Why My Kids Have the Names They Do

I always hated my name. “Brock.” It sounds like you’re starting to say a vile word and then got punched in the throat. I think it’s that hard vowel sound followed by the rock solid wall of double, redundant consonants that does it. And then there’s the “broccoli” thing. When you’re five-years-old, the last thing you want to be called is a vegetable.

So, when it came to naming my own kids, I had some rules.

1. It must not be a name that can be made fun of easily.

2. The name must be unique but not overly strange.

3. The name must be wonderful.

And then I got married and another rule had to be added:

4. The name must be decided by unanimous vote. 

So, no Apple. No Moon Unit. No Pilot Inspector. But also, no Michael or Hannah or Hailey or Andrew or Megan. If the purpose of a name is to differentiate oneself from others, then what’s the point of a common name? I’ll tell you: it’s to be like everybody else. Not my kids. Not on my watch.

ELORA

I wanted our first daughter, Elora, to be named “Tendra.” My wife, Erin, wouldn’t go for it. No way. She hated it. Tendra is a Spanish word meaning “will have” and ever since I learned the language at 19, I liked the sound of it. Also, I was nuts.

“Elora” (pronounced Uh-laura) I got from Elora Danan, the infant everybody is after in the 1988 fantasy movie Willow. Even though I was only 11-years-old when the movie came out, I remember thinking quite clearly that Elora was a great name for a girl. I never thought Erin would go for it, but she LOVED it.

I loved that it was a name I’d never heard used outside of the movie. The universe, less impressed, put a little girl named “Alora” in Elora’s class this very year. Same pronunciation. Go figure.

CAMI

Cami’s real name is Campbell, after my wife’s maiden name. We thought naming her Campbell was a great way to pay tribute to that side of the family. Plus, it’s very different from Elora. That was our fifth rule: our kids can’t have names that begin or end the same way. We didn’t want our kids to ever be confused. Elora got the “uh” sound. That was all hers.

We knew of a few people with Campbell as a first name, but most of them were male. One TV reporter, Campbell Brown, was female, and that was enough for us to think it a worthy girl name.

Besides, dude, if your name ends in “bell” then you’ve have a girl’s name. That’s a fact.

The problem was that Elora, who was just 2-years-old when Cami was born, couldn’t say “Campbell.” She called her “Camel.” This would not do, so Campbell became Cami. I must say, despite our hard “no nicknames” rule, it works. Cami has special needs and doesn’t grow like other kids do. She’s super, super tiny. Cami is a little pixie name. Fits her perfectly.

VIOLET

Our newest addition, not even one year old, got her name from a dream. Having another kid after Cami was a big decision. We love Cami, but her needs took over our lives and emotional states the day we found out she was different from other kids. Could we risk doing it again? Then Erin had a dream in which she held a beautiful, healthy little baby named Violet.

Rule number 4 was broken. We were going to have another baby, a girl, and her name would be Violet. End of discussion.

It took me a while, but I love the name now. Yes, it’s an old name everybody knows. Most people associate it with Willy Wonka, but that’s okay. It’s a beautiful name and we’ve never told it to someone without them remarking how wonderful it is and how well it suits her.

Names are extremely important to me. I think a lot of our identity comes from the sound and appearance of our names. Brock, as a name, is much more in fashion now (making me appear younger on paper), and yet is still unique enough to make me stand out. What once sounded ugly to me, now sounds strong and powerful. To my mom I would say: Sorry for all the grief I gave you over the years about it. And… thanks!

Hopefully my kids will one day be able to say the same.

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30 comments

    1. I would NEVER name my kid after a pet. I mean, can you imagine? What if your kid had a dog’s name? How would you even explain that?

      But some parents are just cruel that way.

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  1. I wholeheartedly agree that names give you the foundation of your personality. But I really feel that ridiculous names are just setting your child up for misery. (…said Letha)
    I’m glad that your children’s names aren’t foolish cries for attention.

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      1. I am proud of my name, but I had to grow into it. My pain wasn’t that my name was odd, but that other people didn’t know how to handle it, or react. As far as I knew, until other people pointed out otherwise, I thought Letha was a “normal” name; it’s a family name.
        There’s definitely a difference between “unusual” names and “bizarre.”
        Thanks for liking my name!

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  2. Great Article on how we name our kids. Rule number 1 kept our boys from ever being named “Ben”. 🙂 My boys are Kyler and Shaun.

    Kyler was named after a beautiful creek my wife and I used to cross on our way to Northern Arkansas, we always loved the name. Ironically after we had Kyler, the very next year they dammed up the creek and it no longer exists. Now there’s a sign that says “No Passing”, just think he was a year away from being named “No Passing McElmurry”. 🙂

    Shaun was a unique situation where we knew we wanted to give him my middle name, I know, that’s usually passed to the first born but Kyler’s middle name is Sebastian, named after my best friend in Germany. So with Shaun we came up with the middle name first, Christopher. As we tried to figure out what name to use one day my father-in-law just mentioned Shaun and it fit. See Father-in-laws can be handy sometimes. 🙂

    Draw backs to their names that I know will plague them and I’m sorry for:
    Kyler is always called Tyler at first meet. He actually says now, “My name is Kyler, K-Y-L-E-R” when he first meets someone. Sorry little man.

