This is more of a general name nerd question - what is your feeling on the meaning of names? Do you think it's important? Does giving a child a name with a negative meaning equal bad karma??


This is a great question, because people really, really have differing opinions on it and it’s hard for one side to talk to the other, like we’re in slightly different name languages.

For me, I don’t care about the "book" meaning. My name means "little dark one" and I have dark hair but I am a tall, tall person, so I’m batting 50%. Naming me this way did absolutely nothing to indicate how I would turn out.

So those meanings mean nothing to me, especially since their origin is probably centuries old. I know people who avoid the lovely name Claudia because it means "lame", but I have to assume that’s a reference to Roman Emperor Claudius, and if you’re looking for a series to watch, there is nothing crazier (or more full of good names) than the PBS I, Claudius series from the 70s and I cannot endorse it enough. When you watch it, or if you’re a nerd like I am, you’ll know that even though Claudius had some physical issues, he also had some seriously awesome under-the-radar steeze. So names, or the one-line traits given to them, don’t matter to me at all. And they shouldn’t matter to you, because even if you walk around going “Oh, Caleb means ‘devotion to God’", people stop listening before you even finish the first syllable of said meaning.

But there’s another, different "meaning" issue that’s much more pertinent here. I’ve met many, many lovely women named Amanda, and they’re juuuuust beginning to take the sting away from the name as first issued in fourth grade, when the first Amanda I ever met made my life a living hell.

Someone recently said (possibly a letter writer who is hanging out in my inbox, he-ey!) that Oscar seemed off the table now that it belonged to Pistorius, and everything that came along with that. There is a reason why it is illegal in many countries to name your child Adolph. Depending on your particular issues or predilictions, your never-go-there names may belong to childhood bullies or childish demons from the movies (when will you people relent on Damian?) or even a discomfort with George because with Clooney and Bush and of Windsor, you just think it means "money without consequence".

All these reasons are OK, and, I think, much more important than the alleged meanings in books. Besides, those may be changing anyway. Of course Sophia theoretically means “Wisdom”, but we all know it actually means “I was born between 2005 and 2013”.