was at this age that I began to like it.

In Celtic mythology Rhiannon was a goddess with ties to horses, faeries, the moon and fertility. It has many meanings including goddess, witch, nymph and queen. Call me crazy but those all sounded very mythic and powerful when I first learned the meanings and origins. Being named after the song was a little hard to explain when I was too little to really get it myself but as a teen I found that teachers and other adults simply needed to hear "It's Rhianna, after the Fleetwood Mac song..." and then they would get it. Of course, this always also prompted a lot of comments on how pretty the name was.

Now, at nearly thirty, I'm very happy with my first name. I think it suits me well, can't really imagine myself as a Misty or a Heather. Sure, I still hate introducing myself because it always requires pronunciation correction and explanation but I've come to terms with it. Those who really can't handle the name or are very close to me simply call me 'Rhi' (RE) though my uncle (and occasionally other members of my family) has always called me Anna which for some reason I'm very fond of.

When I became pregnant with our son the last thing on my mind during those first several months was what to name my baby. In all honesty when Adam had mentioned what he and his daughter's mother had planned to call my step-daughter if she was a boy I just figured we would go with it. I think most people of the female persuasion pick out names for their future children at some point even if they don't plan to ever have any. I never quite had a boy name picked out, probably because I like unusual boy names, but I had my girl name picked when I was seventeen. I won't say what it was since it'll never get used for one of our children but it's actually not at all a name you would expect me to have chosen. I liked it because a) a famous book character had this name, b) there's a song I really like with the same name (yeah, yeah... I wanted to curse my kid the same way I was) and c) it is a variation on one of the women in my family's name. Because I grew up struggling with my name and the identity it gave me I always knew somewhere in the back of my mind that I could never pick simple, common names for my children.

Traditionally within my family, and somewhat within Adam's too, middle names are passed from older members of the family down. For example my grandfather went by his middle name which then became my uncle's middle name, my brother's middle name, and two of my uncle's sons' middle names as well. If we hadn't chosen a middle name for Arik from Adam's family I would have given my son the same. For a girl I just knew I did not want to pass on my own middle name. Sorry mom, I know you go by it and gave it to me but I have never really cared for it. (I blame this on the tradition of the first-middle being used whenever I was in trouble). Middle names have strangely become our starting point in choosing the names for our kids. We had picked out my mother-in-law's middle name for a baby girl since we both like it and it's actually what Adam's cousins call me in lieu of a nickname. But last year my brother and his fiance had a baby girl and used it because someone suggested it. I'm a bit disappointed but it also opened us up to the other name I really have wanted to use as a middle for a girl too.

Which brings me somehow to where we are with picking a name right now. If this baby is a girl we have a middle name (after my aunty!) picked out and though we had originally planned to use the above mentioned middle name for a boy we've changed our minds a bit. My great-grandfather passed away in April and we were always quite close. He was dying of cancer at the ripe old age of ninety-five and we knew he wasn't going to make it long enough to see his third great-great grandchild be born when Adam's mother actually made the suggestion we use grandpa's name for the baby's middle if it's a boy. Now it's up to us to find suitable first name choices.

That there, my friends, is where this story gets ...funny?

Years ago when Adam and I were living in Germany we were at a point we knew we'd have more children but not when. Arik was still just a toddler and we were expecting to be living overseas for a few years so it wasn't going to be any time soon. But we were talking about it and Adam joked that if we ever had a girl she was going to be named 'Adamina'. It was then that I got inspired to look into ways to incorporate his name and/or my own and/or both into a name. It was through this goofing off—and I mentioned how I am about names earlier so this should come as no surprise—that I managed to create a name that does both, has a great shortened version and sounds great with our middle-last choice.

The trouble with this name is that at first mention all those years ago, Adam hated it. I loved it so much I actually used it for a couple of different bits of creative writing I've done over the past seven years because I figured he would never warm up to it. Only now he likes it and wants to use it! Because it is a name that I literally came up with using parts of other names it doesn't exist and I have the Google proof. If I were to disclose the name and you were to Google it the only results you would get would be unrelated to it or point you at links that tie to my previous creative writing stuff.

So why the non-disclosure? Aside from that fact I don't want anyone who trolls on by stealing it for their own baby girl, the worst thing happened!

For my mother-in-law's birthday we all went out to dinner. As we were sitting around nibbling our dinner salads Adam's mom asked what names we had picked out. Adam and I had previously agreed not to mention any names until we had decided for sure on them and we had a better idea of the baby's gender. But, of course, Adam has mentioned said name several times in front of Arik. I gave Adam the look and began to say we were still tossing ideas around as our darling son piped up and told her that daddy likes [THE NAME]. At this her face squinched up in confuzzlement and she said 'what?'. I then had to explain how it was said, how it was spelled (I finally had to write it out on a placemat in orange crayon) and naturally... where the name came from. To this she replied something to the effect of 'Oh. It's a joke.' Which lead to us kind of giggling at her and replying in the negative. Apparently our giggling brought on the next line 'Oh... you ARE joking!" because for some reason she couldn't possibly fathom why we would do this to her grandbaby-on-the-way.

So, for the past few weeks we have had a bit of an ongoing bit of teasing going back and forth about how she intends to make Adam put what she wants on the birth certificate while I'm tied up with post-birthing business. Nay says I! She's also reminded me several times now about my own name and the difficulties I have had with it growing up. Yet that is the one reason I won't give up on this name if we both like it enough to give it to our baby. It might be tough to deal with as a child but there will come a time when I am quite certain that the baby will feel the way I do about its name. If not, she can always go by her middle name as my mother has.

Besides, Arik's name still gets mispelled on birthday cards from family members and he doesn't seem to really care. He's quite happy to share initials with his dad and if he gets his way and the baby is a boy he is most insistent that we name the him Jude after a cartoon character we share a mutual like of. But as we keep reminding everyone 'J' names for a boy are a no-no with the initials we have already set up. Now I just need to start working on the Adam about the boy name I like before we have another incident with people thinking we're joking about our name choices.

And in pure randomness... I had never seen Arik's name with his spelling before Adam suggested it. Since then I have read three books with guys that have that name as characters. Romances. [insert lots of snickers and giggles here]. Poor kid. Fortunately for him it's just a derivative of the aforementioned boy middle name in my family which is one of the reasons I warmed up to it. Every Eric I knew as a kid was a brat and so I hated the name. Leave it to Adam to find a way to make it work for me.

We still have a few months to figure out what name(s) we are solid on so I think we're doing alright. I'm in no rush to settle. We didn't have Arik's name decided until about six weeks before he was born anyway. All we have to do now is keep Adam's mom away from that birth certificate. Maybe I will have to agree to let her video tape this birth? Eep.

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