The Perils of Naming Your Kid

Naming your kid is almost like playing God. You have this immense power over another human being. You’re in charge of what this person will be called for the rest of his/her life. And you have literally thousands of choices of hundreds of baby-naming books. It’s a lot of pressure. I wouldn’t be surprised if people divorced thanks to “name” fights. My parents didn’t divorce when they named me, but they didn’t succeed in creating a wonderful name for me that people will always remember.

To be honest, I hate my name. I mean, I really hate my name. I’ve never even met someone with my name. I’ve thought about changing it, but I’m gutless. I might be lucky if 1% of people I encounter either in person or on the phone or even email get it right. Despite my name being Lorne, I’ve been called Lauren, Loren, Lorene, Lorney, Lance, Laraine, Lor, Warren, and so many others incorrect and ridiculous variations. I’ve even been called Jeff. Why? Well, it’s interesting. My HS math teacher had a speech impediment; she spoke like Elmer Fudd. So I figured she called me Jeff because she’d have to pronounce my name “Wawen.” Turns out she called me Jeff because she got me confused with this kid who sat in the front of the class. Ok, that makes some sense. Except Jeff was black. If you check out my profile pic, you can clearly see I’m not. What the hell?

The Lorne2

Found this pub in Scotland. I showed them my driver’s license and asked if I could get anything for free. They looked at me like I was nuts.

Now consider the school playground. What does my name rhyme with? Porn. Corn. Horn. So I was porny, corny, horny. My name just attracted bullies and for a sensitive kid like me, that was a brutal time and just added to the depression that eventually (well, not so eventually since it started when I approximately 9 years old) infiltrated my brain and consumed my life. So why not use my middle name? Well, I hate my middle name too. Ira. Ugh. And then my initials. L.I.J. Also known as Long Island Jewish Hospital. I heard that one a lot as a kid. Learned it the hard way when I put my initials on my bowling ball.

It sucked as a kid. It sucks as an adult. Even people who have known me for years have trouble with my name, sometimes calling me Lauren. It irks me, but I live with it. And then there’s the phone. I’ve got a high voice so people automatically think I’m female. Add in the name and I’m definitely female to people on the other end of the line. It’s rare when I get called “Mr.” It bothers me each time, a burning feeling in my chest and stomach, but whatever. I’m tired of correcting people. I’m tired of saying, “You know, like Lorne Greene. Like Lorne Michaels. The E is silent. It rhymes with born.” I’ve despised my name for so long that when the television adaptation of Fargo premiered and I discovered Billy Bob Thornton’s character, a supremely confident, malevolent killer with a dark sense of humor, is named Lorne Malvo, I got so excited that I tweeted my thanks for giving my name some menace to show runner, Noah Hawley. He didn’t write back, but still…so cool! There’s also a city in Australia named Lorne. Australia is where I’d most like to live (yes, I’ve been there), and maybe that’s a sign that a big move is in our future. Probably not, though, so for now at least I have Fargo.

FARGO - Pictured: Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo. CR: Chris Large/FX

FARGO – Pictured: Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo. CR: Chris Large/FX

Which brings me to what happened when Elaine and I named our daughter. I absolutely considered the schoolyard aspect, the possible taunting rhymes. I didn’t want my child to deal with that, though I know kids will always come up with something. Kids are cruel. At best I wanted to lessen the possibilities.

I was named after my maternal grandfather using the Jewish tradition of using the first letter of a deceased relative. Since my grandfather’s name was Leon, my parents were stuck with L. They hated all L names – Lee, Larry, Lewis – until my mom, who was a teacher at the time, found a kid named Lorne in her class. So I’m named after some random kid in my mom’s former class.

