What’s In A Name?


When my son was born, I sent a text to my friend that went something like, “We welcomed Cormac Artem Wilson on…” and her response was, “Congratulations!  Tell me about his name.”  Having often wondered about the origins of people’s names but feeling intrusive for asking, I felt like that was a very inviting way to have someone explain the origin behind what their children are called. So let me tell the story of my children’s names.

With my eldest, we already knew that she was a girl, which helped a lot. We each made lists and did a lot of nixing of the other one’s possibilities. My husband finally suggested Claire, which we both liked. It sounded pretty, went well with Wilson, and we both had good connotations of the name. We didn’t have a middle name chosen until right before her birth. Crispin remembered that his late Noni’s first name was Angelina. Immediately, I liked it. Claire Angelina Wilson. Icing to go on the cake:  her initials would be CAW, the same as my husband’s.

But her name story isn’t quite that simple. It turns out that we had come up with a name, but never discussed spelling. I am Irish; Crispin is Italian. I assumed it would be Clare; he assumed Claire. After a 41-hour labor, someone came to our hospital room to officially record her name. When she asked what it would be, we simultaneously said “Claire.”  “C-L-A…?” she asked. At the same time, I said, “R-E” while Crispin said, “I-R-E.”  We just looked at each other. Needless to say, she ended up Claire. In my exhausted-and-just-happy-to-be-alive state, her name could’ve been spelled Klayr and I would have been satisfied.

It was a little tougher with my son. We didn’t know the sex, so we were trying to choose two first and two middle names that we could agree on. This was not easily done. We didn’t seem to be on the same page at all. (Coming up with names is so fun when you’re by yourself and it’s theoretical. When you have to agree with another person and you’re choosing the moniker for another person’s entire life, it’s actually quite stressful and less than fun, in my opinion.)  We went through tons of lists online and solicited names from our family. I made a running list on my phone, and then I ranked them and asked Crispin to as well. We decided to focus more on boys’ names because the one thing we could agree on was that they were harder. We wanted something that went well with Wilson and also went well with Claire, something easy to spell and pronounce, and something unique but not too out there. My due date was getting closer, but we still hadn’t made a lot of headway.

And then I went into labor—11 days early. On the way to the hospital, Crispin said, “We should decide on a name.”  I thought, I’m in labor. I certainly can’t talk names right now. But in the hospital, my labor slowed a bit and we came back to it. Until I had the realization that if we waited a few more hours, we could make things much easier; we’d know if it was a boy or girl. So we did. Around 11pm, a baby boy came into our lives.

The following morning, we mulled over our lists some more. Crispin came up with a new one that we hadn’t thought about before (Hugh), but in the end, we settled for Cormac. We both liked that one. I was attracted to its Irish origin; Crispin was a fan of author Cormac McCarthy. We both liked that it was unique but also a well-established name. I toyed with the idea of spelling, fearing that people unfamiliar with the name might pronounce it Cormack rather than its correct pronunciation of Cormick, but in the end, I kept it spelled with an a because that is by far the most common spelling.

We had a very long list of middle name possibilities, mostly family names. There were several that would have sounded good with Cormac. He was born on August 30th, though, the night of the Blue Supermoon, and Crispin mentioned it would be neat if we could incorporate the moon somehow. I agreed; I’ve always been fascinated by the moon. But I didn’t see how that could happen as the only moon-associated name I knew was Luna. Crispin started doing some research and was off-handedly saying how Artemis was goddess of the moon. Yes, but that wouldn’t be great for a boy, I replied. But Crispin, who has always been a fan of Greek mythology, was getting excited about it. “She’s also goddess of the hunt,” he told me. He and I met through foxhunting when he was a professional huntsman.

We grew more excited about that name and decided to shorten it to make the male version of Artemis: Artem. So our little boy became Cormac Artem Wilson to honor my Irish heritage, the night of his birth, and our shared hunting culture. And to top it all off, it makes him the third in the family to have CAW as his initials.

A note:  For both children, I felt pressured to have a name chosen before we left the hospital. My mom had mentioned that she’d never completely decide on a name until she saw the baby, but by that point, you only have about 24 hours to choose, and it’s when you are in a post-partum stupor. When I went to get Cormac’s social security card, a couple was there who had left the hospital without a name; they were trying to be true to their cultural beliefs. (In many cultures, babies aren’t named until much later—sometimes at their first laugh or even their first birthday.)  But this poor couple was given the run-around. They had to jump through many hoops and pay extra to name their baby. Personally, I feel that Arizona makes it especially tough for minority families who want to honor their family and cultural customs.

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Meghan Moran Wilson
Meghan moved to Flagstaff from Western New York in 2011 to pursue a PhD in Applied Linguistics. She met her now husband a couple years later and they bought an off-grid, water-catchment house in "the 40s" (about 35 minutes from town). She greatly enjoys teaching English and conducting research in linguistics at NAU. She also enjoys hiking, riding horses, exploring new places, reading historical fiction, hanging out with their four dogs, and, since January 2021, spending as much time as possible with their small fry, Claire Angelina.