What’s In A Name?

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George Foreman
(Photo by El Grito/CC BY 2.0)

One of the most significant decisions new parents make is selecting a name for their child. We’ve been blessed with two boys and spent weeks (if not months) considering names for them. Back then, it wasn’t the norm to know what gender your baby was before it was born, so that complicated matters, doubling the potential lists of names.
Of course, the name choices are limitless. You could choose from the “top” names listings or even purchase a book with thousands of names. Parents may name their babies based on their favorite movie or sports personalities. While some choose names from people in their lives they like, many will avoid the names of people they don’t. Nobody is naming their child after the kid from grammar school that bullied them.

Former boxer George Foreman took the unusual route of naming all five of his boys, George. “I wanted them to always have something in common,” he said. He also joked that after all the hits he took in the boxing ring, he wasn’t going to remember a lot of names.
Traditionally, Italian families named their first-born children after their parents out of respect. The rule of thumb is simple, the first male is named after the child’s grandfather on the father’s side, ensuring the lineage of the name continues through the generations. As first-born in my family, I was named after my paternal grandfather, Paul. If there is a second male child, it’s usually named after the grandfather on the mother’s side.
When our first child was due, we wanted to buck tradition. We were looking to pair a short, one-syllable name with our almost impossible to pronounce, multiple syllables last name of DiSclafani. For boy’s names, I proposed Max or Sam, but they were immediately rejected by my wife because she felt they sounded more like dog names. She liked the name Aaron, but I didn’t (no offense to all you Aarons out there). I also didn’t want to name him Paul, after me.

My wife and I spent a weekend in Mystic, CT, just before the birth. While waiting for a table in a restaurant, we decided on the name James for a boy. The round tables in the waiting area were covered in paper, with a container of crayons for doodling while you waited. We scribbled different combinations of first names with our last name on the tabletop to see how they looked and flowed. James just flowed the best, so James it was.
June 13 is the day Italians celebrate the “Feast of St. Anthony” and, therefore, everyone named “Anthony” in any way, shape or form. In my family, Anthonys can be found everywhere. My grandfather was an Anthony who named one of his son’s Anthony (my uncle that recently passed). Two of my “Non-Anthony” uncles (Paulie and Mickey) have boys (my cousins) named Anthony. I have an Aunt Caroline who also gave me a Cousin Anthony, who has a son Anthony (they call him AJ). Her daughter, my cousin Donna, also has a son Anthony. And that’s just on my mother’s side. Both my father and brother are also named Anthony.

When it came time to name our second child, my mother pulled me aside with a request.
“You know,” she said, “It would really mean a lot to your father, if you have a boy, to name him Anthony after him.”
“Ma, I’m not doing that,” I told her, “We have way too many Anthonys in this family already. Besides, you named my brother Anthony after him.”
“No, we didn’t,” she corrected me, “We named him Anthony after your grandfather.”
Eventually, we went with a name we both liked, Kevin, and never looked back. He’s still the only Kevin in the family.

Of course, when it came to giving him a middle name, we went with Anthony.

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a 2018 Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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