Naming: Sisters, Pets, Daughters, & Storms

“If the baby’s a girl, can we name her Madeline?” My  sister Naomi, then five,  asked my parents, who were expecting their fourth child. We both loved Ludwig Bemelmans’ 1939 Madeline.  

And when my mother gave birth March 22, 1964 to a girl, they named her Madeline.

That sister is now thinking of names for a new puppy they expect to bring home next week. They’re tossing around names from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a favorite movie series, hoping one will be suitable for a golden retriever.

Invited to a friend’s for a knitting session recently, I overheard a woman talking about her daughter. My ears perked up when I heard her say “Lydia.”  She was referring to her daughter, a high school sophomore. I mentioned that my Lydia is now a college senior and continued with my knitting on the other side of the room, chatting with some others.  A bit later, the conversation returned to the other Lydia mother and she asked me what my daughter’s middle name was. “Rose,” I said, “after my grandmother.”   She smiled. Her daughter, her Lydia, has the same middle name.

That sort of annoyed me. I had found “Lydia,” when pregnant and after I learned the baby was a girl. I always knew I wanted the middle name Rose and was looking for a lyrical, unusual name to pair it with.

Then there’s my name.  I was one of four Lisas in my high school graduating class of 160 students. In college, there were a few more. It seems for the past 30 years at least, I hadn’t met other adults named Lisa.  Until recently. I now know at least three Lisa women,  and though not as possessive I am about my daughter’s name, I still find it weird calling others by my name.

Today of course the big name on anyone’s mind that lives anywhere east of Washington, DC is Sandy. As the tropical storm turned hurricane barrels into the east coast, communities are bracing for unprecedented damage.  The mere idea that mass transportation is shut down in New York City, that there are no commuter train services, that towns are declaring state of emergency status, is mind-boggling.

Yet Sandy, a name that could be masculine or feminine, derives from the Greek, from Alexander, which means defending men. So perhaps that’s a hopeful sign.

People name babies and pets, ships and planes,  buildings and summer cottages. Storms are named by the World Meteorological Organization, an agency of the United Nations, which inherited the job from the National Hurricane Center, that had named storms since 1953. The organization uses a yearly, fixed list of names arranged alphabetically (omitting the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z) for a given year. There are six years of lists in place, and each list is reused every six years.  Names associated with storms that create excessive devastation, like Katrina, and most likely Sandy, become retired.  Lisa is on the 2016 list.

And Sandy, the latest symbol of destruction, has a playlist all her own:


About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. ( I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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13 Responses to Naming: Sisters, Pets, Daughters, & Storms

  1. Barbara Klein says:

    Be glad you’re not LLoyd Irving! Funny about the name Sandy. Saw an interesting program on the search for a new dog, “Sandy” for a new theatrical production of “Annie”. Guess “Lisa” has gone the way of “Barbara”. No sensible person would name a child Barbara these days.


  2. I never even met another Naomi until I was in my twenties. Your sister lucked out! But there will never be another Lydia Rose like YOUR Lydia Rose!


  3. I hardly ever meet Dawns… but my kids have lots of shared name friends. That wasn’t my intention, but apparently I’m just ahead of name trends! 😉 They weren’t popular when I chose them, but just a year or two later, there were plenty. I’ll be hoping you all get through Sandy as safely as possible.


  4. Northern Narratives says:

    Take care and stay safe.


  5. Funny. As an Englishwoman I think of Sandy as short for Alexander. And this storm seems like a masculine kind of storm – not asking directions from anyone!


  6. Luckily my name is Judy not Judith. There was a Hurricane Judith – October 16-19, 1959. I ma named after an aunt who was named Judy. Many people call me Judith. I have had to correct several documents where they called me Judith. It is just Judy Charmane. Funny, Charmane comes from the title of a Nat King Cole recording. I have met a few others with my first name but not the combination .


  7. Patti Winker says:

    Growing up in the 50s and 60s with the name Patty? sheesh. (I changed it to Patti in 7th grade because I saw an album cover at my Aunt’s house – Patti Page,) Well, it could have been worse… I could have been among the many Debbies. 😀 We had four Patty’s (or Patti, Pattie) in our high school class of about 70 girls; that was enough.

    My sister actually picked my name. I was named after a neighbor baby because my sister said she wanted a baby girl “just like Patty!” next door. There it is.

    My grandmothers were Regina and Elsie. hmmm.

    Stay safe there on the east coast. I went through Hurricane Ivan here in Pensacola. It was a rough time. I learned a lot. Keep the flashlights handy and stay put.


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