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I think Catholics are especially good at baby-naming, given that we often have many more opportunities to do so than our non-Catholic counterparts.

Our baby #4 (or, as s/he is affectionately referred to in our home, “Señor/ita Cuatro”) is due to arrive in mid-December. Now that the all-day nausea and bone-numbing fatigue of the first trimester have abated (and I can hold a coherent thought in my head for more than a few minutes) my husband and I have been discussing names. It’s a serious business because we have some strict criteria for naming our offspring.

Our rules are as follows:

1. Absolutely no name that is tryndee or kree8yv, especially if it appears as an entry on the Baby’s Named a Bad Bad Thing website. It must be traditional and have a long history of use as a name. The name must also be easily pronounceable. To avoid this problem, we prefer names that appear nowhere near the top ten on the Social Security Administration’s list of popular baby names, although we’re willing to bend that criterion a bit if the name fits rule #2.

2. The name must have some deep significance to us; for example, a family name or a name from a personally beloved work of literature. In my opinion, it’s a bit of a letdown for a child to ask, “How did I get my name?” only to be told by his parents, “Oh, we just liked it.” But caution is in order. If you, as an Italian parent, have a deep and abiding love for the character “Friday” (“Venerdi” in Italian) from Robinson Crusoe, you may find the judicial system overruling your choice in favor of rule #5.

3. Absolutely nothing gender-neutral. A boy’s name must be masculine and a girl’s name must be feminine. Unlike some parents, we strongly believe that there are essential and distinct physiological and psychological differences between men and women. A name should accurately attest to a person’s sex. On a practical level, this helps avoid confusion when filling out school paperwork or job applications.

4. The name must be able to fit into the following context without raising eyebrows or sounding ridiculous: “I’m pleased to present the newest Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, the Honorable ________.” Alternatively, when testing boy names, we occasionally use, “Habemus Papam! ________!” Can you imagine, for instance, “Habemus Papam! 4Real Superman!” Yeah, me neither.

5. Most important, the child’s name must incorporate a saint’s name as either the first or middle name (or both, if possible). A child’s name is a gift given by his or her parents in the first moments of life outside the womb (or sometimes shortly after the 20-week ultrasound—although we prefer to keep the child’s sex a mystery until birth). What better gift is there than the name of a protector, patron, and potential role model for this new little Catholic’s life?

A common Catholic tradition is to name a child for the saint’s day on which she is born. Had my parents gone that route, I would have been named Martin (or perhaps Martina?) after St. Martin de Porres. Although it’s a nice tradition, I find myself grateful that my Protestant parents were unaware of this tradition (nothing against St. Martin, of course). If we were to follow the saint’s day tradition with Señor/ita Cuatro, assuming that he or she arrives on time, we will be christening an “Ado” (setting the child up for a lifetime of “Much Ado about Nothing” jokes). Even so, there are many names of saints that won’t work for our new little one; while Saints Adalbert, Glushallaich, and Willibrord, for example, are no doubt excellent Christian role models, they don’t fit our naming rules quite as well as Timothy, James, or Benedict.

With all the above in mind, my husband and I have already chosen Señor/ita Cuatro’s names—one for a boy and one for a girl. Like the baby’s sex, we prefer to keep our chosen names under wraps until baby’s arrival. But rest assured the world has been spared a little Glushallaich.

What is your baby-naming criteria? Do you have any hard and fast rules? Leave them in the comments.

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