Adventures in Parenting #5: What's in a Name?

As a kid, I was never entirely fond of my own name for two reasons: 1.) Everyone had it. I don’t think I was ever in a public school classroom that did not also feature at least one other Brian or Ryan and at one point I was on a soccer team with four other kids of the same name. 2.) There was no real meaning behind my name. I had friends whose names were bestowed upon them because it was a family name or because their parents had a best friend who helped them through hard times or because why wouldn’t you name your child after Ronnie Van Zandt? (Not joking about that last one, by the way.) (Side note: It also had something to do with the fact that about half the time, to this day, people still spell my name as “Brain” and that drove me bananas as a kid. Now it only slightly makes me want to punch a puppy instead of full on murder someone.)

I required no therapy to get over the curse of such a common name and it’s not like I hated my name or anything. Likewise, I hold no ill will towards my parents for bestowing it upon me. They almost named me Patrick and what an awful fate that would have been. (My apologies to any Patricks I may have just offended. Please don’t leave!) But still, it’s not the name I would have chosen for myself because obviously that would have been Dwayne The Rock Johnson.

As such, when Lindsey and I found out we were going to have a kid, one of the first thingsCoop3 my mind went to was what to name him. For months I “jokingly” referred to him/her (before we knew the gender) as “Baby Dirk” or “Baby Dirkina” hoping that it would stick but alas Lindsey saw right through my plan and rejected it immediately. (Despite my unhealthy love for Dirk Nowitzki, I would have never really named my son after him. But the middle name…maybe.) We didn’t really discuss the name thing until after we found out we were having a boy and that’s when things got pretty interesting.

We agreed on three criteria for this child’s name:

1.) We wanted a last name (traditionally) for his first name, a phenomenon both of us have become big fans of; 2.) We wanted it to be relatively unique so that he wouldn’t be the ninth Brian in every elementary school classroom; 3.) We wanted the name to have some sort of meaning but we also did not want to open up the can of worms that is a family name.

This is where our agreement ended, however. In the history of our relationship, Lindsey and I have very, VERY rarely fought or had a longstanding disagreement. We think similarly on most things and what we don’t is usually worked around pretty easily. This is one of the few occasions when we locked horns. Lindsey bought a book called “100,001+ Best Baby Names” which I highly suggest expecting parents get their hands on because you’ll never have any idea how many names you DON’T agree on until you’re presented with 100,001+ different options. Also some of the names are hilarious and they’re broken up into lists like “Names That Were Invented” (by the way, ALL NAMES WERE INVENTED), “Skydiver Names”, and “Wine Names.” (Note: If any of my friends were named after a particular wine, you better keep that to yourself because if I find out I will NEVER let you hear the end of it.) We went through the whole book as well as the names we thought up from other sources and made our individual lists before getting down to brass tacks of actually settling on one.

My top choice was Griffey. It’s a last name, it’s unique, and Ken Griffey Jr. is the greatest baseball player I’ve ever seen in my lifetime and since this kid is OBVIOUSLY destined for fame and glory in the athletic arena, that namesake would come in handy. Lindsey was having none of this, however, and I blame all of our friends and family who are women. Literally every guy I spoke to about this possibility was on board but every girl rejected it posthaste. I will never forgive any of you for this. My second choice was Jackson White Gill. That one had a double meaning as my favorite character from any movie ever who is not Chewbacca (nerd alert!) is Private Jackson in Saving Private Ryan and the greatest musician of his generation is unquestionably Jack White of The White Stripes. I think Lindsey liked this one but the problem was twofold: Jackson is a very popular name, perhaps even to the level that Brian was back in 1983, and also Jack is Lindsey’s dad name which opens up the whole family name can of worms I mentioned earlier. So that was nixed as well. My third choice was nothing. I had no third choice and I didn’t really want one. I was so sold on the top two that any other option felt like a major concession.

Instead, I struck a deal with Lindsey. She could name this child but in exchange I got the middle name AND the first name of our hypothetical second child that may never come into this world given how excruciatingly awful our hospital experience was. I admit that, on the surface, this is a hard bargain but the thing is we already have a name picked out for a girl so there’s only a 50/50 shot that I’ll have free reign over the name choosing next time around anyway. Eventually Lindsey gave into this compromise and she settled upon Cooper, which I like just fine and have grown even fonder of since this kid actually came into the world and became immediately awesome. But, Cooper has no real importance; it is essentially a name drawn out of a hat. I considered telling people he was named after DB Cooper (whose legend I am fascinated by to the point that sometimes I stay up at night thinking about it) but I figured naming your child after a legendary criminal is probably cause for a CPS investigation. So the need to bring some significance to this kid’s name fell to me and the middle name.

I considered a number of options. I thought about athletes who have amazed me, musicians who have entertained me, Biblical heroes that have inspired me, and even historical figures that have drawn my interest over the years. (Crockett was a major consideration because Davy Crockett was a BOSS of the highest order.) Eventually, though, I settled in on Riggins. Now, if you’ve never watched the show Friday Night Lights (which I wrote about at length about here) then when I tell you my son’s middle name comes directly from a TV show you think it’s ridiculous and that we are probably bad parents. I understand this and accept your judgment. But if you had seen the show, you’d understand. Literally every person who has seen Friday Night Lights and hears his name immediately gives the seal of approval. Few characters ever in the history of TV have inspired such outspoken adulation as Tim Riggins and I think it’s because we see ourselves in him. He’s a good-hearted kid who can’t quite put it all together but who struggles with his humanity, with his morality, with his place in the universe.


In a weird way, that’s what I want for my son. I don’t want him to be perfect and I don’t want him to go through life on the straightest path possible because I don’t think you can truly figure out who you are if you never have the occasion to look back and learn from your tangential wanderings off the beaten path. (I’m sure I’ll regret saying this when Cooper throws a sitcom-inspired kegger party at our house when Lindsey and I go out of town for the weekend but I like the sentiment right now.) So yeah, I named my kid after a TV show character and yes, I’m totally content with this choice even if it seems like complete idiocy to the outside viewer. Just be glad I didn’t name him Tyus, which was a one of the names I assigned to a puppy in the 7th grade. We all make mistakes.

Texas Forever, Brian