Baby names have been big news lately. There was the momentous naming of Prince George in late July, and soon after came the news of a Tennessee judge who ruled that a woman must change the name of her 7-month-old son, Messiah (he became Martin). And we can always count on Hollywood celebrities to coin bizarre baby names (North West, really?).
But newsmakers aren't the only ones with stories to tell. Ask your friends or neighbors how they got their names and be amazed by how funny, unique or touching their origins are. In the stories below, readers share what inspired their or their kids' names.
-- Jessica Yadegaran, firstname.lastname@example.org
I was born in 1960 right after an epic hurricane hit central Florida. Nope, I was not named Donna after the storm. But apparently the low pressure system got to my parents, and they did the Southern thing: Let's just smash names together. Thus, their names, Lorraine plus Ray, became Loray.
The questions came. Not a nickname? Your dad wanted a boy, huh? I'm not Lori or Leroy or Larry. The first-day-of-school role call? Nightmare. Plus, the disappointment of never finding my name on a personalized souvenir rack. As a child, I wished I'd been named after the dang storm.
But, as an adult, I've grown into and now celebrate my unique brand. It's a perfect ice breaker when I meet someone new. I can tell them the story of how I got my name. My children's names? The first gift I gave them was a mainstream, impossible-to-mispronounce label: Shane, Drew, Grant and Kelly. And I can find them all personalized souvenirs at Fisherman's Wharf.
-- Loray Hibbard Hawkins, 52, Danville
It actually took quite a bit of work to come up with my son's name. I had to get "joint approval" from his mother, older brother and sister. To clarify, he is my first child. I remember that I finally received approval from them at La Victoria Taqueria in downtown San Jose.
It is kind of molded from the name DeAngelo, which I really liked, but I still wanted it to be different. Since he is my mom's first grandson, he is in a sense hers, so from that comes De Rosario, her name.
Since he is a boy, I then took off what I thought was the "feminine" part of my mom's name "Ros" and added a "Z." The Z is capitalized and stands for one of Mexico's greatest leaders, Emiliano Zapata. It is there to stand out and always remind him of his Mexican culture.
-- Miguel Burciaga, San Jose (father of DeZario Agustin Burciaga, 6)
My parents blessed me with a wonderful name, and I wanted to do the same for my son. I am a lifelong lacrosse player and coach. Lacrosse is a Native American game, and I have a tremendous love and respect for the Iroquois, who still play lacrosse today.
When researching Native American names and historical figures I came across Deganawida, who, according to Native American lore, is the figure that brought peace to the Six Nations of the Iroquois. His name means the "two river currents flowing together," but he is more widely known as "the Great Peacemaker."
I convinced my wife to go with the shortened version of his name that we use on a daily basis, Degan (pronounced "day-gone"). But we put his full name, Deganawidah Teodoro Rodriguez, on his birth certificate. The h was added to his name when I was filling out the forms at the hospital. One of my brothers convinced me that it was the proper spelling of the name, although to this day I have never seen anything to back up his claim. Well, my son is stuck with it now!
-- Iliad Thor Rodriguez, 45, San Jose
In a weak postpartum moment, my mother did something that would affect me for the rest of my life. She gave my young sisters and brother the privilege of naming me, the fourth and final child.
The first to speak was my brother. "Is Trigger a girl name or a boy name?" he asked. Roy Rogers' horse was certainly a huge celebrity in the mind of a 1950s preschooler, but I live in gratitude that he couldn't be my namesake once my mother made it clear that Trigger was a boy's name.
The baby-namers then hatched the idea of naming me after a comic strip character. My older sister's favorite comic was Ferdinand. Our next sister liked Nancy and Sluggo. In those days, ideas were more traditional when it came to gender and names, so fortune was on my side in that Nancy was the only girl name in the mix. It was wonderfully ordinary, and I possessed those two shiny X chromosomes that entitled me to it. Some friends may wonder why I'm so glad to be a woman. If they read this article, they'll understand.
