All her life, people have been asking Heaven Love where she got her name.

Is she an angel? An exotic dancer? An actress working under a nom de plume?

Heaven wishes she could tell you.

“I never got the chance to ask my father,” the Auburn woman says. “From what I gather from others, it was because he wanted something beautiful for his daughter.”

Beautiful her name is, but that didn’t stop kids from teasing Heaven about it in the school yard. It didn’t stop men from crafting her name into terrible pickup lines, either.

She got over it. These days, people are mostly just curious.

“Its much easier to deal with today than it was going through school,” Heaven says. “Now I just get the normal, ‘Is that a stage name?’ You should see people’s reaction when they ask if my parents were hippies and I say, no. My father was an undertaker.”

There might have been a time when such an unusual name would stand out, but that time has definitely passed. These days, instead of choosing from a list of familiar names – Mary, Lisa or Michelle, for a girl, perhaps, and David, Michael or John for a boy – more parents seem to want a name that stands out; one that has a deeply personal connection forever linking parent and child.

And some people are just weird.

As the story goes, when legendary rocker Frank Zappa tried to name his first-born son after his wife’s oddly shaped little toe, the hospital refused to register the name. Unable to dub his kid Dweezil, Zappa instead offered up the names of his band mates, and the newborn Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa was introduced to the world.

Zappa got it sorted out later, of course, when Ian Donald Calvin Euclid legally changed his name to Dweezil. When Zappa named his other children Moon Unit, Ahmet and Diva, nobody gave him grief.

So take that, uppity maternity ward nurse.

A few years ago in Tennessee, a young mother tried to name her newborn son Messiah but was shot down by a judge who demanded that the boy be named Martin instead. The decision stirred controversy and the judge was later fired.

A British mother, meanwhile, was told in 2016 that she couldn’t name her twin daughters Cyanide and Preacher because the names might prove harmful to the children somehow. It was a ruling that was applauded by one half the population and loudly denounced by the other – since when can the government or even a hospital nurse decide what a person can or cannot name their offspring?

Naming a kid doesn’t usually result in international headlines, but that doesn’t mean that parents aren’t putting great thought into the process.

HE WHO SHALL BE NAMED

Arianna Campbell, 4, dressed as the Harry Potter character she is named for. Photo courtesy of Justin Campbell

Justin and Ashley Campbell, of Litchfield, have a daughter, a son and a little girl on the way. When it came time to name them, the Campbells turned to a magical source that had already had an impact on their lives.

“All three of my kids, Arianna, Neville and Lily were named after ‘Harry Potter’ characters,” Justin says. “My wife and I are both huge Harry Potter fans. I’ve loved it since I was in second grade – I have a huge Harry Potter collection and everything. The idea just came naturally and the wife agreed since she loves it as well. My kids have their own set of the books and it’s their favorite books and movies. My daughter is always asking to watch them.”

Dana Coffin and his wife, on the other hand, provided their children with names that honor their lineage – not to mention a doctor from the deep past.

“My wife’s family is big into genealogy and she insisted that all four of our kids have names that could be found in our family trees – both first and middle names,” Dana says. “Our only son has the middle name Colby, which has been a middle name through my wife’s patrilineal side for several generations. Sometime in the mid-1800s, apparently it was common to name a boy after the visiting doctor who delivered him, and Colby entered the family tree that way – after a certain Dr. Colby. Our daughters have the middle names Fransilja and Lavinia, after great-grandmothers, highlighting Finnish and Quebecois ethnic heritage, respectively.”

While they clearly took great care in selecting names for their kids, Dana and his wife also took pains to avoid names that are overly cumbersome or which would subject their children to ridicule.

“We wanted traditional names, not made up on the spot by us. Names that you’d know how to pronounce if you saw them spelled and names you’d know how to spell if you heard them pronounced,” Dana says. “Novelty in nomenclature is one of the great misfortunes of modern taste. Remember that David Bowie eventually apologized to his son Duncan Jones for having named him Zowie Bowie? By way of explanation, he admitted that he had been using a lot of drugs at the time of his son’s birth. I wonder if rampant innovations in modern naming share that same origin?”

If we learned one thing after quizzing our readers for their thoughts on names it’s that when it comes to naming kids, the rules are that there ain’t no rules. Names come from all over the place and the battle for originality is ongoing.

