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anne_mikolay_2012_120On Tuesday, May 1st, entertainer Jessica Simpson gave birth to a little girl. The child's name, Maxwell Drew, stirred more chatter than Simpson's astounding pregnancy weight gain. Maxwell Drew, a boy's name for a baby girl, has me wondering. What's in a name?

Jessica Simpson chose the name Maxwell, her fiancé's middle name, and Drew, her mother's maiden name, to honor family bonds. While some may view her choice as loving and commendable, more cynical folks (like me) detect a bit of headline craving motivation. Whatever the reason for the unusual moniker, Simpson's daughter is stuck with a male name (Maxwell means “great storm” and Drew means “manly”) until she is old enough to change it. In naming her baby, Jessica Simpson did what most new parents do. She let euphoria, rather than practicality, take over.

I did the same thing. When my first child, a son, was born, I named him after his father, a nice way to honor good old Dad, but not the wisest choice for my son. Having the exact same name as his father has caused all kinds of confusion for my son in business and banking matters (adding “Junior” or “II” to the name does not make it easier). My next child, another boy, was named after my uncle, whom I admire. There are lots of women I admire, my Mom included, but I didn't name my baby boy in honor of Mom because, in my non-celebrity circles, that would have been just plain stupid.

I am named after my mother, Anne, meaning “grace”, a word that might not describe me but one that gives me something to strive for nonetheless. Thankfully, I am not CoCo (Courteney Cox's daughter), Kal-El (Nicholas Cage's son), Apple (Gwyneth Paltrow's baby) or Prince or Blanket (Michael Jackson's boys). There are stranger choices: Ocean (Forest Whitaker's child), Kyd (Tea Leoni's), and Moxie Crimefighter (Penn Jillette's offspring). So what's in a name? Should names, like my own and those of my sons,  honor family members, or should names reflect things parents like? Did cocoa become CoCo? McIntosh become Apple? Did “I love my fiancé and my mom” become Maxwell Drew? Thank goodness my mother didn't name me after what she liked or I would have been Yankee Doodle (as in Drake's, not George M. Cohan).

Your name grants a sense of self, ancestral roots, identity and power, and is the first important gift (other than life itself, of course) your parents give you. Through the name Maxwell Drew, Jessica Simpson gave her daughter a tangible family connection as well as an unintended life-long association with Maxwell House Coffee (the latter pointed out to me by my friend, Marie, in the United Kingdom). That's a gift baby Simpson may someday want to return.

Parents, take care when choosing your child's name. That little baby is a person, not a plaything, and needs a real, respectable  name, not something people will laugh at. My friend, Marjorie, in Canada, said it best, “I firmly believe that people should not be allowed to name their children until the drugs from giving birth wear off.”