How to Choose a Name

by a contributor

Asha Dore

Make a list. Say them quiet, loud, laughing, angry. List the initials. Find patterns. Find problems. Find rhymes. Look at the history. Separate syllables. Leave them alive in your mouth, repeating until the sounds become song.

This is a gift.

My mother did not leave anyone out, so I was given six names at birth. I learned them when I was five and repeated them to quiet my mind. Mantra of self. Mantra of fathers. Asha Dore Jennings Stewart Bradley Baisden. A-D-J-S-B-B, A-D-J-S-B-B.

Asha – life.
Dore – gold.
Jennings – maternal grandmother’s father.
Stewart – maternal grandfather’s father.
Bradley – paternal grandmother’s father.
Baisden – father.

When my daughters were born, my husband and I had to decide. Whose father, or none. My husband and I changed our names. He dropped his father’s name. I dropped my father’s name. The name my mother chose for me – Dore. The name my husband’s mother chose for herself, his stepfather’s name – Lickley. Lickley-Dore. My daughters are just Dore, just gold.


Can a single word be a person? One name. People I meet tell me the stories of mine. Asha. In Hindi, it means to expect, expectation. In Malayalam it means hope. In Swahili it means life. In Sanskrit it means desire. Asha is a Zorastrian principle that means something like the best truth.

Expect hope, life, desire the best truth.

The history of a word is etymology. Gold going backward is gold, gold, gold, goud, gull. Simple history – colorbird, a traveling glow.

Mother was modor, modar, moder, mutter, mater, mote, mathir, matris and etymologists believe it all began with a baby saying ma.

Matris like matrix – something from which another is born, the main clause, the womb. What cloud keeps names along father when it is mothers naming mothers? The history of a name, a colorbird up from the womb flesh. Every mother is an origin. Desire the best truth.

Three daughters: Silent bird, my first, stillborn. Rough music of the second born alive and wild.
Retched breath of the third, born on the day my first was due four years later, living.

Ofelia, the quiet one. Help her, innocence gone mad. Asleep in water. Death before birth.

Leisl, the loud, the living. The Sound of Music. Music of the name. Lees-elle. Lithe as a lion on my tongue. Music of the body, music of the girl.

Margot the soft, strong. Pearl of my flesh, the one who waited. I am shell, she is soul. Soft glow. Margot.

When I write, which words should shape me? Asha Baisden? Asha Dore? Just Asha? Should I name myself, act as my own child, or remain, caught in the matrix of the named: Still mother’s. Still father’s. Still a body fresh to the storm. Still a child unwrapping.

Asha Dore’s essays and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Sweet, Stirring, theNewerYork, The Rumpus, and Best of the Net. Asha lives in Oregon with her husband and two daughters where she is working on a novel about a hurricane.