Thursday, December 11, 2008

In search of nomenclature

The burning question of the year is this: what on Earth should Amelia and I do with our names after getting married next October? We could theoretically both keep our hyphenated monstrosities in the short term, but this quickly becomes impractical when the storks start dropping off their parcels.

We were both pretty sure we wanted our family to have one name; but which name should it be? We threw around Brandt and Isaacks for a while without definite decision, and then stumbled onto the idea of botany. A new plant-based name for our family certainly seems up our alley of insanity, so the fun began...

I did some research and drew up a list of a bunch of trees, flowers, herbs and other miscellaneous plants that seemed vaguely possible as surnames (or just too hilarious to leave out), and wrote a program to allow us to see each of our first names with all of the last names at random and rate them. Here's the list we were working with:
Alder, Amaranth, Anemone, Arrowroot, Aspen, Aster, Beebalm, Birch, Bladderpod, Bloodroot, Buckeye, Bugbane, Butterbur, Butterweed, Campion, Caraway, Catchfly, Cedar, Chervil, Chickweed, Clammyweed, Cockscomb, Cockspur, Coltsfoot, Cowcockle, Crowfoot, Crucifer, Dragonhead, Fennel, Feverfew, Fireweed, Flameflower, Fleabane, Foxglove, Galax, Gillyflower, Globeflower, Goldcup, Goldenseal, Goldthread, Goosefoot, Groundsel, Gumweed, Hazel, Helmetflower, Hemlock, Honeysuckle, Hyssop, Kingcup, Larch, Larkspur, Laurel, Leopardbane, Lilac, Linden, Liverleaf, Loosestrife, Madrone, Mandrake, Maple, Mulberry, Mullein, Oxalis, Pennyroyal, Peony, Periwinkle, Pimpernel, Poplar, Primrose, Rhubarb, Rockfoil, Rowan, Sage, Sainfoin, Samphire, Sandwort, Saxifrage, Searocket, Skullcap, Snapdragon, Sneezeweed, Soapwort, Sorrel, Spiderflower, Spruce, Stonecress, Sunflower, Sycamore, Tarweed, Teasel, Tickweed, Toadflax, Trefoil, Vervain, Wandflower, Willow, Wintergreen, Witloof, Woad, Zinnia. addition to both parts of each of our existing names. After we'd both gone through all 200 or so possibilities a few times, I weeded out the bottom 75% for both of us (what? what's wrong with Amelia Sneezeweed? and Searocket is clearly awesome) and we went for another few rotations. The last step was to delete all the names that we didn't have in common, which brought us to the following, in approximate order of compromise mutual preference:


Amelia's favorite is "Birch." It's a beautiful tree that we both love, very unusual as a name but not weird in that context, and goes well with both of our names (though "Josh Birch" isn't great metrically in my opinion) and all the potential kids' names that we've discussed. Josh(ua) Birch, Amelia Birch, Elinor/Eleanor (Ella) Birch, Imogene (Idgie) Birch, Isabel (Izzie) Birch, Julian (Jules/Jude) Birch, Miles/Milo Birch, &c.

My favorite, surprisingly, and also the only one of these that I could instantly adopt without the slightest tinge of misgiving or regret, also surprisingly, is "Aster." I adore it, for all kinds of reasons -- it seems modern and traditional and earthy and celestial and rural and cosmopolitan all at the same time, and the phonological component hits the spot for me as well. I would love to be Josh Aster. I really am, as I may have mentioned above, surprised to find myself having such a strong reaction to this.

I don't think it's a possibility, though -- although it's in our top ten in common, Amelia doesn't really care for it that much, which definitely tosses it out of the running. If we're both changing our names, feeling gung-ho about our choice is a clear prerequisite.

I find I'm ambivalent about "Brandt." I've never particularly loved the sound of it -- a heavy syllable with a nasal vowel as its nucleus -- and I wouldn't particularly have expected myself to push for it in a situation such as, for example, the one we're now in. In fact, for as long as I've had an opinion I've been a staunch opponent of the ludicrous idea of a woman taking her husband's name, so it would have been an impossibility.

Things are strangely different now, though. I'm having this bizarre conservative feeling that I'd rather like it if Amelia wanted to take my name -- and a new allegiance to "Brandt" and its history, particularly since I'm one of the few Brandts remaining from my line after the Holocaust.

In all truth I really have no idea what we're going to end up choosing, or how we'll manage to come to a decision -- the scales seem pretty evenly balanced in every direction. I think I could probably be okay with any of our top options (Brandt, Isaacks, Birch and Linden) or, of course, Aster...heh heh.

And you should go vote and let us know what you think! Who knows, maybe public opinion will be overwhelming enough to sway the jury.

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