Monday, March 31, 2008

a Lola by any other name

When I was pregnant the second time around and learned from my amnio that I was expecting a girl, I felt stymied over a name. "I feel like we shot our wad with 'Iris Alison,'" I complained over and over again to my husband.

We soon settled upon "Antonia" as a middle name, partially after writer A.S. Byatt and partially after a relative, but a first name evaded us for months. We named Iris after novelist Dame Iris Murdoch and cartoonist Alison Bechdel, but no literary namesakes could be agreed upon the second time around. I lobbied for "Jane" after Jane Austen, to no avail. The Sober Husband had been traumatized by being made to read "Pride and Prejudice" in high school and could not countenance the name.

"How about naming her after a suffragette?" the Sober Husband offered in a moment of brilliance. I waddled off to the public library and pored through a book about the suffrage movement. The British suffragettes were, to a woman, stuck with unwieldy names, but there were a few Americans with pleasing names. We soon had two finalists, "Lucy" after Lucy Stone (a brilliant suffragette who campaigned for the reform of marriage laws and who pioneered the practice of women keeping their own last name after marriage) and "Julia," after Julia Ward Howe (author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" as well as a notable suffragette and abolitionist). Later we flirted with "Lydia," after Lydia Becker (editor of "The Women's Suffrage Journal").

We let then three year-old Iris Uber Alles decide. "The baby in your belly is named LUCY," she said emphatically, over and over again.

"If she doesn't like her name, I'll just tell her, 'We let your three year-old sister name you,'" I said presciently.

And she didn't like her name. As a toddler, Lucy referred to herself as "Baby." When she potty-trained, she decided that as she wasn't a baby any more, she would no longer be called "Baby." Refusing to answer to "Lucy", she was nameless for a while. She tried calling herself "Gaa" (which sadly enough I didn't realize until much, much later was her attempt to say "Girl" during her worst apraxia, before speech therapy), but that didn't get picked up by anyone. I frankly refused to introduce my child to anyone as "Gaa."

Then Iris Uber Alles rented the movie "Shark Tales", which the children watched over and over again one week. It was about the same time that Brad Pitt left Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie, and my nameless child was smitten with the glittering gold-digging fish, "Lola", voiced by Ms. Jolie. "Lola!" she said. "I Lola."

For the next three years, she was very insistent that the name "Lola" must be used. In our home, the word "Lucy" was on a par with the n-word, absolutely abhorrent. Lola went so far as to get upset whenever I listened to the Lucy channel on satellite radio, always forcibly changing the dial to "the one and the two", as she called the X-Country station, over her mother's ineffectual protest.

The only person who would not use the name "Lola" and persisted with "Lucy" was big sister Iris. Iris, very passive aggressively, insisted upon always saying, "Lola, oh I mean Lucy" in a way which made "Lucy" sound like an imprecation.

But then last week Lola saw a "Barney" show about the meaning of names. She then went on a kick, insisting I look up the meaning of everyone's names. I already knew the meaning of my name, "Carole", which means "bright sound", and the meanings of "Iris" (which means either the flower or a rainbow, after the goddess Iris who is the goddess of the rainbow). The children howled when it turned out that the Sober Husband's name has no known meaning. Lola's best friend's name, "Louise", means "fierce warrior", which is extremely appropriate given that she fights with Iris without regard for the usually daunting age difference.

The trouble came with looking up "Lola." As a derivative of "Dolores", it means "sorrows" or "pains." Lola found this frankly depressing. Lola was indeed so troubled by this that she actually reverted to "Lucy", which means "light." This shocking development caused Iris, who had stubbornly refused for years to ever use the name "Lola", to suddenly take it up. She now now refers to her sister as "Sorrows" or "Lola Sorrows."

"I'm not SORROWS!! I'M LIGHT!!" Lola/Lucy yells at her sister, with a dramatic flourish of her hands up towards whatever light fixture or heavenly body is visible.

The Sober Husband and I, long trained to refer to our child as "Lola", are having trouble adapting to this name change. We now call our daughter "Lola-I-mean-Lucy."

It's hard to predict whether this change will stick. I do know one thing, though: I'm glad we looked into role models, rather than relying upon baby name websites. I've become addicted in spare moments to hitting refresh on the random baby name generator at It invariably yields such gems as "Swanhild Damaris" and "Pocahontas Roderiga" (and the Thinkbabynames people insist "Pocahontas" is a Hebrew name meaning "playful", fascinatingly enough). I've just got to keep Lola/Lucy away from that site, though. I wouldn't put it past her to suddenly insist upon being addressed as "Pocahontas Roderiga."


Silliyak said...

If God is The Light, does that mean his name is Lucy? And of course this could lend credence to Lucy/Lola's supreme beingness.

And when Ricky Ricardo used to say "Lucy, you got a lotta splainin' to do!" all this time it was a religious thing.

And what about Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown? A parable for our times?

My head hurts.

Captain Steve said...

