The Boy Who (Was Almost) Called Wolf

As promised, I’m continuing observance of Celebrate Your Name Week with a story of a name that’s not my own.

Every name has meaning. Most of them have a story too.

This is the story of Tesla’s – or at least what it might have been.

Tesla’s name was the subject of some controversy. I had a strong preference for one name (and since he actually received it I won’t be giving it here) but I was the only one who really felt an attachment to it. Ironically, there was no other candidate proposed – the reaction was simply “No, that one won’t do.”

We didn’t know the baby’s gender at the time – with so few true surprises in the world, we’d decided not to ask. That meant a need for two names, however, and neither proved easy to choose. Saddling a human being with the name he or she will be called for the better part of a hundred years is more daunting in practice than it originally seemed.

The rest of the family was no help. My brother, in particular, proposed a name I can neither spell nor pronounce properly (and no, I won’t try). I like to think he didn’t intend it as a serious suggestion, but knowing the Fraternal Unit the way I do, it’s far from certain.

A girl’s name proved easier than a boy’s. Had Tesla been female, we would have called him Tessa Joan – the Joan for my aunt, who died of cancer shortly after his birth.

But, of course, Tesla wouldn’t have it that easy.

The boy’s name remained in question right up until Tesla’s birth (six and a half weeks before his due date). When I saw him, I knew the name I picked was right, and I also knew how to ensure that he would receive it.

When asked his name, I declared, “Wolfgang Tiberius.” (And no, I didn’t crack a smile.)

If you’ve ever seen a room full of people caught between horror and disbelief, and trying desperately not to show it, you can imagine the reaction my words received. (Note: It was awesome.) I had no trouble keeping a straight face because I wasn’t joking. Had my initial name been refused, “Wolfgang T.” he would have become.

We would have called him Wolf.

It was the most obnoxious name I could actually imagine carrying through with, and since I don’t believe in unfounded threats, it was not a bluff. I went all-in, cards down, and I didn’t blink.

Fortunately for all of us, someone else did.

Which makes my son the boy who almost cried (as) Wolf.