A History of Names

My son's name is Alexander Louis, so he was quite amused to learn the newest member of the British royal family shared his two names. And for similar reasons.

My father's family came from Brittany, in France, a noble family that had the foresight to leave before anyone could swing an ax at their necks. Generation after generation of men in the family were named Alexandre and Louis. In order to differentiate, however, it was common for the names to be flipped every generation: Louis Alexandre's son would be Alexandre Louis, whose son would be another Louis Alexandre and so on. However, in the two generations previous to mine the name Alexandre had been dropped (it was last used as my great-grandfather's name), though the name Louis remained as a middle name to several family members, along with Louise for several women in the family. When my son was born, I chose to bring the name Alexander (using the American spelling, if only to avoid complications) back into use.

Alexander does additional duty in that it was also the name of one of the chieftains of my mother's Scottish clan (Innes). My second son's name is Robert for the same reason; Robert was the first Innes chieftain. And has the added benefit of being easy for my French-speaking family to say (even if they pronounce it a bit differently).

You see how the negotiation goes. On one side, I wanted to honor my French heritage, and also choose names that were not too strange to them. On the other, I wanted names that were normal enough not to seem too strange to everyday Americans, either. And I didn't want to leave out the Scottish side of my family, because I'm proud of that cultural history as well.

And then there's my daughter. Evangeline. That's a bit of my romanticism showing, I suppose, though I did have a great-aunt Evvy (eh-vee), short for Evangeline.

It was my preference and my pleasure to choose classic names with sentimental family ties. I know, of course, not everyone feels that way when naming a child. Many people look to do something different and unique; they feel it's freeing in some way. And as we say back home, à chacun son goût. After all, what's in a name? Only what you put into it.

All the best to the royals. I've got my own court to rule.

No comments: