what’s in a Nim?

Baby has arrived and she’s settling into our lives well. Or, more accurately, she’s overturned our former lives and ripped out the guts of our routines. Now, seven weeks after her auspicious arrival in the middle of an ice storm and a seven day power failure (you’ll have to wait for more on this in a future essay), we’ve rebuilt our lives to include her.

We named her Nimia, a hard-won name, I must say. We had a hard time naming our first daughter (Evening), and our second proved even tougher because we were determined to find a name we loved as much as we loved Evening’s.

our wee Nimi-gnome

It’s a great deal harder to name children than characters. With characters, you can write whole drafts knowing full well you haven’t found the right name yet, but with kids it’s different. You can’t change it five drafts and three months in when you find one that suits them better. You’ve filled out legal documents that will follow them everywhere. People know them. It would be like J. K. Rowling changing Harry Potter’s name to Reginald Montgomery in the seventh book. Confusion and complication will follow.


Harder still: you have agree on this name with a whole other person. I have pages of names I adore, written in two long lists of female and male, but that doesn’t mean Mr. The Spouse likes them enough to name his children after them.

Does everyone make naming their children such serious business?

We happened upon Nimia’s name when I was eight months pregnant. She had been Nim for a few months already; there’s a few Nims floating around in the fictional world and I’ve loved every one I’ve met thus far. When I hear ‘Nim’ it strikes me as full of fun and unexpected giggles – the perfect name for our little girl. However, we still struggled with a grown-up version of it to give her. For a while she was almost Nimue, but the Lady of the Lake seemed a lot to live up to, and there’s always that matter of Merlin still trapped in a tree …

As for fun and unexpected giggles, our Nim has this funny goat-giggle she makes in her sleep which we find quite contagious. Her name suits her well.

I suspect not every writer takes character naming as serious as I do either. Good ol’ Billy Shakespeare suggested “what’s in a name?” as if he could just pluck a name from a crowd and plop it onto the page without a second thought. No curated lists of striking names for him. Then there’s Neil Gaiman, who famously wrote down ‘Coraline’ in a misspell and got a whole book out of it. What about you? Do you struggle to find the perfect name for a character or does a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Do you reach for a pen every time you come across a name that grabs your attention?