Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gwendolyn Jessie Buechler

Heather from The Spohrs Are Multiplying asked, "What was some of your [baby] naming criteria, and do you regret the name you chose?" This is a pretty good excuse for a post, because it's a subject on which I have much to say.

Let me start by answering the second half of the question - no, we do not regret the name we chose. That's because we worked really hard to make sure we came up with the perfect name. We actually congratulate each other and ourselves fairly often for having succeeded in that task.

It's no secret that I grew up with a name I hated. Like the title character in Johnny Cash's song "A Boy Named Sue," that hated name definitely had an impact on my childhood and on how people treated me. Also like that title character, I swore that I would not let my own child grow up with a strange name. So that was my first criteria: the name had to be something that everyone knew how to spell and pronounce.

Related to this was that I am not a big fan of taking a classic name and then spelling it creatively in order to be different. Krysstle, Gennffyr, DeNeicce, I'm looking at you. (Well, your parents, really.) (And don't even get me STARTED on apostrophes.)

On the other hand, I didn't want my kid to grow up with the problem my sister had, which was that she was one of three of four girls in her class with the same name. In my class, there were always a lot of Jen/Jenny/Jennifers, and I didn't want to go that route either. So that was the second criteria: the name could not be hugely popular.

(The very first name Chris and I agreed on, way back before we were even married, was Emma. We both just loved it. But by the time we did get pregnant, Emma had been on the top 5 list of girls' names for the past three years. So based on criteria #2, Emma was out.)

After marrying a guy with a strange Germanic last name, criteria #1 became even more important. No one knows how to spell or pronounce "Buechler", so we definitely didn't want to saddle her with an unusual first name as well. In addition, we needed something that went well with that last name. Buechler (pronounced Byoo-kler, fyi) is a strong and consonant-heavy word, so I wanted something kind of soft and gentle to go with it. It also needed to be somewhat ethnically matched: Jasmine Buechler, Evangeline Buechler, or Isabella Buechler were all unsuitable, for example. So, criteria #3 was that the name had to fit well with Buechler.

(I also refused to consider names that started with B: Barbara Buechler, Benjamin Buechler, and Bartholemew Buechler all sound like Dr. Seuss characters.)

My final criteria was that I wanted a name that suited its owner in babyhood, childhood, and adulthood. Tiny children shouldn't have grown-up names, and vice versa. So I wanted the name to be versatile. I think that's what led me to my preference of classic names: for example, Margaret could be called Maggie as a baby, Margie or Marg as a teen and adult, and Margaret as an older woman.

So those were my four criteria. Chris never actually stated his criteria, but based on many many discussions of names, I think his criteria was to turn down any name I suggested.

In addition to a lifetime of thinking about names, at the time I got pregnant I was working as a data entry clerk, which meant that I saw hundreds of names on a daily basis. Just about every day I would come home with an idea or eight. Every single one of them was shot down. One memorable day, he told me that Jill was a stupid name because everyone would ask her where her pail of water was. The very next day, he suggested Jack. Beams of hate shot out of my eyes.

It was a huge relief when we got the ultrasound determining that we were going to have a daughter, because it meant that we had just cut in half the number of names to fight about.

One day, out of the blue, Chris said, "What about Gwen?" I opened my mouth to tell him what a stupid idea that was, because I was used to shouting down suggestions like Edward and Charles and Nancy, and then I just stopped - mouth agape - and realized that I did not hate this name. In fact, I really liked it. It was simple and classic - everyone would know how to spell it and say it - and yet, when was the last time you actually met a Gwen? It would go well with Buechler, and I just liked the sound of it. It was a really good, solid name. I loved it.

(Naturally, we then had to fight about whether Gwen was short for Guinevere, Gwenyth, or Gwendolyn. I won that fight, and I think Gwen will thank me for that someday.)

We've been asked if we named her after Gwen Stefani. We didn't, but we don't mind the association - I feel better about it than if we'd unwittingly named her Hannah, Dora, or Britney.

The somewhat surprising truth is that while we didn't name her after a Gwen, nonetheless the reason she has that name is because Chris was reading a book with a character named Gwen. The character was a strong female role model, he told me, who didn't let men tell her what to do, or sit around waiting for them to save her life. Not only were these qualities worth honouring, but let me reiterate - we had not agreed on a single name in over a year of discussing names. We both loved the name Gwen. Clearly, the search was over.