    Shaun’s name is always misspelled due to the many ways Shaun can be spelled. Sorry again.

    Growing up as a twin my brother and I never had twin names. Mine is Todd and his is Mark. One time we asked our mom why we didn’t have twin sounding names, her response, thought tongue-in-cheek, was one we always remember and laugh at. She said when we we’re born she took one look at us and screamed “Oh My God!!” and they thought she said “Mark and Todd”. Once she awoke from the sheer fright, they had already put our names on the birth certificates and she didn’t want to have to go through the hassle of changing them.

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    1. Odd spellings and names that are close to other names are also on my “do not” list. I have a similar problem to Kyler. I constantly have to tell people my name is not “Brooke.” Happened just two days ago. While they were looking at a button on my shirt with my name on it.

      Have fun, Kyler. It doesn’t get better!

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    1. Oh man, that’s true. Heather does conjure up the wrong kind of image. There’s some great names in the Bible. Why doesn’t anyone name their kids Mahershalalhashbaz anymore?

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  3. Love this post, being a Jennifer Williams has made me name obsessed too, with several similar rules. 😉 I love all your little girls’ names. Violet has always been a favorite of mine because of Willy Wonka & the Boxcar Children books.

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  4. I really shouldn’t read your blog after watching D.Abbey, I just cry all the harder. I love your wife and girls and am glad to know the story of Elora. My eldest is named from the girl in Krull, Lyssa. Kirk (“like Captain” I always tell people on the phone who don’t know him) thought Lyssa was a beautiful name. She also gets alternate pronunciations from new people. The name Heather is perfectly sane, easy to spell and say. So glad I don’t have that challenge in my life. “Yonezawa” on the other hand…

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    1. Wasn’t D. Abbey good last night? I thought it was excellent.

      Yonezawa has got to be a pain in the butt. But Kirk lucked out. Kirk is an awesome and not well worn name.

      I admit it, I always pronounce Lyssa wrong. But it is a great name.

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  5. Never heard the Violet story. Very cool. Also, I like your rules.

    As you know, Rich is Karen’s maiden name. But it’s also kind of cool to read the scriptures and realize there’s hardly any positive use of the word rich. Which means, we hope, that Rich will be the one making the jokes.

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  6. We have similar rules about naming our kids… and picking a name is part of the fun. My husband really gets into it, but I can’t play along until I know the sex. We also had the no-nicknames rule, but this girl will have one. When she’s born, I’ll write a post explaining what Cate’s all about.

    Your girls are beautiful, and their names are equally so. I love names with stories behind them. And I agree with those who are “pro-Brock.” I’m glad you came around!

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  7. We had very similar rules for our boys’ names–or, I did, in particular, and my wife didn’t disagree. So here’s my virtual fist pump in solidarity to the distinct names club. Great choices, Brock and Erin. 🙂

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  8. I’ve been a fan of SuperFogeys for some time and greatly enjoy your work. I’m one of those awful folks who check the strip as soon it’s updated but never took the time to properly express my appreciation for your talent and hard work. The stories about your family show that you talent isn’t confined to just fiction. I decided to finally check out the blog to read “Elora’s Four Dollar Apology.” How could I pass up a new story about the writer/performer of my favorite Christmas song? I found your choice of common names amusing because my name is Andrew and my older sister is actually named Megan. I got mine because everyone in my father’s family is named after each other (he was named Raymond after his uncle and now has a great nephew named after him) and my mother wanted something “different”. According to my grandmother, Mom picked “Andrew” after a soap opera actor she had a crush on. Funny how people choose names for their kids isn’t it? 🙂

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    1. Hey Andrew! Thanks for “coming out” and letting me know you’re out there. Yours is my favorite kind of comment. I hope I hear from you more in the future.

      And yes, hilarious that I chose those names in particular. Do you like your name or does it bug you?

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      1. Thanks Brock, I never minded it until I moved to where I live now. There are fifteen other Andrew Millers in my immediate area. I know this now because of a dispute I had with the tax office over how many of them live in my one bedroom apartment. I’m just glad I wasn’t a girl or I would have been “Molly Miller” , which always sounded to me like an Irish drinking song, to go along my sister Megan. My parents apparently had some alliteration fixation at that time.

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  9. Very great post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog
    and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your weblog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

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  10. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an extremely long comment
    but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t appear.

    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyways, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

    Like

  11. My Son’s name is Brock. He is 8. I insisted and it fits. Strong young man who will become a stronger MAN! Brock…. is an amazing name! I almost wish he was the only Brock.

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  12. I also named my daughter Elora after Elora Danan from Willow. Very unique name no one has it and she is always complimented on her name.

    Like

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