Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Banana Fanna fo Falla

When I was very young, I wanted to change my name to Dominique. I thought it was beautiful, and it had a "q" in it. In French class, I was Veronique my first year, D'Artagnan my second, and Zephryne my third. Obviously I loved Romantic names.

I made lists of names for characters in my stories; my favorites that I invented include Jacquemars and Vlare. I dug through name dictionaries and exhumed other favorites: Maeve, Etain, Dante.

My cats are named for royalty, one after the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, the other after a Romanov. My cat who passed away in April was named for a legendary silent film star.

But never, in all my love of names and naming, would I think of the practice as "branding." And yet, here in the Wall Street Journal is just that: consultants to help you name your baby!

Denise McCombie, 37, a California mother of two who's expecting a daughter this fall, spent $475 to have a numerologist test her favorite name, Leah Marie, to see if it had positive associations. (It did.) This March, one nervous mom-to-be from Illinois listed her 16 favorite names on a tournament bracket and asked friends, family and people she met at baby showers to fill it out. The winner: Anna Irene.

Sean and Dawn Mistretta from Charlotte, N.C., tossed around possibilities for five months before they hired a pair of consultants -- baby-name book authors who draw up lists of suggestions for $50. During a 30-minute conference call with Mrs. Mistretta, 34, a lawyer, and Mr. Mistretta, 35, a securities trader, the consultants discussed names based on their phonetic elements, popularity, and ethnic and linguistic origins -- then sent a 15-page list of possibilities. When their daughter was born in April, the Mistrettas settled on one of the consultants' suggestions -- Ava -- but only after taking one final straw poll of doctors and nurses at the hospital. While her family complimented the choice, Mrs. Mistretta says, "they think we're a little neurotic."

Karen Markovics, 36, who works for the planning department in Orange County, N.C., spent months reading baby books and scouring Web sites before settling on Nicole Josephine. But now, four years later, Mrs. Markovics says she wishes she'd chosen something less trendy -- and has even considered legally changing her daughter's name to Josephine Marie. "I'm having namer's remorse," she says.

Ai! However, this does not beat out the silliness of a trend I heard about a few years ago, which was naming your baby after a brand. This led to kids called Chanel, Lexus, Armani, and Porsche, among others.

With all the hoopla over Mitt Romney trying to create the "Mitt Romney Brand," I wonder if he's checked into a naming consulting firm. I mean, it's so hard with a first name that rhymes with "Shit."

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