Why My Kids Have the Names They Do

I always hated my name. “Brock.” It sounds like you’re starting to say a vile word and then got punched in the throat. I think it’s that hard vowel sound followed by the rock solid wall of double, redundant consonants that does it. And then there’s the “broccoli” thing. When you’re five-years-old, the last thing you want to be called is a vegetable.

So, when it came to naming my own kids, I had some rules.

1. It must not be a name that can be made fun of easily.

2. The name must be unique but not overly strange.

3. The name must be wonderful.

And then I got married and another rule had to be added:

4. The name must be decided by unanimous vote. 

So, no Apple. No Moon Unit. No Pilot Inspector. But also, no Michael or Hannah or Hailey or Andrew or Megan. If the purpose of a name is to differentiate oneself from others, then what’s the point of a common name? I’ll tell you: it’s to be like everybody else. Not my kids. Not on my watch.


I wanted our first daughter, Elora, to be named “Tendra.” My wife, Erin, wouldn’t go for it. No way. She hated it. Tendra is a Spanish word meaning “will have” and ever since I learned the language at 19, I liked the sound of it. Also, I was nuts.

“Elora” (pronounced Uh-laura) I got from Elora Danan, the infant everybody is after in the 1988 fantasy movie Willow. Even though I was only 11-years-old when the movie came out, I remember thinking quite clearly that Elora was a great name for a girl. I never thought Erin would go for it, but she LOVED it.

I loved that it was a name I’d never heard used outside of the movie. The universe, less impressed, put a little girl named “Alora” in Elora’s class this very year. Same pronunciation. Go figure.


Cami’s real name is Campbell, after my wife’s maiden name. We thought naming her Campbell was a great way to pay tribute to that side of the family. Plus, it’s very different from Elora. That was our fifth rule: our kids can’t have names that begin or end the same way. We didn’t want our kids to ever be confused. Elora got the “uh” sound. That was all hers.

We knew of a few people with Campbell as a first name, but most of them were male. One TV reporter, Campbell Brown, was female, and that was enough for us to think it a worthy girl name.

Besides, dude, if your name ends in “bell” then you’ve have a girl’s name. That’s a fact.

The problem was that Elora, who was just 2-years-old when Cami was born, couldn’t say “Campbell.” She called her “Camel.” This would not do, so Campbell became Cami. I must say, despite our hard “no nicknames” rule, it works. Cami has special needs and doesn’t grow like other kids do. She’s super, super tiny. Cami is a little pixie name. Fits her perfectly.


Our newest addition, not even one year old, got her name from a dream. Having another kid after Cami was a big decision. We love Cami, but her needs took over our lives and emotional states the day we found out she was different from other kids. Could we risk doing it again? Then Erin had a dream in which she held a beautiful, healthy little baby named Violet.

Rule number 4 was broken. We were going to have another baby, a girl, and her name would be Violet. End of discussion.

It took me a while, but I love the name now. Yes, it’s an old name everybody knows. Most people associate it with Willy Wonka, but that’s okay. It’s a beautiful name and we’ve never told it to someone without them remarking how wonderful it is and how well it suits her.

Names are extremely important to me. I think a lot of our identity comes from the sound and appearance of our names. Brock, as a name, is much more in fashion now (making me appear younger on paper), and yet is still unique enough to make me stand out. What once sounded ugly to me, now sounds strong and powerful. To my mom I would say: Sorry for all the grief I gave you over the years about it. And… thanks!

Hopefully my kids will one day be able to say the same.