I recently got a reader question about the stories behind my name and my kid’s names, so today I thought I’d share! We all have unusual names so here’s how we came up with them.
The story behind my name
My parents, especially my mom, love names. For as long as I can remember, they’ve loved beautiful, different kinds of names.
And so I grew up loving the same kind of different names. When we were coming up with names for our boys, I would spend so much time looking at the social security database, entering different names and seeing if they came up within the top 1000 baby names for the past ten years.
If they didn’t show up in that list, I knew they were a good unusual name option.
The story behind my name isn’t anything crazy, but my parents weren’t even pregnant with their first baby (my older sister), but they were already thinking of baby names.
My dad was in dental school at the time, and my mom was working an office job at the dental school. The president of the alumni had the last name Jansen, which she wrote many times as she addressed lots of mail to him. She ended up loving that name, and named my older sister Janssen (adding an extra “S” in there, which they felt made it more feminine). My mom’s best friend’s name was Janet, and she loved the nod that it gave to her, without being the same name.
A few days after they decided on Janssen, my parents (still not pregnant with any children) were in the library together, my dad studying for dental school and my mom reading next to him.
Since they had last names on the brain, my dad looked down at the textbook he was studying in and one of the many co-authors of the textbook had the last name Merrick.
My dad recognized the name as the same last name of a well known broadway director at the time. He turned to my mom and said, “I have another baby name.” She immediately thought this meant he was going to throw out the name “Janssen,” so she was hesitant to answer.
He said, “What about Merrick?” And she immediately loved it. Her sister’s name is Miriam, and her grandmother’s middle name was Mary, so she loved that it again gave a nod to those without being the same name.
They had these two names for their first two little girls, envisioning for the next year or so before having a baby that I would be brunette and Janssen would be a blonde. When Janssen was born, she came out with TONS of black hair, and they momentarily waffled on their plan of naming her Janssen, thinking that Merrick was the brunette in their heads.
But they stuck with their decision, and Janssen’s hair turned very blonde with a short time, and I turned out to be the brunette one!
The story behind our oldest boy’s name
Philip actually named all three of our boys. We threw out a lot of names over the years, but honestly we could not agree on most of them (I think that’s common with most couples)!
When I was pregnant with our first, we liked the idea of using last names for first names, and we went through tons of them without landing on any that we really loved.
After a while, we turned to the last names of the past prophets in our religion. One of them had the last name Kimball, and we stewed on that for a while, before I decided it felt too feminine for a boy. I’d babysat a girl named Kimball when I was young, and I just couldn’t get past that in my head.
Another prophet’s last name was Benson, and as soon as we talked about that one, we both liked it. It still took a while for me to feel settled about it, but I liked that it was easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and wasn’t a common name but was one that people had definitely heard before.
His due date was the middle of April, and happened to be the date of my youngest brother’s birthday. My youngest brother passed away when I was twelve, so as soon as we found out that B was a boy, we decided that his middle name would be after my youngest brother. I love that they have that special connection!
The story behind our middle boy’s name
When I was pregnant with Fos, we could not come up with any other names that we both liked. I can’t even remember all the names we looked at and thought about, but none were ever the right one.
During my pregnancy, Philip went on a business trip with his business partner. During their trip, they met with a client in her home office. During their meeting, her five year old son kept popping his head into her office asking for chicken nuggets. Since she was in the middle of the meeting, she kept asking him to wait and she would help him after she was done.
He decided not to wait, and took matters into his own hands.
He found a knife in the drawer and used it to try to open the bag of nuggets. It turned out to be a knife that belonged to his dad, and it was a specialty knife for fishing…it was extremely sharp, and just by touching it to his skin, it sliced open his hand.
He came running back into the office covered in blood, and Philip and his business partner piled into the company car with the client and her son in the back, and rushed to emergency room to get stitches for the little boy.
The little boy’s name was Foster.
Philip called me that night from his trip and said, “I’ve got the craziest story from today, and I’ve got a really fantastic baby name.”
For Fos’ middle name, we chose the last name of Philip’s best friend.
The story behind our youngest’s name
When I was pregnant with our youngest, we were again struggling to come up with names. Somewhere along the line, Philip threw out the idea of “Stanford.”
I liked that idea, but I knew that it would be shortened to Stan by people throughout his life, and I don’t love that name.
So I suggested dropping the “T” and changing it to Sanford. Immediately that stuck.
I liked that it shorted to “San,” which went along with the non-name nicknames that our other boys had…”Fos,” and “Bens.” They’re endearing and I love using them, but they’re clearly nicknames, not full names (like John, short for Jonathan, or Mike, short for Michael).
Also after he was born and we shared his name, someone told me that “san” is “three” in chinese, which just felt so perfect for our third son.
My top girl name if we’d had a girl
We found out the gender of all three of our boys, so we never spent much time on girl names. But my top name for girls, if we’d had a girl, was Arden.
I hope that was fun to learn the stories behind our names!