Someone asked me the other day why we chose the name Atticus. It was suggested to have the connotation of "white man helps the black people". Whoa. That one stopped me in my tracks and hurt my feelings. You can never please everyone when naming your child and I probably shouldn't even try. However, I don't want anyone walking around thinking we named our son with any icky intentions. That makes me feel sick to my stomach.
First and foremost, Atticus was one of the few boy names we both liked. I think it's a cool name and I've liked it ever since I first read To Kill a Mockingbird. The character of Atticus in the novel by Harper Lee is one that I've always adored. I was shocked when someone suggested his place in literature is that of the benevolent white man who helps the helpless black man. I'd never thought of him that way. The character is so much more complex than that and the quality that always stood out for me was his integrity. He's a man who is kind and polite to everyone he encounters - even racist Bob Ewell, mean and bitter Mrs. Dubose, Mayella Ewell who falsely accuses Tom Robinson of rape, and Boo Radley the neighborhood recluse. Empathy is a quality I value highly in a person and the character of Atticus personifies this. He can put himself even in the shoes of those who despise him and he gently teaches his children to do the same. If we can teach our son to treat everyone as a child of God even when they might not deserve it, to consider the viewpoints of others...we will be doing well. And that is all I have to say about that.
Norah's name was also chosen because we liked it. Someday our children can either bemoan or celebrate the fact that at some point one of their parents stepped in to overrule name choices such as Martin, Noah, Canaan, Elijah, Stella, Zelda, and Maya. If they're unhappy, they can always choose their own nicknames or get their revenge by naming their own children names that we dislike.