About A Name: Ginger (or, Would You Crowdsource a Baby Name?)

October 3, 2012 § 3 Comments

It’s been a bit of a big week for trendiness in baby names. There’s Marissa Mayer, new CEO at Yahoo!, who is crowd-sourcing baby name suggestions for her new son, born Sunday night. This, of course, goes well and truly against most traditional naming advice, which encourages parents to pick alone, because they have to love a name, and live with a name, more than Joe in Accounting or even Granny in Boston. But as one article points out, we are social beings. If we’re willing to share what we ate for breakfast with the universe (coffee and a bagel with cream cheese – you’re welcome), why wouldn’t we want to share one of the most monumental moments, and make others feel connected to our moment, with something as participatory as crowd-sourcing? Would you get family or friends’ suggestions before selecting a name, or would you rather other people stay out of it?

Then, of course, the Food-as-Names trend is back in the spotlight, whether you like it or not, since the announcement of the birth of Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman’s daughter on September 26th. Olive is, granted, among the least polarizing of all the ‘food names’ we’ve seen over the past decade or so, and it’s nothing we haven’t seen before (Sascha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher cornered most of the attention for this one when they had their first daughter five years ago), but it served as a reminder of the long list of Food-as-Names celebs and celeb kids who came before – from Apple Martin to Peaches Geldof and all the little Clementines, to even Maple Bateman, born this February).

While I’d rather not wade into the should you/shouldn’t you debate on the Food-as-Names trend itself, I would like to feature a Food Name that I recently spotted, which may not, at least not at first, look like a Food Name to you at all. Like Olive, Ginger has many layers and is not exclusively a food name, but in the name story, after the jump, which inspired this post, food was distinctly the inspiration behind its use.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. So goes the old adage, which is put to baby naming practice pretty effectively in the case of young Ginger Olympia Georgiades. She’s no celebrity baby, though she kinda has a celeb-baby name. And while I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the Food-as-Names trend, I’ve always said if you’ve got a good reason for using a name, don’t let anyone try to stop you from following your baby-naming heart. That’s what drew me to a name I had previously dismissed as a simple character name from Gilligan’s Island, or a slang term for redheads.

Ginger Georgiades was born in Toronto in July, to parents Vivian Ng (Cantonese) and Andy Georgiades (Greek). She was born on the first day of the London Olympic Games, but her middle name was a done deal before the birth to honour Dad’s heritage, so it was merely a grand coincidence. Ginger, however, was thoroughly considered.

“In the Western world,” Andy explains, “Ginger is viewed as a spice, but in the east it is also considered to have healing powers and is consumed in great amounts by new moms – including Vivian.”

Unfortunately, after the birth of their first child, Rex Oxton (named for the Year of the Ox, in which he was born, from the Chinese Zodiac), the ginger that Vivian was consuming while breastfeeding seems to have made Rex cranky and unsettled, but Andy knew that Vivian would be unable to turn her back on her traditions for their second child. (Indeed, scientists have found that ginger helps treat ovarian cancer.) “It’s something she believes in,” he said. “She’s a traditional person and I respect her heritage. So before the birth I joked a bit, ‘Vivian, eat all the ginger you want, and let’s call her Ginger.’ Given everything that went down with ginger the first time around, I thought rather than it have negative connotations, let’s turn it around and make it something positive.”

Vivian loved the idea; their families were less thrilled. The couple did some ‘crowdsourcing’ with friends and family, all of whom seemed to like the name Rex (named for his family’s travel agency, in operation since 1973), but found with Ginger that “I guess we pushed everybody over the top,” says Andy.

There would have been those who pointed out that ginger was a food, not a name. There would have been those who could think only of Ginger Grant from Gilligan’s Island, the shallow but beautiful redheaded movie star played by Tina Louise. And there would have been those who know ‘ginger’ as a slang term (often deemed borderline racist, at least here) for redheads. But it’s incredibly unlikely that Ginger Georgiades, with her Greek and Chinese heritage, will ever be a redhead without the help of peroxide. The couple admits they considered changing their name choice on account of their families’ reactions, but ultimately had to follow their hearts.

Ginger, which has been noted as a nickname for the likes of Virginia (as in 20th Century film/stage star Ginger Rogers, most famous as Fred Astaire’s dance partner), is a word of Latin origin, meaning “spring-like, flourishing.” English origin notes that ginger means “pep/liveliness,” while the adverb ‘gingerly’ effectively means the opposite, describing actions done slowly and cautiously. But the most universal association is the plant.

And like many a Food Name, it’s bound to help your kid develop a thick skin, if they need one: Ginger Spice, Ginger Snap, Ginger Ale, Gingerbread Man, Gingivitis…the opportunities for kids to be total jerks don’t really stop with this name. It would be remiss not to advise caution with any names that bring to mind so many delicious foods.

What do you think of Ginger, or Food Names in general? Would you crowdsource your baby name?

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§ 3 Responses to About A Name: Ginger (or, Would You Crowdsource a Baby Name?)

  • histornamia says:

    I am far off having children but I have mentioned names that I like before to my parents and grandmother before and really, it is not the most pleasant experience. My mother has a tendency to think that her grandchild will be named to her liking. Luckily, I have a tough skin and I feel okay about annoying my mom. Now, the names I told her, like Vivien, for instance caused a stir – ‘I am going to call her Jane because I went to work with a Vivien and I didn’t like her’. My mother’s excuses aren’t great let me tell you. Harlean also caused a problem in the fact that she had to make it sound like you are saying Jolene in the deep south. The more obscure names that I like I have not told her. I know that they will lead to much discussion. (Though she did agree with Georgiana – though she was convinced I meant Georgina).

    Let’s just say that I will only discuss the name with my partner when the day arises that I am pregnant. My family can just deal with the name.

    Sorry if that was long winded. I happen to love Ginger as a name (it is on my possibility list). My association with it comes from Ginger Rogers and while I don’t want to name all my children after Old Hollywood Stars, the names from that era are to my liking. Ginger is on the same playing field as Olive in my opinion.

    • I’m with you – far from having my own kids, but my mother has turned up her nose at the baby names I do like – even the one directly inspired by her own father! I do hate it when grandparents say “Oh, I’ll just call them so and so cuz I like that name.” So NOT the point! They had their chance, they named their kids! (I am most definitely also not afraid of annoying my mom!)

      Lovely name choices, by the way, and I’d say you appreciate Ginger more than I do!

  • I think Ginger is a very spunky name, and while we tend to think of it on a redhead, I think it has a whole different feel on a Chinese-Greek Canadian. It seems much more of a “plant” name than a “food” name.

    I’m not into crowd-sourcing, and we very much chose names without assistance. Mostly my mother and mother-in-law are fairly tactful, but my mum did say that Ruby was a “whore name”. It wasn’t a serious contender, but still. What if it had been?

    Our fathers are far less lacking in tact than our mothers, so their opinions weren’t sought at all! And my father-in-law had a ton of rules as to which names can go with the precious family surname and which can’t, and no name sharing with relatives etc.

    I do notice that older people are really not into the vintage name craze, and I do get that, because to them, they are still “mum and dad” names. I can’t say I’d be too thrilled with a craze for baby names from my parents’ generation, but it will happen soon enough. My parents generation seem to like either popular modern names, or classics.

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