What’s in a Name?


By Jennifer Cramer-Miller

I have two friends that are pregnant. They are growing babies and pondering names. It is a weighty decision to decide the name your child will carry around forever. The assignment is further complicated with all the personal associations that we attach to various names that have crossed our paths.

name?My daughter is nineteen, and I remember vividly when the name game began. At twenty weeks in, my husband and I were told beyond reasonable doubt that we were having a girl.

Sweet, strong, intelligent, likable, empowered girl names became our mission.

My OB/GYN coined my baby girl’s original nickname during my first ultrasound, “cupcake”, as in “That little cupcake looks great!” My doctor apparently had a thing for baked goods—when she identified her as having girl parts she exclaimed, “I can see that little hamburger bun perfectly!”

The first name that came into my mind was Annabelle. Don’t ask me why. “Annabelle?” my husband said, surprised and unimpressed. (I know, it doesn’t really evoke strength and empowerment. No offense to any of the strong and empowered Annabelles out there. Just saying…) Dirk wasn’t into it. In fact, I think he said, “What the (bleep) kind of name is Annabelle?”

“I know, it sounds southern belle-y, and powder puffy, but there is something I like about it.”

“Sorry hon, it doesn’t make the list,” he declared.

I knew it wasn’t really a contender, but it was fun to say. I selected Annabelle as her baby-in-the-belly name.

“I like Mia,” he said.

“Yeah it’s nice, but Mia Miller comes out slurry, like too many glasses of wine have loosened the tongue.”


“I dated a Madeline. Don’t like it.”


“I dated an Angela. She was not very nice.”



“Let me guess—you dated Jessica too. I suppose she broke your heart.”

“No—she was mentally ill.”

“Zoe?” he said, looking extremely satisfied. I could tell he thought it was a bullseye.

“Dirk, our dog’s name is Zoe.”

“I know. It’s a great name. We can rename the dog.”

“To what?”


I couldn’t see it. It would be so confusing to explain to the neighbors (Zoe’s vet) that our dog Zoe is no longer named Zoe because our daughter is Zoe, so, if you don’t mind, please call the dog JoJo. Too much work.

This was hard—will this choice determine our daughter’s defining qualities? So much pressure. Dirk had a relative named Eliza. The name was free and clear of past dating relationships, mental illness, and negative associations. I thought about my mom, Elizabeth. I love her name, and I love her. She’s sweet, strong, intelligent, lovable, and empowered. Plus warm, funny, nurturing, and unconditionally accepting. All good things. We combined the two family names and landed on Liza. Nailed it.

“Just Liza?” he said.

“Just Liza.” I said.

Done. And so it was. Liza. Nineteen years later, still just right.

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