Her middle name, Jessie, was much less of a battle. That name honours my maternal grandmother, "Gran", who died when I was 11 years old. She was a warm and special woman whom I wish I'd gotten to know better. I know she would have adored Gwen.

Since choosing that name approximately 2.5 years ago, we have never looked back. It is definitely the right name for our feisty, energetic daughter. A few days after Gwen's birth, our friend and doula Sally - who happens to be a professor - shared her perspective on names, adding a criteria we hadn't even considered: how professional and/or academic a name looks on a resume or publication submission. It turns out "Sally" is not the ideal name for being taken seriously in the academic world, and the 'y' at the end makes it look diminutive even though there is no non-diminutive form. Gwendolyn, on the other hand, is a strong and solid name - and it offers a few variations she can choose to use throughout her life: Gwen, Dolly (? who knows, it could happen), Lyn, and Wendy. Yes, that's right, Peter Pan fans: J.M. Barrie did NOT in fact invent that name. (Take heed, uppity British lady at my church who argued with me about it.)

I could go on for a few more paragraphs at least about how perfectly the name Gwen suits our daughter. I look back on some of the other names I cherished - Lily Grace was one of my favourites, through Chris couldn't stand it - and it's completely wrong. She's too bursting with personality for such an ultra-feminine name. I think I've given the name the ultimate field test in that I have had to say it hundreds of times a day for over two years, and it has passed with flying colours. We couldn't be happier to have a Gwen.

PS 500th post! Please let me know when the ticker tape parade is scheduled.


Jen said...

Great post! I love hearing how people chose their children's names!

Surprised Suburban Wife said...

I love the name Gwen. We had really similar criteria, but added that we didn't want anything ending in "a" or "y/i/ie/ey" because of the cutesy factor and because all the friends I grew up with had names like Eva/Sarah/Krista/Alida/Tracy/Stacy/Kristy/Kelly.

What a great post!

Jess said...

Neat post! And I didn't know her middle name was Jessie. Not short for Jessica? It's just Jessie?
May she grow into both names and love them all her life.

(as an aside, I used to insist on being called Jesse-with an e! when I was about 8... now calling me Jessie is the fastest possible way to piss me off :) how our tastes change :)

I have had the name for a daughter picked out for at least a decade. I have a delusional notion that if my future mate doesn't like it then he can name all the children that come out of his body :)

Tara Saracuse said...

I feel strongly about names too. I am glad you didn't name Gwen something that has an alternate spelling or pronunciation. For example, my parents named me "Tara" but it's pronounced "Terra" (yes, there is a difference). Want to piss me off? Pronounce my name the old British way--the way it's spelled--like this: taaar-a. Hate it. It's pronounced tear-a. Like terrible or terrifying!

Actually, I'm thinking about changing the spelling of my name to Terra when I get married next year. It would clear up a lot of confusion.

Good name choice! I'm sure Gwen won't shake her fist at you years from now...unlike me and my parents...

SeriousMom said...

I am slightly annoyed when people butcher the spelling of a "normal" name (Maygin, Genifur, Khrystyna) and then act offended if the name is mispronounced / mispelled. Are we all supposed to have a mental file of the 23 different ways to spell Hailey - Haley - Haylee?

Amberism said...

I thought I felt strongly about names, until I had to name the kids, and then realized the only thing I felt strongly about was that the name not be in the top 10. And I could pronouce it, of course.

Of course, I expected nothing less of you to have put this much thought into Gwen's name! And am very surprised to hear you don't like the name Laura. I love the name Laura, and I've liked every Laura I've ever met. In fact, I think I've made them all my friends. And weirdly, all of you (there's three) are very high achievers, and VERY smart. I find that weird. I wonder if I'm like other Ambers out there...

adequatemom said...

Amber, you're assuming that "Laura" was my given name at birth ... it wasn't. I started asking people to call me Laura when I was about 10 years old and have never looked back.

MollyinMinn said...

This is a wonderful post. I just stumbled across your blog for the first time, but was pulled right in by this post. She has a beautiful name and I loved the stories behind it!

adequatemom said...

Welcome Molly! Glad you liked the post. I dashed off to check out your blog, it looks great! Happy to "meet" you :-)


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