Names are interesting. And confusing.

I met a woman in Iowa who has five brothers and one sister. 

Her five brothers are named after Biblical characters whose names begin with J.

James, John, Jesse, Jude, and Joshua.

Her sister's name is Anne. It was their grandmother's name.

The woman who I met is named Amanda. When she was born, her parents hadn't chosen a name, so they asked a random woman in an adjacent hospital room what they had just named their new baby. The new mother said, "Amy," so Amanda's parents named her Amy, too.

But because they also thought that Amy sounded like a nickname and was not professional enough for a possible future CEO, they named her Amanda but called her Amy.

Because this all makes sense.  

When Amanda/Amy went to kindergarten, there was already an Amy in the class, so the teacher told her that she needed to be called Amanda at school.

I once had three Matthews in my class (not including me) and three Julias in my class, but apparently this teacher couldn’t keep two Amys straight.

So Amanda/Amy was Amy at home and Amanda at school, which led to people occasionally thinking Amy and Amanda were two different people.

Remember: Amanda/Amy's parents named their sons in a very specific Biblical/alphabetical way. And they named her sister after a deceased grandparent. But Amanda/Amy, who was third born, received a name based upon the name of another random baby who happened to be born around the same time. 

Then she got another name, too, because that first name wasn't good quite enough but also somehow good enough, too.

Parents name babies in the strangest ways sometimes.

My wife almost didn’t have a name. Her parents originally named her Jordan, but the doctor told them that Jordan was a boy’s name, so they abandoned their choice. Then they hemmed and hawed about a new name for so long that the hospital threatened to put “Girl” on the birth certificate.

They finally settled on Elysha, which was the name of my father-in-law’s secretary. Apparently they didn’t love the secretary but liked the name a lot. They wrote all the various spellings of Elysha on the back of an envelope and then chose one.

My wife’s name would be Jordan today if the doctor hadn’t opened his big mouth.

Elysha and I took were slightly more purposeful in the naming of our children.

Our daughter is named Clara Susan. Clara is the character in one of my wife’s favorite children’s books, The Van Gogh Cafe, and Susan was my mother’s name.

Our son is named Charles Wallace, which is also the name of the character from A Wrinkle in Time, a book that my wife and I love. We also love the poet Wallace Stevens, who lived and worked in Hartford, CT, so Wallace was an added bonus.

As for me? I was originally going to be named Bartholomew, but my mother claimed to have “saved me” from my father’s terrible choice by telling the nurses that I was Matthew before he even had a chance to meet me.

Choosing a name without your husband’s consent. Also a strange way to name a baby.

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Don't name your child Brenden. I mean Brandon.

This post is not an indictment of the name Brandon or Brendan if one of these names happens to be your name or if you have assigned your child one of these names. 

I've had friends and former students named both Brendan and Brandon, and are perfectly lovely people.

But if you're in the market for a future baby name, I suggest that you avoid these two names completely whenever possible. They create constant confusion and force the bearer of the name to repeat his name again and again, emphasizing pronunciation in order to avoid confusion.

In just the last two weeks, I have watched two Brendans go through conversations almost exactly like this:

Brendan: Hi, I'm Brendan.
Other: I'm sorry. Is that Brendan or Brandon?
Brendan: Brendan.
Other: Brendan?
Brendan: Yes, Brendan.

This doesn't seem like a big deal, but try doing it again and again for a lifetime. 

Naturally, Brendans and Brandons will tell you that their names are perfectly fine and the occasional confusion and constant repetition isn't a big deal, but this is because they have lived with their name for all their lives. It's part of their identity. Of course they like their name.  

Only self absorbed drama queens (both male and female) and people who hate their mothers complain about their first or middle names.   

Objectively speaking, Brandon and Brendan are difficult and cumbersome when compared to most other names. Spare your child a lifetime of confusion. 

If you're trying to choose between Brandon and Paul, go with Paul.

Brendan or David? Go with David.

Brandon or Brenden? There's no hope for you. 

3 petty bits of nonsense that should never bother you (unless you are equally petty)

1. Friends or relatives who name their baby the same name or a similar name as your child

You don't own the name.
You didn't invent the name.
The name is not a reflection of you (even if you'd like to think otherwise).
Most important, the kid will never give a damn if someone else shares his or her name.

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, so be flattered that someone liked the name that you chose for your child so much that they decided to do the same. 

2. Failure to receive a thank you note

We don't send gifts in order to receive thank you notes. Sending a gift with the expectation of receiving something in return is called a trade, and in this case, a gift in exchange for a thank you note is a tragically inequitable trade. We give gifts because we love a person or at least like a person. We should be giving gifts free of obligation or expectation. To do otherwise is petty and sad and cloying.   

3. The cost of a gift given to you

If you are spending even half a second contemplating the price of a gift received or (even worse) comparing the cost of a gift given to you by a friend to the cost of the gift you gave to that friend, it is time to start volunteering in an orphanage or a leper colony in order to find some meaning in your life. Gift giving is not a dollar-for-dollar exchange of goods but a heartfelt offering unrelated to expense.