Elaine wanted to name our kid after a superhero or comic book character. She was set on Bruce Wayne for a boy. I nixed it. Bruce Wayne? No. That’s too much. She even said she’d settle for Bruce W. with the W secretly being Wayne. I couldn’t do it. Plus I hate the name Bruce (apologies to all the Bruces out there). We eventually agreed on Logan after Wolverine. Then we learned we were having a girl. We thought about keeping Logan, but decided against it. Didn’t feel right. There aren’t many female superheroes and neither of us are into comics. There’s Wonder Woman, but neither of us liked the name “Diana.” What to do? Originally we decided on Kaylee after the character on Firefly, but Elaine thought her parents (both Ecuadorian immigrants who speak very little English) would have trouble with it. Then I thought about G.I. Joe and the Baroness, a strong female character even if she was a part of Cobra. Sienna Miller played her in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Sienna. Sienna. It sounded right. Sure it wasn’t a direct comic book character, but it was actress playing a strong female. Plus there’s Siena, Italy, a beautiful little town. We liked it. Nay, we loved it! Sienna it was!


Sienna Miller as The Baroness in “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra”

My parents asked us if we’d consider a middle name honoring my late grandfather George meaning something starting with G. We said we’d think about and then went about coming up with ludicrous G names: Gizmo, Gonzo, Grape Ape. Suddenly I said, “Giselle,” and we looked at each other. Sienna Giselle. Perfection. Beautiful. I was so thrilled we’d be able to honor my grandfather that I worked on and printed out a special certificate for my grandmother. Her reaction? Anger. Sadness. Elaine’s not Jewish, you see, so it doesn’t count. Plus it was a middle name, not a first name. It was an insult. I was stunned and hurt. I never wanted to speak to my grandmother again. I mean, this was the only great-grandchild she had paying homage to her late husband. But she came around. Now she cherishes the name almost as much as she cherishes her great-granddaughter.

Will Sienna like her name? I sure hope so. I pray she doesn’t suffer too much because of it. I know she’ll get annoyed saying, “It’s 2 Ns, not 1,” but I haven’t come up with a cruel playground rhyme. I hope she sees the beauty in the name, how Sienna Giselle flows off the tongue. I hope she’s proud to say her name and doesn’t cringe when she hears it like I do with mine.

But the problem with playing God is that you never know about unintended consequences, and naming your child is one of those perilous moments that could leave terrible emotional marks or, on the flip side, could empower him or her.

What will it be with Sienna? Only time will tell.

16 thoughts on “The Perils of Naming Your Kid

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    May 28, 2014 at 4:02pm

    When my kids were born we went through the last of family members who had died and covered all of the mishegoss of trying to figure out which name went best with honoring loved ones while not giving the playground kids too much ammunition to play with.

    Eventually we worked it out and I felt pretty good about it, but every now and then I wonder if a day will come when one of them will tell me they don’t like their name.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      May 28, 2014 at 9:22pm

      It really was tough for us, Jack. I know I’ve given my parents a ton of grief over my name during my life so I sure hope Sienna doesn’t do the same. I def love her name. I hope she finds it as beautiful as my wife and I do. Thanks so much for the comment!

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      Sienna Marie

      November 8, 2014 at 12:31am

      My name is Sienna. I ABSOLUTELY love my name! So happy my parents picked something so original and beautiful, I’ve gotten a lot of complements when I meet people. “What a beautiful name!” type stuff.. They wanted my middles name to be blue, after the color, Sienna Blue, but we’re afraid it was too odd.. I digress, I’m sure out daughter will love her name!
      P.s. Yes saying “2 N’s, not 1” gets annoying.

