A New Name For Everything: Isaac

We are about 99% sure of the new boy’s name. There are variations on it, so the only hard decision is deciding which version fits best. This has me thinking back on Isaac’s name, which ended up being the 29th most popular boy’s name in the U.S. in the year of his birth.

Laura has had the same confident pattern for both pregnancies. We had several favorites rattling around for both genders, but then at the 20-week ultrasounds we found out about the boys. Each time, she swiftly centered on the right name within days. It was pure instinct, and it was the most trustworthy way I’d heard of to pick a name. I’m relieved it happened this way so we didn’t spend extra weeks fretting over the possibilities.

She had first heard of “Isaac” from a coworker who said she’d like it for a future kid of her own. We nabbed it. The name didn’t immediately have personal significance; it just rung true. We did give Isaac a middle name, “Chase,” which is a family name on my mother’s side. But “Isaac” was brand new.

Not that new, of course. We found out it was a Hebrew name meaning “he laughs.” We didn’t dwell on this too much until a while after he was born, when we realized how perfectly fitting it was for our guy. I mean, look at this clown:


His laughter alone is enough to earn the name. But it’s been fun finding other connections.

The biggest hurdle was the obvious religious connotation. Isaac, unfortunately, is a character in one of the worst Bible stories put to paper. Of course, I have a potentially biblical name as well, but I get to tell people that I was named after the character Levi Zent from the novel Centennial by James Michener. I’ve always loved that (and I don’t want to know if it’s not entirely true, parents).

As for my own interests, the most influential Isaac was Isaac Brock. The Modest Mouse mastermind, Brock is a singular musician whose wild yet catchy tunes and lyrics about our physical mysteries have long moved me and my brothers. He’s a pretty nifty Isaac to celebrate, and perhaps the only living one who I’m familiar with.

Dipping into the past is a mixed bag. Isaac Newton is a famous name, and it’s always great to have scientists on the list. Also, he was born prematurely, as we discovered on a little poster in NICU. I have read that he may have been a rather unpleasant person, though. I remain neutral on my feelings about Mr. Newton.

The next name that caught our interest was author Isaac Asimov. Classified as the unequaled master of science fiction, neither of us had read a lick of his work before the idea for this baby name came along. While pregnant, Laura bought a collection of short stories and jumped in. A few months after our guy’s arrival, I acquired some used paperbacks and tried him out as well. The Foundation series really struck me and I’ve now been reading two or three Asimov books a year. He was a fascinating mind and one of the true Isaac greats.

There are a lot more Isaacs to be found out there, such as Isaac Singer of the sewing machine line or Isaac Ware, orphan turned architect. I came across both of these in Bill Bryson’s marvelous book At Home. Then there’s Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson, which caught our eye at the bookstore because of the title alone (I did one of those things where I gave it to my dad as a gift, and then swiftly took him up on his lending offer after he finished reading). Isaac Cline—head weatherman of Galveston, Texas in the year 1900—is the protagonist of this powerful true story. Another worthy name for the list.

I bet there are other fine Isaacs out there to stumble upon. If you have a favorite, let us know. We hope our guy grows to like his name and creates his own meaning of the word regardless of who has come before.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s