-- Nancy Lowe, 57, Morgan Hill
I named my daughter Katelyn Nicole in July 1994. I expected to have a boy, according to the ultrasound, and he would have been the first in our family of girls. The baby shower was for a boy, and the baby nursery was painted with red, black, and white doggies.
Anyway, one day I was talking to my 6-year-old niece, Alexis, who had recently moved to Brentwood. I missed her terribly. We were talking on the phone, and I asked her, "Have you made any friends?" She said, "Yes, I have a best friend." I asked, "What is her name?" She said in the cutest little voice, "Katelyn." I hadn't heard that name before.
At that moment I knew if I had a girl, I would name her Katelyn. I did end up having a girl, to everyone's surprise, and she has been the light of my life for 19 years. My angel, Katelyn Nicole Fissore -- and it fits her to a T!
-- Julie Cosmos, 41, Pittsburg
Our son Anderson is named after the Keanu Reeves character in "The Matrix," Mr. Anderson. We were trying to get an unusual (but hopefully not too weird) name that had a reasonable nickname (Andy). In the movie, the Reeves character is "The One," the hero or savior of the story, so I thought it would be a fun and strong name for a boy.
Our daughter, Kaydence, is named after the San Jose company where her mom and I both worked. We met at a company called Quickturn, which was later acquired by Cadence, but Quickturn wasn't nearly as nice a name for a girl. Her middle name is Ainsley, because we were married at the Ainsley House in Campbell. Our son's middle name is Gehrig. Not to offend the local A's and Giants fans, but I grew up in New York and am a big Yankees fan.
-- Justin Liu, 38, Santa Clara (father of Anderson, 10, and Kaydence, 7)
I was named after my dad, Francis Leo. My family gave me a nickname, Francie. My older brother gave me a nickname to my nickname, Francie Pants. I have spent my entire life explaining my name.
I always felt Frances was old-fashioned and wished I went by my middle name, Carey. Francie was as hip as I got. By my teens, I learned to overemphasize the pronunciation, "Hi. I'm Francie, like Nancy." Even with an obvious hint, my name always came back Francine. I joke about the trickiness of it and how mistakes are commonplace.
My name is misspelled a lot! A female Frances is spelled with an "e," while the male version is spelled with an "i." Any Frances or Francis knows this pain. We are instant friends since we've shared similar battles.
I love my name now, especially since my dad passed away last year. I feel a special connection, a little late. I was thrilled when the new pope picked Francis as his papal name. However, I thought, "He has no idea how hard it is to be a Francis. He needs advisement." I wrote to Pope Francis at the Vatican telling him what to expect regarding misspellings and mispronunciations. I received a formal thank-you for sending him prayers and an autographed picture! Pope Francis will make our name cool.
-- Frances Low, 48, Lafayette
When I was a teenager, my father and I were out walking in the garden, and he pointed out a rose bush he had just planted underneath my bedroom window. He told me that this was my rose bush, a literal "rose of Sharon."
He then proceeded to tell me that when I was born, he had wanted to name me Rose of Sharon after the character in the John Steinbeck novel "The Grapes of Wrath." My father was born in 1918, in Ada, Okla., and, I think he must have seen a lot of his own family's struggles in that book. It meant a lot to him. However, my mother wouldn't hear of it, and I was eventually named just Sharon.
-- Sharon Virginia Starns, 64, Hollister
When people hear my name, Rhoda Belle, they always ask if I am from the South. I assure them I am not from the South, but the first Rhoda Belle (my grandmother) was from Kentucky, if that counts. Unfortunately, she died at age 31 giving birth to my mother, the second Rhoda Belle. My mother died at age 54, so I am lucky to have had this long life.
I have always had fun having an unusual name. However, I have a friend who says at age 12, she was very tall, had an overbite, and wore thick glasses. If her name had been Rhoda Belle, she'd have been finished!
My nickname has always been Rhodie, and some of my nieces and nephews call me Aunt Rhodie. Most young people, of course, have not heard the folk song, "Go Tell Aunt Rhodie." I think I am the last Rhoda Belle. Our daughters are quite happy that their names are Leslie and Lisa.