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        Lorne Jaffe

        November 9, 2014 at 1:09pm

        Thanks so much for the comment, Sienna! I hope you’re right and that my daughter will indeed love her name. I certainly love yours 😉

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    May 28, 2014 at 7:56pm

    Your stories are hilarious. Thanks for the laughs.
    I hope your daughter will ultimately like her name more than you like your.s

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    Seth Burleigh (@FortyWeeksLater)

    May 28, 2014 at 10:24pm

    We made a Google Doc and just sat on it for a very long time…even though we both knew deep (or not so deep) down that our daughter’s name would be the name my wife dreamed of for as long as I can remember, Isabel. For her middle name, Amaya, used the Jewish first initial thing.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      May 30, 2014 at 11:07am

      Thanks for sharing, Seth! Isabel was somewhat on my wife’s list, though it would have been Isabella. Still it was waaaay in back of superhero names. I’ve heard of people making enormous lists and then crossing names off one by one until that last one pops out at you. Love the name Amaya. Beautiful name

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    Dustin Fisher

    May 28, 2014 at 10:53pm

    Sorry you don’t like your name. I thought it was pretty cool when I heard it, but then again, I’m not in high school trying to prove I’m cool by putting other people down. Though, as someone with a pretty uncommon name that is easy to make fun of, I made the most of it later in life. I open my stand up routine by telling people it’s a Yiddish name that means “wiping dirt off a surface.”

    And though I’m sure she’ll go through a similar phase when she realizes not a lot of people have her name, I think Sienna will eventually like her name. It’s on our short list if we have a second girl (Mabel is our first and only). And if she doesn’t like being named after an actress playing a comic book character, she’s also named after a color and a college. Good luck to you. We hope Mabel eventually likes her name too.

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      Lorne Jaffe

      May 30, 2014 at 11:10am

      Ha, thanks Dustin 🙂 Did you get the pronouncement of my name when you first saw it? Or did you think it was “Loren” or something. For some reason people tend to become dyslexic when they see my name, switching the E and the N and thus adding a syllable. It’s like the see my name and don’t know what to do with it. That’s an awesome way to start a comedy routine! Do you get a lot of laughs? I do hope Sienna likes her name and hope Mabel likes her as well. Good luck to you as well!

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    Aaron Yavelberg

    May 29, 2014 at 9:44am

    My wife and I had a similar struggle. We’re both Jewish but I tend to gravitate more towards biblical names and my wife likes more modern ones. Plus, my side of the family names after the living, while hers names after the deceased, so it was a little difficult to figure out a good match. We eventually settled on Eitan (“AY-tahn”) David. The first Hebrew letter of Eitan is the letter aleph, which is the first letter of my father’s Hebrew name, and David was my wife’s grandfather. Took a little work, but we got there. I’ll admit, I’m a little worried about people having trouble pronouncing his name too (since some of our friends and family seem to already have difficulty), but I’m hopeful.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      May 30, 2014 at 11:05am

      Thanks so much for the comment, Aaron! Great story about naming Eitan. I know one, but he spells it Eytan. I’ve never heard of naming after the living in the Jewish tradition. Learn something new every day 🙂

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    May 30, 2014 at 1:01am

    When I was pregnant with my first my Great Aunt Cis passed away and because of this I was adamant I was having a girl. Thought about using her name somehow but then decided if she had had the misfortune of inheriting my lisp as a child, being able to say Cissy Smith may have been a small issue.

    My son was given quite the name of authority, Daniel David Smith. In the delivery room we joked with the midwife that he could be a pilot with the airforce with a name like Captain Daniel David. He’s nearly 16 and I had never told him that story until the day her old me he wants to be a pilot!!!

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      May 30, 2014 at 11:13am

      That’s hysterical that Daniel wants to be a pilot, Jo! Great story! I think you made the right decision on Cissy. Plus she would have had to deal with “sissy” taunts. Ugh. And if she had a lisp? Def could have hurt her confidence.

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    Ralph Amsden

    May 30, 2014 at 11:48am

    I’m Ralph the 4th. I couldn’t do that to my kids. The name stopped with me, but I still paid some respects to lineage with middle names and whatnot. Naming someone is the most power you’ll ever have, and you have to be concerned about people who really enjoy the feeling it creates, hahaha.

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      Lorne Jaffe

      May 30, 2014 at 12:24pm

      You’re right, Ralph. I’m amazed each parent doesn’t glow from the enormous power when it’s time to fill out that birth certificate!

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