I’m currently reading Madame Bovary (by Gustav Flaubert) and found this passage particularly entertaining. On the one hand, picking a name for your child is so very arbitrary. On the other hand, so much thought and energy is put into it. It’s an interesting process. I like that this passage also packs a lot of ideas for names in it! Napoleon, anybody?

“Whilst she was getting well she occupied herself much in seeking a name for her
daughter. First she went over all those that have Italian endings, such as
Clara, Louisa, Amanda, Atala; she liked Galsuinde pretty well, and Yseult or
Leocadie still better.

Charles wanted the child to be called after her mother; Emma opposed this. They
ran over the calendar from end to end, and then consulted outsiders.

“Monsieur Leon,” said the chemist, “with whom I was talking about it the other
day, wonders you do not chose Madeleine. It is very much in fashion just now.”

But Madame Bovary, senior, cried out loudly against this name of a sinner. As
to Monsieur Homais, he had a preference for all those that recalled some great
man, an illustrious fact, or a generous idea, and it was on this system that he
had baptized his four children. Thus Napoleon represented glory and Franklin
liberty; Irma was perhaps a concession to romanticism, but Athalie was a homage
to the greatest masterpiece of the French stage. For his philosophical
convictions did not interfere with his artistic tastes; in him the thinker did not
stifle the man of sentiment; he could make distinctions, make allowances for
imagination and fanaticism. In this tragedy, for example, he found fault with the
ideas, but admired the style; he detested the conception, but applauded all the
details, and loathed the characters while he grew enthusiastic over their
When he read the fine passages he was transported, but when he thought that
mummers would get something out of them for their show, he was disconsolate; and
in this confusion of sentiments in which he was involved he would have liked at
once to crown Racine with both his hands and discuss with him for a good
quarter of an hour.

At last Emma remembered that at the chateau of Vaubyessard she had heard the
Marchioness call a young lady Berthe; from that moment this name was chosen;”