-- Rhoda Belle Levis Firth, 83, Los Gatos
I was born during the Great Depression. In those hardscrabble days, men like my dad, a college graduate, worked wherever they could find a job. His was digging ditches for the WPA. Needless to say, he was very tired after a day's work.
In the meantime, Hollywood was doing its part to lift people's spirits. The movies, according to my mother, changed every day in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Mom cajoled and cried and convinced Dad that they needed to go to the movies to keep up their (her) spirits.
At that time, there were two movie stars named Constance: Constance Moore and Constance Bennett. I was named after them. In those days, most people were named for relatives, usually wealthy ones. So my middle name is Louise, which was my paternal grandmother's middle name as well. It was that grandmother who took me to church to be baptized as Agnes Louise Mooney (her name). No Hollywood movie star's name for her granddaughter.
-- Constance Louise Langford, 80, San Jose
My father, Jesse Sydney Goldstein, was a television comedy writer in the 1950s. One of the shows that he wrote was "I Married Joan," starring comedian Joan Davis. I was born during the show's heyday, so my mom and dad named me after her. They wanted to pay tribute to Davis because she was the star of the show, and my dad was the head writer. They were friends with her, but they wanted to recognize her name by giving me the same name. My brother Alan was named for Alan Ladd, and my sister Vicki was named after Vic Knight, both show-business friends of my dad. These were people that my dad wrote with, and it was a way to honor them.
-- Joan Goldstein, 63, Campbell
My name is Junne. I was born June 26. My mom liked the idea of my name being the same as my birth month. So the story goes: I was named after the month of June, but my mom spelled it wrong on the birth certificate, and it stayed unnoticed and uncorrected as Junne. My name frequently gets corrected back to the correct spelling of the month, J-U-N-E.
-- Junne Webbe, (undisclosed age), Mountain House
Our daughter was born seven weeks early, and we had not yet selected a name for her. After one week in the hospital, she was ready to come home. We had narrowed down the possible names to two: Carina, which means "dear little one" and paid homage to her Italian grandparents, and Aimee, which means "dearly loved." I preferred Carina, while her father liked Aimee.
So we decided to use both names and flip a coin to see which would be the first name. I won the coin toss, and so she became Carina Aimee. We still have the quarter used in that memorable coin toss. When our daughter got older, and we told her the story of how she was named, she said she was glad the coin toss came out the way it did. She couldn't imagine having a name other than Carina.
-- Marie Borin-Burdick, 54, Los Altos (mother of Carina Aimee Burdick, now 15)
When my youngest son was born nearly 24 years ago, we already had two boys and were convinced that this one would be a girl. We didn't have a boy's name picked out, so when he arrived, we frantically started throwing out names that sounded good with my then-husband's Italian surname, Cetani.
Vito? Dominic? Salvatore? It was 1989, and I was a big fan of the TV show "Wiseguy." My son was named Vincenzo, after Ken Wahl's character, Vinny Terranova. I don't think he's ever met another Vincenzo, and he loves his name!
-- Mary Ollerton, 55, San Jose (mother of Vincenzo, 23, Arcata)
On April 2, 1938, the day before I was born, my maternal grandfather died. He was Clark Hewitt Smith. So, on one day, a Clark Smith left this world and on the next, one entered it. I was named after him.
-- Clark S. Sturges, 75, Walnut Creek.
I was born in 1962, so there was no ultrasound to let my parents know if I was a boy or a girl. One day, my mother announced to my father: "If it is a boy, his name will be Brian Keith and if it is a girl, her name will be Dannette Marie."
My father said, "You got to name the first baby (my older sister Paulette, named after my father, Paul, and actress Paulette Goddard), so I get to name this baby." My mom said, "Uh, no, you will pick an icky name for the new baby."
So they bickered back and forth for months. My dad wanted to name me Lydia after my godmother. My mom thought Lydia was too sophisticated for a baby.
My dad, stubborn man that he was, finally won. But my mom had the last word. "We'll name the baby Lydia, but her middle name will be Kathleen -- and we will call her Kathy."
-- Lydia Kathleen "Kathy" Woofter, 51, Livermore