My mother, Rita, told me she chose my name when she was 12-years-old and a small, poor girl being raised by a sin­gle father in a work­ing class neigh­bor­hood in an indus­trial town in north­ern Eng­land. She got a schol­ar­ship to attend a fancy pri­vate British school thanks to her good grades and the char­ity of a civic orga­ni­za­tion that paid for two promis­ing but under­priv­i­leged girls to attend the school each year. She did not inter­act much with the other stu­dents but very much looked up to a nur­tur­ing, tall and ath­letic older stu­dent who was 16 and was named Fiona, which is not an unusual name in Eng­land. She vowed to name her future daugh­ter Fiona. She later met and mar­ried my father, they moved to Amer­ica, and they had 2 sons who were named after his fam­ily mem­bers. Since her hus­band had been one of three boys and they had two boys already, both assumed their third and last child would also be a boy and had agreed to name me Michael, which is my father’s mid­dle name. To her sur­prise and, as she always told me, great joy, I am a girl and she was able to use the name she had cho­sen long ago. I turned out to be tall and ath­letic as well, and thanks to her hard work and end­less efforts on my behalf, was able to attend some fancy schools myself. She died too soon 7 years ago of ovar­ian can­cer, and I named my daugh­ter who was born a year later, Ava Rita.

One Comment

  • Fiona fits in the cat­e­gory of chil­dren named before they were born. Usu­ally, in the essays, names picked before the child is con­ceived are fam­ily names; how­ever, there were excep­tions. One cou­ple picked a name for their yet-to-be– born child sim­ply because they liked it. Another told of nam­ing a child for a friend. Sup­pos­edly, nam­ing a child for a friend occurs more fre­quently with women than men. Fiona’s essay is unique, so far, because her mother picks the name when she is an ado­les­cent.
    Fiona adds yet another dimen­sion to her name—she ful­fills all the qual­i­ties her mother admired in her older friend. Fiona grows up to be tall and ath­letic just like the girl her mother so admired. Fiona also helps peo­ple just like her mother’s friend. Fiona lit­er­ally ful­fills all the traits her mother so admired in her friend. Obvi­ously, Fiona lis­tened to the sto­ries her mother told about her friend, who became an inspi­ra­tion for her. We are left to won­der if Fiona ever saw pic­tures of her mother with her older friend, or met her mother’s friend, or whether the friend remained an unknown ide­al­ized fig­ure.
    Fiona describes the painful pre­ma­ture loss of hr mother. As we saw in many of the essays, women often name a daugh­ter for a deceased grand­mother. Fiona does so by giv­ing her daugh­ter her grandmother’s name as a mid­dle name—which allows the child both to be named for her grand­mother and to have her own sep­a­rate iden­tity.
    Fiona is a rel­a­tively new name, orig­i­nat­ing with the 18th cen­tury Scot­tish poet, James Macpher­son. The name con­tin­ues to grow in popularity.

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