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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Finding Out the Baby's Name

Lara writes:
I have a bit of an interesting conundrum. I'm a lifelong name enthusiast, and have been pretty much my entire life. An co-worker of mine had a baby - I'm kind of shy and he's kind of an introvert. I eventually asked another coworker what the baby's name was, and he answered with something that sounded like, "Amyquinn," or, perhaps more accurately, "Emiquin." It sounded like a name I should have heard of - it does sound lovely... but I can't seem to find existence anywhere. Is there a name that sounds like this? Or maybe it was a name they created, or maybe it is "Amy Quinn"? As someone who spends a lot of her free time thinking about names, it's frustrating!

My top guess is that the child's name is Emme/Emmy/Emmie Quinn or Emma Quinn---that he was giving the first and middle names. But we are definitely going to need a follow-up on this one: you are going to have to steel yourself to ask the co-worker who had the baby what his baby's name is, for all our sakes.

It will be easier if he puts a photo of the child on his desk, because then you can start by cooing over the cuteness, and then ask at the end of an awwww. Like this: "Ohhhhhhh, is this the BAY-bee?? Oh, she's so CUTE! Oh, look at her little CHEEKS! What a SWEETie! Awwwww...!....What's her NAME?" Maintain tone of voice and fond gazing at baby's face throughout, so that "What's her name?" is said in the same cooing voice as the rest.

If he says it and you still don't understand it, say, "I LOVE it! How are you spelling it?" This question CAN backfire, as when someone replies, "....E-m-m-a..." with a strange look---but these things happen, and you just have to have "Ha ha! No, I mean the MIDDLE name!" on deck ready to go. If you are not the "I LOVE it!" type, you can start with "What a GREAT name!" instead.

As an aside, this is a good opportunity to mention to the world at large that those are the only two appropriate responses to a baby's name, and they must be said instantly, before the name has even registered in the brain (and in fact, I find it's easier to give a hearty positive response if I haven't had time to form an actual reaction). Anything else sounds like a suppressed "Oh ick, seriously?"---and new parents are highly attuned to tones, pauses, and word choices. A reaction such as "Ohhhhh...that's an...interesting choice!" might seem to the speaker as if it's a safe and tactful response, but it might as well be "Ug, I hate it." Honesty has no place in baby name reactions---and besides, "What a GREAT name!" is true in the sense that all names are great names to the people who chose those names over all others. Our own subjective opinions about the name have no impact on the objective value of the name. (Well, or if they do, this is no time for pointing it out.)

Back to the subject at hand. If he doesn't have a photo on his desk, you can open with "I hear you have a new baby at your house!" (Don't say "Congratulations" right away: you'll need that for your exit line.) Then wait for his reaction, which will probably be something along the lines of "Yeah, it's pretty great" or "Yeah, we haven't been getting much sleep ha ha!" or possibly he will even take that opportunity to mention her name. When you need to get away, say, "Well....congratulations!" and duck out. This exchange will force both of you to make some eye contact and do some talking, but it is for the greater good.

Or perhaps your office will release some sort of birth announcement? Or you could search online for your co-workers name to see if you can find the baby announcement in the local newspapers. Or you could see if the local hospital posts baby names/photos online.


Does a name like Emiquin/Amyquinn ring a bell for anyone? Can we figure out what name it might be?


JCF said...

Another terrible response to a name is "Did you make that up?" or anything equivalent. My son's name is Declan, and I can't tell you how many times we've had to answer "No, it is the name of an Irish saint." Drives me nuts!!! A better question, when you are trying to figure out if an unusual name is invented by the parents, would be "Ooh, lovely. What is the meaning of it?" or "What are its origins?" Both safe ways to get the information you are seeking!

Side note: my BIL's name is Liam, and he is in his 20s. My in laws spent most of his life telling people they didn't make it up, and now it is becoming super common. I see Declan going in the same direction, but I imagine we are in for at least another decade of questions.

vanessa steck said...

I am going to need the OP to update once she figures out the baby's name! ;)

Anonymous said...

This post is not the reason I wish to read you'd blog swistle. Am I the only reader that feels this post has no point? Are you choosing these emails over actual baby naming "help me swistle" emails?

Swistle said...

Anonymous- The goal of this blog is to cover a wide variety of baby-name-related topics. I'm sorry you found a post not to your personal interests.

Kaitlin (runforsushi) said...

I think this was actually a great post! And I'm a 21 year old college student with no future baby plans. I WOULD however really like to know the coworkers baby name! :)

Shoeaddict said...

People have asked us countless times how we came up with our daughter's name. I never mind the question if it is preceded by "I love that!"

ellipsisknits said...

Thanks for the etiquette pointers. We don't have many babies around, so I'm always a little awkward about how to bring things up, even when I'm *dying* to hear about them.

Saving the 'congratulations' as an exit strategy is a great idea.

Superjules said...

Oh, man, the ONLY TWO appropriate baby name responses totally needs to be a PSA.

Alice said...

HAHAHAHAHA "this post is not the reason I wish to read you'd blog swistle" HAHAAAA oh man i'm sorry.

swistle, this post was not pesonally relevant to me so i shall complain publicly about it. despite the fact that it is a post about naming babies, on a blog devoting to talking about naming babies, i am displeased with the content and wish to let you know.

just, you know, thought you should know that.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Annakin or Annika?