Thursday, January 20, 2011

Catching up - naming

In this blogisode we discuss how my son was named.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have been absent from the blagosphere [sic] lately as I was somewhat distracted with the birth of my son, Patrick Dylan Carr. Having recently gone through the frenetic and confusing dance that is childbirth, I thought that it might be timely to write down some of my thoughts. By its nature, I expect fully that there will be graphic things covered within these posts so if you are squeamish then be warned. As well I should note that I am not a doctor nor am I a lawyer - I try to cover the medical issues as best I can as a layperson. No guarantee is implied. :)

Carol and I both had strong views on baby's names so we had to come up with a compromise on how to name the baby. We decided early on that we both would reserve veto rights but basically if it was a boy baby then I would name him and if it was a girl baby then Carol would name her. One thing that the ultrasounds did positively confirm, other than the health of our child, was that the baby was definitely a boy. (Or as one sonographer joked "if not then it's a well equipped girl!")

So how do you pick a name for your child? Do you pick the names of your father, uncles, grandparents? Do you pick a name of someone in your life that moved you personally? Do you scan through baby books and pick a name that sounds good or is deeply meaningful? Do you defer to religion and pick a name like Joseph (or Mary)?

This was probably the best part of the pregnancy for me as the decision was consequential and something that I could wrestle with for weeks on end. I made some decisions:

(1) I was determined not to give my child a name that occurred elsewhere in the family tree. My dad's name, Robert, occurs multiple times throughout both sides (at least three times within a generation). Similarly having done some research in our family genealogy, to pick a concrete example, I had found an unbroken chain four generations deep of David's. I didn't want to saddle my son with a name that had family history.

(2) I wanted to pick a name somewhat unique to my "friend network". I don't know, nor have I ever known personally, a Patrick. That's not entirely true as I had a UNBC instructor by the name of Dr Patrick Mann, (who was exceptional for the record,) but certainly I've known no Patrick's that would be on my facebook friends list.

(3) This will seem silly to non-geeks but I wanted a name that adhered to RFC1178 . The important restrictions outside of uniqueness from that RFC (to save you reading) are "don't use long names", "avoid alternate spellings", "don't use antagonistic or embarrassing names". The important positive encouragements that were important were "use words/names rarely used" and "use theme names". I will discuss the thematic elements below.

(4) I wanted a name that my wife was happy with. One expression that I try to follow is "always be gracious, when it doesn't cost you anything". Since I didn't really have a back pocket name, this was easy to accomodate.

To give you an example of my random geekery and what I did to ensure my wife was happy, I sourced the US Census data on most common first names over the last 100 years. I believe this was approx 1500 names. I then wrote a database application which gave us seperate rating views with a 1-5 point scale for each of us... something like "1-never", "2-don't like", "3-indifferent", "4-like", "5-love". I then devised a ranking formula which basically ensured that a rating of 1-2 from either person would result in negative score, and then point shifted the ratings and calculated a cross product. The net result was that 1-2 rating from either would be vetoed off the list, and items with a like/love would rank high. We then each took a pass through the database - I'll comment for the record that our seperate views ensured that we couldn't see each others ranking until all scores were in - and we then took a look through the shortlist.

Now for reference I had already decided that I wanted the name Patrick so was very pleasantly surprised to find that of 1500 names the only mutual 5/5 pick was Patrick. Similarly I had wanted Dylan as a second name and our next ranked 4/5 and 5/4 picks were Dylan and Douglas. So basically my wife and I already had consensus on the name and all that the database did was force many days of data entry, some geek fun on my part, and gave raw data to support what I wanted.

Commenting briefly on the thematic element of things, I wanted (if possible) (a) to have unique initials for my child, (b) to have initials that matched an acronym, (c) to have similarity in initials throughout my family, (d) to follow an Irish/Scottish/English scheme and (e) ideally have a name that did have some potential religion symbolism. If I could get some or all of these points then I was happy.

(I do tend to overcomplicate things as I've noted ;)

So examining our current family names, I match all of these. I'm Michael Donald Carr or Mike Carr more conventially so my initials are generally MC, or MDC if uniqueness is desired. I'm a public speaker so the MC acronym is appropriate, Michael is as English/Irish/Scottish as it comes and my name in the biblical sense means "who is like God" referring to the Archangel Michael.

My wife is Carol Dawn Carr or Carol Carr, so initials are CC, or CDC if uniqueness is desired. My wife shares my love of email and the written word so CC is relevant as an acronym. Carol is an English name and in the biblical sense means "the song of joy".

My son is Patrick Dylan Carr or Patrick Carr, so initials are PC, or PDC if uniqueness is desired. There are many potential acronyms formed from "personal computer", "politically correct" or if one harkens back to NT4 domains "primary domain controller" which is essentially the head server governing a network (roughly). Patrick originates from Latin but for most people sounds Irish and I think is defensibly English/Irish. It means "noble one" and for your trivia one of the alternate version of Patrick is Pacho. I don't think anyone has guessed the Pacho connection thus far.

Also looking at initials: MDC/CDC/PDC have common suffix, MC/CC/PC are all easily visually distinct.

As with everything I probably gave the naming too much thought but it was fun regardless.

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