Baby Naming: Happy Names According to Penny Marshall’s Mom


I read Penny Marshall’s (whose full name is actually Carole Penny Marshall) memoir, My Mother Was Nuts a few years back. Her explanation of her and her siblings’ names caught my attention:

If you notice, our names all have double letters and end in a Y. Pronouncing them, as my mother once explained, made you smile. Gar-REE. Ron-KNEE. Pen-KNEE. They were happy names, she said. Other names, such as Susan, Paula, and Katherine, were flat. To her, they were sad names. ‘And Penny,’ my mother wrote in my baby book, ‘is always ready for a hardy laugh.’

When it came to naming her own daughter, Penny Marshall landed on Tracy, the name of a girl she had liked from camp. “Tracy was a happy name, as my mother would have said,” Penny writes.

I’ll admit, this stuck with me. For my own children, I tended to lean towards heritage names, but I’m also drawn to emotive names. Out of the two options I uttered to my husband right before my son’s birth, we ended up using the happier of the two names. To me, it just makes sense to have a happy name.

How about you? Does Penny Marshall’s mom’s reasoning make sense to you? Would you choose a name for your baby just because it sounded happy?

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