They’ll Just Wear Name Tags to Their Job Interviews

Listen. I know our kids have, uh, rather unique names, okay? You don’t have to remind me, fellow mom I run into at the store, or you, the 19-year-old Wegmans cashier who tells me that she would NEVER name her kids names like mine, because what if they want to become doctors one day, and no one can pronounce the names on their resumes? It’s much better, says the young woman, to name your child a normal name, then totally spell it an unusual way to confuse everybody, like she did with her Lukas (with a K instead of a C, thankyouverymuch) because WHAT IF THEY WANT TO BECOME DOCTORS?? 064 A lot of you know I first heard the name Saoirse when I was an undergrad. I was working as a resident advisor in an all-female dorm during my senior year (only because my dear–but rather protective–parents refused to let me move off campus, and being an RA was pretty much the only way I could remain on campus as an upperclassman and still hold my head relatively high. Well, as high as a 21-year-old living in a dorm can do. But I also decided to pile on two more jobs, 18 credits, and a publishing internship during that last semester, so maybe having a bathroom I didn’t have to clean and a dining hall with ready-made food wasn’t such a bad idea after all…), and she was one of my younger residents. The name, and its meaning of freedom, got stuck in my head, and then when I told David, his, too. And that beget Quinlan, and Cian after that. I swear to you, we did not start out with the intent of giving our children monikers they’ll forever have to spell for Starbucks baristas. It just happened. I always liked names like Elizabeth and Lucas (without the K, thankyouverymuch), Audrey and Patrick. You know, normal names. But then I met a Saoirse, and years later gave birth to a child who could only have been a Saoirse. And so it went. 044 Cian was baptized Sunday, along with two little girls with recognizable names like Naomi (pronounced Nie-omi, not Nay-omi, in case you were wondering) and Charlotte. I was in the bathroom before the baptism, extracting baby waste from places on my son you didn’t know baby waste could go, as our priest began to gather the families together in front of the baptismal font so he could begin. Now, I wasn’t in the church itself for this, but by all accounts, this is how it went:

Father S: “Okay, we have Naomi’s parents?”

They had just walked in.

Father S: “And we have Charlotte’s right here.”

They nodded.

Father S: “Okay, and do we have the parents of…Shawn?”

My (large, extended) family, in unison: “Key-in.”

Father S: “Cayenne?”

Family: “KEY-in.”

Father S: “Sy-ann?”

From the pews: “IT’S KEY-IN!” 104 When I was growing up, “Leah” was a strange name to have, too. It’s pronounced “Lee-yah,” of course, but for years, I was Lee, or Lay-ah, especially during the height of Star Wars (and Princess Leia’s slave costume), to my constant mortification. At the beach souvenir shops, I could never find a key chain with my name engraved. There was never another Leah in any of my classes. Even now, the baristas write “Lia” and “Leighah” and “Leigh” on my grande coffee cups. So why did we go the funky route with our own children? 047 I dunno. We thought they were pretty. 092The girls have activities with children named Lillian and Grace, Patrick and Aiden. I adore those names. The classics, the traditional–they’re so beautiful. But I secretly liked being the only Leah around. As an awkward, gangly teen with glasses and braces and mall bangs, my name gave me some sort of identity I could call my own, rather than the tight-rolled jeans I was wearing like everybody else (because tight-rolled jeans and an Esprit sweater TOTALLY offset the awfulness of hairsprayed bangs, right?). And our kids each have a meaning behind their names that, funnily enough, matches them perfectly. So there’s that.

But I will say I’m going to start shopping online for engraved key chains now. And maybe add the phonetic spelling of their names on them, too. 027 You know, just in case they want to be doctors or something.


  1. Carrie-Anne | 17th May 13

    I love the name Saoirse! It’s refreshing to see real Irish names when faux-Irish or extremely trendy Irish names are the ones getting all the attention these days, like Aidan, Liam, Ashlynn, and Irelynn. My real name is Anna, which is one of the reasons I use a pen name. Having an overused name isn’t fun. I went through a whole phase, in 6th grade, when I loved kreatyv spylyngz and was spelling my name in ways including Ayna, Aina, Aiyna, and finally Aiynah. Now I cringe instead of thinking that’s the coolest spelling ever.

  2. Elena | 13th May 13

    I love Saoirse and Cian. In fact, I like them so much so that I could picture myself using Cian if I ever had a son. I also know with a name like Elena that people can be educated very easily. If they don’t get a name the first time, remind them again. It’s not really that big of a deal. It’s actually preferable, imo, to give a child an unusual name with an authentic spelling than a common name spelled creatively (Emmaleigh, Maddysen, Izabelah, Macen, Aayden, etc.) because everyone will be used to spelling it the commonly-accepted way and will “misspell” it constantly.

    • Leah Ferguson | 13th May 13

      Thanks for your thoughts, Elena! You’re right about people catching on easily. So far, once we get past the first week or so of school, Saoirse’s name hasn’t been a problem at all. When I taught high school I came across all sorts of names that became commonplace after awhile. It’s just, even though we so loved our kiddos’ names, there’s that little tug of mommy guilt for going on on a limb, if that makes sense. But, hey. Right now they love their names and wouldn’t know the difference, so I’ll just roll with that. 🙂

      Oh, and I’ve a friend whose daughter is named Elena. It’s lovely!

  3. kat170 | 7th May 13

    Totally understand. One of my sons is Rhys (which isn’t even that hard!) and I have to spell it for everyone. Everyone. And they pronounce it Rice. But we love the name and he never could have been anything else.

    • Leah Ferguson | 9th May 13

      Exactly! Thank you! And for the record, Rhys has a very awesome name.

  4. Leah Ferguson | 7th May 13

    You speak the truth about that sweater, lady!

  5. Eliz | 7th May 13

    Eh – I’ve never known a Joy whose name wasn’t in some way ironic (some of them incredibly so). Also, I grew up with you and never though your name was weird in the least. And the Esprit sweater didn’t look good, it was just the talisman that kept the mean girls at bay.

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