What's in a Name?

It seems like I'm surrounded by pregnant women lately (although I'm most definitely not one of them). One of my co-workers is Swiss, and I've learned a lot from her about different customs during her two pregnancies. In Switzerland, for example, it's considered impolite to inquire of someone who's pregnant as to what the sex of the baby is, what baby names are being considered, etc. She told me that in the Swiss culture, pregnancies are not discussed among anyone but the closest of friends and relatives until the baby is born--acquaintances, co-workers, and of course, strangers, pretty much pretend that the pregnancy doesn't exist. And they certainly don't go around annoyingly treating pregnant women as if they're some sort of community property. Having my stomach patted or rubbed by a complete stranger while I was pregnant was one of the most disturbing things I've ever had happen to me and was avoided whenever possible.

I'm guessing that not having to discuss your pregnancy with strangers and co-workers (and possibly in-laws) must be pretty pleasant in a lot of ways. I'll never forget when my mother-in-law asked me what K and I were planning to name the baby. When I told her the name we'd picked out, her response was, "Are you serious?"

My daughter's name is Emmeline. Apparently, it's a very popular name in Belgium, according to my boss. Needless to say, everyone is very confused as to how to spell our daughter's name. The most common variation is "Emmaline," as that's how it sounds like it should be spelled. Even my father misspells it on a regular basis. When he last asked and I spelled it out for him on the phone, he spelled it like above. When I told him that there was no a--just three e's--he spelled it "Emmaleine." At least he got that a in there somewhere.

I suppose E will end up hating me when she's older, after having to spell both her first and last name for everyone she meets (our last name is a common one, but for some reason, people can't spell it). Plus, she will have the additional trauma of never, ever being able to find one of those pre-printed, personalized keychains at Disney World or a license plate for her bike with her name on it.

The best part about Emmeline's name is when my husband tells people that she was named after a ferry. I'm sure that sounds strange enough as it is. But when he talks to people and they automatically assume he said fairy, you can see the looks of total confusion on their faces as visions of Tinkerbelle start dancing through their minds and they're wondering if they need to back away from the crazy guy.

The real story is this--I grew up on an island off the Georgia coast, St. Simons Island. Back in the early part of the 20th century, it became quite the tourist hot spot. Before cars became all the rage, people got to St. Simons by ferry. One of the boats was named the Emmeline and one was named the Hessie. During my childhood, there was a restaurant on St. Simons called, of course, the Emmeline and Hessie, so I've just grown up with those names in my consciousness. I've always loved the name Emmeline--and when, for some shocking reason, my husband agreed to it instantly when I threw it out as a possible baby name, we both settled on it immediately. I'm still surprised that he liked the name as much as I did.

This year, my dad found a picture of the original Emmeline and gave it to E for her birthday. She doesn't appreciate it much now as a three-year-old, but I think it's pretty damn neat having a picture of her namesake around. Although I suppose at this age, she'd prefer to be named after a fairy. And no, if we have another daughter, we won't name her Hessie.


Leigh C. said...

Sweet! Coozan Pat also hails from St Simons Island


a said...

Yeah, I came across Hurricane Radio a while back and was surprised to see pictures of St. Simons posted by Cousin Pat. Small world.

I actually found out about the tornado touching down on SSI through Hurricane Radio--my dad, who I talked to that night (and who lives very near where the tornado happened) didn't even mention it. Men.

Kelly said...

I wish that I had been pregnant in Switzerland. I probably would not have agreed to being induced if my co-workers weren't so annoying.

Emmeline is a beautiful name.