After sifting through sand and shells at the beach, my family consulted a local seashell identification chart. As pretty and varied as the shells were, what really captured me was their names.
A thick but otherwise unremarkable clamshell takes on gravitas as the Ponderous Ark. A tiny cone of whorled white, like a miniature serving of soft-serve ice cream, goes by the improbably Dickensian name of Humphrey Wentletrap. And don't you feel a little betrayed at the thought of a False Cerith?
Shell names come in several flavors, which correspond to the main categories of surnames. Locative names indicate a place you're associated with, as in the surname Meadows or the shell name North Atlantic Whelk. Occupational names indicate a job or function you perform, like Baker or the Borer Shell. Personal association names are taken from the given name of someone you're linked to, as in Anderson or the Fulton's Cowrie. Finally, physical nicknames take their cues from distinctive elements of appearance, like Bianchi. Ah, how to choose? For it's in the physical descriptions that seashell names really soar: the Hard-Edged Fleshy Limpet, the Blood-Mouthed Conch, the Wrinkled Dog Winkle, the Turkey Wing.
Looking over the chart, I couldn't help but ask myself: if I were a seashell, what would they call me? So, in the grand tradition of "what's your soap opera name" (middle name + street where you grew up) and "porn name" (childhood pet + street), let's find our seashell names. I'll give you two options so you can choose the perfect alter ego:
Word that describes your hair + Your best feature + -ed + Occupation
Place you grew up + Breed of first pet + First object you see when you look up from your computer
I look forward to reading about all of you New Jersey Spaniel Teacups and Curly-Lipped Teachers.
Follow Laura Wattenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BabyNameWizard