“When my daughter was born in 1986 I loved the name Ashley, as did about a bazillion other people,” says Laurie Taylor, of Dixfield. “Ashleys were everywhere! I named her Ashton, getting the idea from the ‘North and South’ miniseries.”

“I read the name Alexa in a book a week before I had my daughter,” says Michelle Grant Perkins. “I had never even heard the name before. Little did I know, half the world would name their child some form of ‘Alex’ – Alexis, Alexandra, Lexi, Alex. . . . And then of course there is Amazon’s ALEXA. Let’s just say when you have an Alexa and an ALEXA in your home, there are some interesting conversations that take place.”

“I chose Mandy for my daughter after the Barry Manilow song,” says Lisa Chouinard, of Lewiston. “Yes, I am that geek! As a teen I loved the song – and still do.”

Sure, it’s a great song, but how does the kid feel about being named for a girl in a sappy Manilow ballad?

“She loves her name,” Chouinard says, “and when she calls me, it’s the ‘Mandy’ ringtone.”

Crystal Donlon, of Lewiston, found a way to mix things up. For the girls, she took inspiration from Hollywood. For the lads, she dipped into a more holy source.

“Kira from ‘The Dark Crystal’ and Elora from ‘Willow,'” Donlon says. “My girls’ names came from movies I loved as a kid. My boys’ names came from the Bible: Matthew and David.”

ALL IN THE FAMILY

In an age where it seems that a lot of kids’ names are the result of somebody randomly pounding keys on a typewriter – not that there’s anything wrong with young Xzayquel, bless his little heart – the tradition of naming children after kin is still alive and well.

But it can get complicated.

“My daughter is named after both her great-great-grandmothers on mine and my husband’s side — so Violet Ellen,” says Natalie Faith Wells, of Litchfield. “Our son is named after my husband with their family tradition of the father’s first-born son gets the father’s first name as his middle name – so Xavier Joel. The second-born son would get the father’s middle name as his middle name. A tradition of generations we are following.”

“Both my kids’ middle names are after family,” says Jen Fecteau, of Auburn. “My daughter shares the same middle name as my sister. My son’s middle name is my mother-in-law’s maiden name. All my nieces’ middle names are all family names.”

Got that?

And what about the kids who are on the receiving end of all these naming conventions? Sooner or later, they grow up to adults, who may or may not be happy with the legal tag they’ve had to carry around.

“My first name is Jo-Ellen. I have had to spell my name every time I told someone it,” says Jo-Ellen Getchell, of Auburn. “I have had to tell people hyphen, not slash, between Jo and Ellen and, no, Ellen is not my middle name – I don’t have a middle name. Lastly, getting mail to Joe and not Jo-Ellen.”

“I was supposed to be Kenny,” says Prudence Constantine, of Fayette. “However – surprise! – I am a girl.”

So confused was her mother over the issue that Baby Girl Constantine went three whole days without a name. Finally, she named her newborn daughter after a nurse at the hospital and Prudence was introduced to the world.

“Hated it my whole life,” says Prudence. “Told my Mom I would rather have been Kenny.”

And finally, we have a woman who’s name is so awesomely sourced, it’s hard to believe that any kid in any playground back in the 1970s would have dared make fun of it.

“My dad wanted my name to be Elizabeth,” explains Jamie Pitcher, of Poland, “but my mom said no. So I am named after the bionic woman – Jamie Sommers.”

Sommers, in case you don’t know, was the fictional female equivalent of Steve Austin, the “Six Million Dollar Man” from the TV series of the same name. Because she was rebuilt by top scientists after a near-fatal accident, she had a super-powerful bionic arm, a bionic ear and two bionic legs that enabled her to run up to 60 mph.

Pitcher wasn’t crazy about her name as a child because she was the only girl around named Jamie. Over time, though, she came to appreciate it.

“I like my name; I think it’s pretty cool,” she says. “I think it was a good indicator of who I would become –strong, independent, strong-willed.”

If only poor Xzayquel could feel such pride.

Top names

Top boy names 1970s
Michael
Christopher
Jason
David
James

Top girl names 1970s
Jennifer
Amy
Melissa
Michelle
Kimberly

Top boy names 2010s
Noah
Jacob
Mason
Liam
William

Top girl names 2010s
Sophia
Olivia
Emma
Ava
Isabella

Source: Social Security Administration