What’s in a Name?
Naming a child is a big responsibility. Some people go through elaborate processes to decide on the perfect name, or read through hundreds of names in books and on website lists – some friends of ours did a March Madness-style bracket, where mom and dad put a name forward each week and they had to decide which one would advance to the next round. Other people feel obligated (or excited) to name their child after someone in the family and the whole event is avoided. Gender definitely seems to be a major factor in the name people choose for their child – but it doesn’t have to be.
Gender definitely seems to be a major factor in the name people choose for their child – but it doesn’t have to be.
Most people tend to decide on a “boy” name or a “girl” name that they will give their baby once they know the sex. But the gender-neutral naming trend is growing and names that seemed traditionally gendered aren’t exclusively segregated anymore - my name is Kyl for crying out loud! And I was named 30 years ago. There are no hard fast rules for naming a baby. Like Bella for a boy? Calvin for a girl? GO FOR IT. Going a gender-neutral route can feel liberating. Another friend of ours decided their child’s name would be “Lennon,” regardless of the sex. Charlie, Skyler, Quinn, Reese… these are all names topping charts for male and female babies.
I love funky names and always kept a running list in my notes app in my phone to keep track of all the cool names I heard over the years. For this post, I blasted into the past to find the list. These are some names I had on there…
Rousseau, Copeland, Phelix, Forest, Arrow, Petrichor, Schuyler, Argon & Neon (wouldn’t those be great names for twins!?) Feel free to take any of those for your future bambinos, we won’t be having any more kids, let alone nine. But the last entry in my notes, made on August 9, 2014 at 6:34 p.m., was Zoomer. Let me tell you a little story about how Zoomer Coyote Courtney-Myers got their name.
Brent and I were getting home one night and I asked him if he had any nicknames as a kid. I distinctly remember him unlocking our front door and saying, “My parents called me Zoomer.” I then distinctly remember melting into a pile of love gloop after hearing that name and telling Brent, “If we ever have a kid, I think they’ll be named Zoomer.”
“Zoomer” was special because it was Brent’s childhood nickname, so in a way, it was a namesake. Zoomer is also such a fun and quirky word and is completely genderless so it just stuck. I put it in my notes, and from then on, whenever we talked about the hypothetical child who was a mere twinkle in our eyes, we called them Zoomer. We conceived Zoomer about 11 months after they had already been named. When considering middle names for Zoomer, Brent asked me if I had a childhood nickname. I told him, “My dad called me, (and still calls me), Kylie Wile E. Coyote.” Brent and I both have a fascination with the animals from each other’s native continent. So when Brent heard “Coyote” he said “Well that’s it! – They’ll be Zoomer Coyote, a mixture of their mom and dad.”
I did a little bit of research on Coyotes, to make sure they weren’t perceived as the worst animals ever – had my nickname been Seagull, it certainly wouldn’t have made an appearance on our child’s birth certificate, because seagulls are assholes. Turns out – coyotes are incredible animals and they embody characteristics (real and folkloric) that we would love for our child to inherit. Coyotes are a “highly versatile species, whose range has expanded amidst human environmental modification.” Coyotes are resilient to mainstream human behavior, and in fact, coyotes can adapt to human environments and thrive within them. Coyotes are flexible in social organization; they can live with their families, or in packs of unrelated individuals and they don’t have many enemies. In Native American folklore, the coyote is depicted as a trickster, rebelling against social convention through deception and humor.
Ashsilverlock wrote this about Tricksters, “Whether male or female, animal or human, thief or hero, villain or clown, the Trickster’s role is to break out of every box we try to put them in. The Trickster is, after all, the mythic embodiment of the ultimate free spirit, unwilling to be bound by society’s conventions, traditions and expectations. The Trickster shows the creative potential in such freedom, as well as its potential for disaster. The Trickster personifies ambiguity and ambivalence, doubleness and duplicity, contradiction and paradox, crossing lines and confusing distinctions. They challenge our perceptions, prevent us from getting too comfortable and always encourage us to look very carefully at any bargain that we may make.” If the coyote isn’t a perfect example of how we hope Z navigates gender, I don’t know what is. I like to think that kids like Z will spread like coyotes, and create a more inclusive world.
If the coyote isn’t a perfect example of how we hope Z navigates gender, I don’t know what is. I like to think that kids like Z will spread like coyotes, and create a more inclusive world.
Finally, Zoomer needed a last name. Because Brent and I kept our own surnames after we married, we decided to give Z both of our last names. It took one round of “Which sounds better?” to decide on Courtney-Myers rather than Myers-Courtney and bada-bing – our child was named – Zoomer Coyote Courtney-Myers.
We hope Zoomer likes their name as they grow up, and of course, we’re open to them being creative with it. Maybe they’ll stick to Zoomer, maybe they’ll prefer Z, maybe they’ll go by Coyote or Z.C. Maybe they’ll demand to be called Colonel Courtney-Myers or Cupcake. Who knows? We chose a name that was creative, meaningful, fun, and versatile – a name that reflects the type of life we want for our child.