Monday, May 11, 2009

Baby names

Warning! Your name or the name of someone you love may be disparaged in this post. Read at your own risk.

It boiled down to two possible names for my daughter: Claudia or Ariana.

Pete wasn't keen on Claudia. "Would you name your son Claude?" he asked.


"Then why would you name your daughter Claudia?" he asked practically.

Because I love the name. It's beautiful, it's solid, it's got years behind it, it's not overused. And yet, something didn't quite sit right about it. Finally, when I looked up the meaning, it all came crashing together: Claudia means lame. Of course - from the Latin claudus, from the same root as claudication. I was mortified that this hadn't been immediately obvious to me.

As a physician I'm more finely attuned to the medical implications of names than most, and I don't expect others to associate Claudia with vascular disease. But the name had been spoiled for me. Ariana it was.

Having narrowly averted my own baby naming fiasco, I am sympathetic to parents who inadvertently grant their newborns medically inadvisable baby names. By which I mean, I may inwardly gasp but I keep my mouth shut.

I met a little girl recently named Nevis. Maybe to her parents the name conjures up the beauty of a Caribbean island, but to me, well, she was a living, breathing mole.

Then I came across a variant spelling of Kyle, a name which until then I had considered benign. Chyle is a milky fluid consisting of lymph and emulsified fats, formed in the small intestine during digestion - not a preschooler.

Tanner reminds me of the stages of puberty, Addison warrants an endocrine referral, Lance is asking to be incised and drained, and Brady needs an ECG. 

I can medically bastardize most names, but that doesn't mean the general public can. So I don't recommend that parents fret over the medical implications of their name choice. Unless they're planning for a medical career for their child.

Because Melena isn't going to get past round one of the medical school selections process.


  1. I had a patient once named Candida. It made me snicker every time I looked at her chart. When I started teaching Biology, I bemoaned this fact to my students one day while giving a lesson on yeast infections.

    Guess what? That patient was also a teacher. At my brand new school. And even thought I didn't use her last name, they instantly recognized the matching first name! Open mouth, insert foot.

  2. We had a new baby this week named Kimmo, pronounced identical to chemo. Toxic name, I think. ;)

  3. We had a mom who named her daughter Placenta.

  4. These comments made me laugh.

    I was a little nervous posting this, hoping I wouldn't offend anyone. I would have felt bad if your Melly was the affectionate diminutive of Melena, Fizzy. But I thought it unlikely.

  5. I often think this with the lovely name Amelia. Lovely name, except... I have also known a couple of Melenas and I thought it odd as well.

    on a related note, I have spent years trying to get someone, anyone, to name a big, hairy dog Bezoar. I mean, really, what could be better?

  6. josie?

  7. This is great. And scary.

    Pregnant women: Google can be your friend.

  8. Lagina is a patient we have been caring for.
    I was reminded of her recently when she was evaluated in our triage area - this is her third pregnancy.

  9. When I was a medical student there was an OB resident whose mission in life was to get somebody to name their baby "Androstenedione." I think he actually succeeded.

  10. This is hilarious--just what the doctor ordered after my second solo flight in 5 days with 3 kids aged 1-5 today!!

  11. Love this! When my husband and I were in the process of naming our kids - we both worked with large numbers of kids. As we negotiated names, both of us would shudder from time to time as a certain name would bring up memories of a child with that name. I associated certain names with train wreck patients from residency - the kind of patient who just couldn't get a break in his/her illness. My husband associated his with major behavior problems he dealt with at his summer camp. Neither one of us could start our child's life with that kind of karma. We came to an agreement when a name came up that had pleasant memories for both of us (& both names have even more fabulous memorites now!)MWAS

  12. I always thought Anasarca flowed nicely to the ears...maybe my next dog will get that as a name.

  13. As residents working in a peds hospital, we used to joke that certain names were destined to have chronic medical problems. As such, when it came to naming my own children, a whole slew of names were immediately axed out just in case.

  14. Alexia - parents were English teachers too. Go figure.
    Actually, Claudia was close to the top of my "list" (err....) until reading this. DOn't know how I didn't realise that...*crosses it off*

  15. @anonymous - re: Josie, Laura, Hanna, Christina.

    I'm not sure what the intent of your comment was. Are these potential baby names that you'd like me to clear? They pass muster.

    Or is this a challenge? I can find a medical association if I think hard enough. On first pass Laura looks good, for example, but if I dwell on it, it reminds me of flora, as in gut flora. But I don't want to ruin names for sport - I'm already feeling bad that I spoiled Claudia for Dragonfly.

  16. we named our daughter ivy, and the nurse thought i was totally nuts because at the time i was hooked up to the IV and thought i meant IV... and a friend of mine told me the first thing that came into her mind when we told her ivy was one of our possible names was HIV... i agree if you keep searching you'll probably find something to turn you off of any name -- but i still love the name ivy and happy that's who she is! fun post!

  17. Yeah, we agonized over our first daughter's name because her initials would be IGG, as in IgG. Seriously, is anyone ever going to think of that (or care, if they did) except for an oncologist married to an ID doc? We went with it, as it turns out, and 4 years later, she is doing just fine.

  18. We used to joke about medical names that we can imagine people using, especially in this age of made-up names. 'Diarrhea' is an example.

    I did meet a nurse Melena, and I joked about it with other staff but it unfortunately took them a minute to get it.

  19. I know a girl (she was 15 at the time) who named her daughter Urethra because she heard it in health class and thought it was pretty. So I suppose that's even worse than if you unintentionally gave a medically related bad name..

  20. When my daughters were in the NICU, we became good friends with parents of triplets. One of the boys is named Brady, and true to his name, he did it quite a bit. :(


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