Choosing a name for your baby is a huge responsibility. There are so many ways you could go with it. You could go traditional, like William or Peter. You could go weird, like Jaylon, Legend or Franco. Or trendy, like Hunter or Lucas.
They all have their benefits and drawbacks. Traditional names are usually strong, solid and familiar, and so you know your kid will have an easy ride. Weird names are cool and interesting, and kids always grow into their names so they don’t stay weird for long, but then they’ll always be spelling their names over the phone (even I have to do this – I’m Sam now when I order takeaways). And trendy names are, well, trendy, but they’ll probably have three other kids in the class with the same name.
From the outset, we didn’t want to be in the trendy camp. This is mainly because Liv knows what its like to have one of the most popular names and to have to share it with heaps of other kids at school. We also aren’t really into weird names, although early in her pregnancy Liv dreamt that we named our baby Rocket, and so that’s what we called him as a fetus. Also, Pharrell Williams has a son called Rocket, so it was within the realm of possibility! But really, we’re into traditional-but-not-very-common names.
The first name we loved for a boy was Henry. It’s a strong, familiar name, but it also sounds nice and it runs nicely with the last name Allison. However, it’s also relatively popular. It was number 26 on the top 100 boys names in New Zealand in 2016, next to Jackson, Jacob and Elijah.
So Henry was a top pick but maybe a bit too popular for us. Jasper was our only other option. We actually had the name Jasper on our list months before he was even conceived! This was January 2016 – we knew we were going to start trying soon so names were in discussion. Liv was really into really old names, like popular names from the 18th century. She sent me an email one day with a list of names she liked (she tells me she doesn’t like most of them now). Jasper was one of them. Looking back at that exchange, thankfully I had said Jasper was the one I liked!
So we had two names to choose from. How hard can that be?! Liv liked Jasper slightly more, while I tended towards Henry. About two or three months into the pregnancy, we’d pretty much settled on Jasper. But then towards the end of the pregnancy, about the last eight weeks, we gravitated more towards Henry.
We hadn’t mentioned our name options to anybody. Not a soul. That’s what made it super weird when one day, I get a text from mum saying she had a dream that we named our baby Henry. I couldn’t believe it. I rushed to tell Liv, who was in equal disbelief. How could she possibly know?!
After that, I really wanted to call him Henry because I thought it was a neat coincidence that mum had had that dream. Like, it was meant to be, or something. By 36 weeks we’d pretty much decided on Henry, and Liv kept saying things to me like, “In my head he’s Henry”.
It was hard because Henry was really the name I liked more, while Liv tended towards Jasper, and I worried that she was giving in to my preference. I was glad that she liked Henry, but the closer we got to the birth, the greater my reservations became about Henry. I worried about its popularity, and thought maybe it was too traditional.
By the end we were openly discussing the name options with people. There was a clear trend: people older than 50-ish liked Henry, while younger people liked Jasper. Still, we couldn’t quite decide.
Making the final decision
As soon as Jasper was born, I looked at him and said, “Henry”. Liv was still unsure. I said maybe I just see Henry because that’s what we’d been thinking for a while now. We decided to leave it for a bit and decide after a good night’s sleep.
All throughout that first day we went back and forth between Henry and Jasper. Eventually, obviously, Jasper won out. We loved how it sounded, its meaning, and especially how it went with his middle name.
One day after he was born we decided. He was Jasper Jay.
So why is the name Jasper Jay significant? For many reasons, it turns out. What started out as a name we just liked, has actually grown to have a lot of things attached to it.
First, there’s the Toronto Blue Jays. My baseball team. My winter obsession. How I connect with my Canadian heritage.
Everyone always asks me if we deliberately named him after the Blue Jays, and the answer is yes and no. I like that Jasper has the Jay in his name because I really love this team. But we also just liked the way Jasper and Jay run together. And we like that he can be JJ, or just J, if he wants.
Jasper is also the name of a national park in Alberta, Canada, so there’s another Canadian link there.
There’s a Simpsons link, too (another one of my favourite things). There’s an episode where Homer realises he has no idea what the J in his middle initial stands for, so he goes on this quest to his childhood home to find that his middle name is Jay. Great episode.
One of the Three Wise Men was also called Jasper (well, that’s the anglicised version). He brought the myrrh, which unfortunately is the most useless of all the gifts. What even is it?!
Also, I quite like whiskey and Jack Daniels’ actual first name was Jasper.
So there you go. The story behind Jasper’s name.
Reading: A Darkness More Than Night by Michael Connelly
Listening to: Hug of Thunder by Broken Social Scene