So, now what is Iris Uber Alles going to call her if she's not enraged by Lucy anymore?

hokgardner said...

About a month ago I was shocked to discover that I'm pregnant with baby #4. This was not planned.

Anyway, we've already gotten stumped on baby names. We've used all the good family names on the three kids we have, and there aren't any good ones left. I think I'll have to try the randomizer thing.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Ooh, Hokgardner, let us run a baby naming contest here on the Drunken Housewife! You can pick the winner! (And congratulations! I hear you on the pleasant surprise thing).

Capt. Steve, Iris now calls Lola/Lucy "Sorrows." That is a truly irritating name for the Great God Lucy.

the Drunken Housewife said...

p.s. Silliyak, it's true brilliance, what you wrote. Let there be Light!

Anonymous said...

My children are named Nashira and Miranda - after celestial bodies-with a flower name for the middle name - Daisy and Rose respectively. They are usually known as 'Nash' and 'Minnie' though. Nashira means 'Lucky' and is the name of a star (so my lucky star ...awwww) and Miranda means beautiful to behold. Carefully chosen names. Imagine my feelings when Miranda announced she was thinking of changing her name to Victoria after Mrs. Beckham!

My friend's daughter is called Clara Luz - I wish I'd thought of that one. Lucy is pretty close.

hokgardner said...

I'd be up for a contest. My husband vetoes any name I come up with, so maybe something from your readers will spark his interest.

My favorite girl's name is Tallulah, but he definitely won't let me use it. If I had had my way, our younger daughter would have been Tallulah, but she's Lily instead.

hughman said...

i vote for Edith (after Edith Wharton) or Emily.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Hokgardner, let's take this to email! Then I'll do your baby name contest here. Email me and tell me what your guidelines are, if you guys have any.

Snowqueen, I know a Nasira, but I've never known a Nashira. What a beautiful and unusual name, with a good meaning to boot.

Missy said...

I'm all for the naming contest!

We named our second daughter after Elizabeth Cady Stanton, because we knew we wanted Elizabeth as the middle name (being the traditional Southerners we are, middle names are family names.)

So she is Cady Elizabeth. My father's only question..."You're not going to hyphenate that, like the K-Dee Barbecue place, are you?"

Contest! Let us have a contest! Brings out the competitive spirit in Missy, and an excuse to party if I lose!

Unknown said...

If my given last name was "Stoner" I'd definitely keep it after marriage. With a name like that I feel like it would be so easy to surpass other people's expectations. Nevermind being a feminist pioneer, everyone would be so impressed with you just for getting up off the couch.

Captain Steve said...

Contest! Yes, contest! Oh, I am so giddy! (and yeah, my previous comment was total dork; I saw that she was now Lola Sorrows. Sorry!)

Epiphany said...

I must say, I feel Lucy/Lola's pain. Naming somebody is a huge responsibility, and difficult to do. Lots of people don't like their names, though few are as quick to reject their names as Lucy did.

Everybody loves my given name (which I won't write here, and I am hereby swearing DH to silence!), and wonders why I won't use it. But there's a good reason for that....

When I was in school in the early 70s, I lived in a small city (the Biggest Little City in the World, as a matter of fact). Each first day of class, the teacher would be going down the list of students, reading names out loud. S/he would get to my name, be unable to pronounce it, and I would have to say my name out loud, while all the other kids in the class turned around to stare at me. I already knew I was a weird kid; this merely confirmed it.

These days, parents strive to give their kids strange and unusual names. My given name is that of a popular animated movie character. I doubt I'd have those sorts of problems today. But back then...

I would legally change my name to Epiphany, as it suits me so well, but I know it would upset my mother, and I just don't want to do that to her. She's one of the only people who calls me by the F Word (as I affectionately refer to my legal name these days). I've gotten everyone else trained to use my chosen name.

Bring on the baby-naming contest! Hokgardner (congrats, btw!), I'm sorry your husband won't go for Tallulah. I think it's a fabulous, bold and strong name for a girl!

Freewheel said...

Tallulah is a great name. The only one I know of is Maisy's friend.

Naming is difficult. We decided to change my son's middle name when he was 2. Still not sure we got it right.

Freewheel said...

Epiphany: Your name starts with F and it is that of a popular animated movie character? I'm stumped.

Epiphany said...

Freewheel, if you expand your definition of "animation" a bit, you might figure it out. ;)

Freewheel said...


So that would expansive definition include claymation?


the Drunken Housewife said...

I am keeping my yap shut about Ephiph Let me just say, Freewheeling Spirit, that I'd be shocked if you had not seen the film in question with your children. Shocked, I say, shocked. I can quote vast swathes of dialogue from it.

hughman said...

i loved the Fonz! wait, he was animated right? my second guess is from "Finding Femo".

Anonymous said...

I like your names.

Anonymous said...

LOLA MEANS STRONG WOMAN>>>> I refuse to think of LOLA as sorrows.