Naming a child is a great responsibility. You are choosing the word that will identify your child and frame the first impression people will have with or without ever meeting the person behind the name. And every name has a meaning, some nicer than others; in fact, a name that I love turns out to mean “heifer” and another “she who welcomes you in.” While I’d like for my daughter to be hospitable and welcoming, by the time she’s a teenager, I think I’d be regretting that name; my husband and I both nixed that one instantly. Perhaps as a writer and avid reader I am keenly aware that every word, therefore every name, has a meaning. It’s one of the things I love about Old Testament Bible stories, particularly the book of Hosea; every character is named for their position in the story. So what story are we creating by the name we choose?
Right now, it’s Engelberta. Before anyone panics, we are not going to name our little girl Engelberta, especially given that with our last name she’ll look like a German fairy tale character on paper. Not that our girl couldn’t pull it off, but a girl named Engelberta in the southern U.S. is not unlike the “Boy Named Sue.” I keep calling her Engelberta anyway, though – partly because I love watching the rather horrified expressions on the faces of our friends who can’t really decide if we’re joking or not – but mostly because the name means “bright angel” in old German, which is a really nice nickname if you ask me.
We’ve had all the obligatory suggestions, including lots of cute and popular names, and we’ve ignored them all. I have refused to share the potential list of names with anyone but my husband until we’ve made our final decision. We won’t be waiting to the last minute and naming her at the hospital because we tend to be very literal when naming animals (Bear looks like a bear, Brook came from Brookside, Max was found in the wheel of a Nissan Maxima…), and as weird as Engelberta might sound to southern English speakers, imagine what would come of St. Vincent’s Hospital or Birmingham or Alabama… So, we’re working on the name, but for now (and maybe always on the interwebs) Engelberta is it. 🙂