Writer’s Workshop: What’s In A Name?

This week, Kat wants to know “the first name you were almost given before your parents decided on the one you have.”

My mother wanted to name each of us William, and my father was adamant that he didn’t want a junior. Actually, I doubt any of us would have had his middle name, Krieger, because there are no Kriegers on either side of the family. The Kriegers were friends of Grandma and Grandpa Holton in Cincinnati. Mr. Krieger died around the time Grandma was expecting Dad, and Mrs. Krieger asked her if she would name him Oscar after her husband. Grandma compromised and made his middle name Krieger. Dad really didn’t like his middle name. In fact, in his high school yearbook, he’s listed as “William Joseph Holton,” much to Grandma’s chagrin.

Mom wanted to name me William, but Dad said no, so I’m named John after my maternal grandfather. She wanted to name my next brother William, but Dad put his foot down, so he’s James, after Mom’s great-grandfather. (He took William as his confirmation name, and his first son’s middle name is William.) My next brother after Jim was the one who came closest to being named William: Dad wasn’t at the hospital when Mom filled out the birth certificate. When Dad got to the hospital and learned what Mom had done, he got hold of the birth certificate and tore it up before it went to City Hall. Instead, he’s Christopher, because Mom liked the name. We call him Kip (among other things), because that’s a pretty standard nickname for Christopher, and evidently either Jim or I called him “Kiptopher” when he came home.

Interesting that none of us were named after Grandpa Holton, Thomas. Both Grandpa and Grandma’s father were John, so I guess that’s why. Grandma had a brother Sylvester who was either stillborn or died very shortly after birth. That might have been interesting…

All of this makes me think of a couple of songs. You know me, everything makes me think of a couple of songs.

22 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: What’s In A Name?

  1. My first name, Frances, which btw I can’t stand so I changed it to Franci, was chosen because my parents didn’t know what I going to be so they went with Frank or Frances. My middle name, Eugenia, is my grandmother’s name. My dad’s side of the family was Irish and my mom’s side was French.

    Love the music selection, especially Henry VIII.


    1. We were born back in the days when you didn’t know what you were getting until it came out, so parents had to pick a boy’s name and a girl’s name to cover themselves. Those were also the days when mothers spent a week in the hospital recovering, which gave the fathers a chance to paint the nursery. I have no idea what they might have named us if we had been girls, though I’m pretty sure one of us would have been Genevieve, after my mother and grandmother, and another might have been Eleanor, after Dad’s sister that he never knew.

      Maybe one day I’ll do a set of songs that came out of vaudeville or the music halls for which there’s a rock version. That’ll take some research…

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  2. The Catholic church had this rule ( no longer in effect I believe ) that you had to be named after a saint. I was born and baptized John, but I was called Jack from the day I was born. I always liked the name Jack and wish all my legal documents carried this name. I, too, am named after your maternal grandfather.😉


  3. Hi John – well I’m named after my Saint’s Day as it’s my birthday and the start of the legal law term at Oxford and Dublin universities family links. My brothers both had non family names … we didn’t have kids – so can’t go beyond that … but fun to understand your family names … I must say I’ve always loved the Johnnie Cash Song ‘A Boy Named Sue’ … still I battle now with the two ‘LLs’ which I don’t have – cheers Hilary


  4. Interesting. Our husband did not want to name our son William because his father was an abusive alcoholic so he didn’t want to carry the name on down (our son would have been III). I don’t think there were any other names thought of for me. I’ll have to ask my sisters since the story is they picked my name. Happy Thursday, John.


        1. Jim and I were too young when Kip was born to have been consulted. He and Jim are “Irish twins,” born within a year of each other, so Jim wasn’t a year old when he was born. I was almost 3, which meant he would have been named Howdy Doody, probably…

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  5. John,

    I like family names. We named DS after DH’s dad. I wish we had worked in family names in for our daughters but we didn’t. 😦 DD#1 when she was little always said she would name her daughter Dorothy (after DH’s mother) Ann but now that she’s expecting she has changed her mind which makes me sad. She said it’s too old fashion but I think someday she’ll regret not going that way. Oh well…William is a noble name. However Oscar is an odd name which happens to be my daddy’s name. I couldn’t see using that for my son. lol Great, fun song choices!


    1. Dorothy is one of those names that was really popular at one time, but all the women named that are retirement age or older. My step-great-grandparents (my grandfather’s second wife’s folks) were Edith and Horace; no one names their kid either of those names anymore. Mom was Genevieve (she was named for her mother), and one of her sisters named her daughter that, but again, no one names their kid that anymore.

      For fun sometime, find a list of popular baby names when you were born and compare it to the popular names last year. It’s almost frightening.

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