Sunday, June 28, 2009

Name Shame Blame Game

My wife is great with child in the same way that the China is great with a wall. They are both awe inspiring, beautiful and, ahem, man made. But unlike that ancient anti-Mongol device aptly named the Great Wall of China, there is nothing yet about the twins currently growing within my wife's womb that lends itself towards a proper name. Coming up with appropriate names has thus far been the hardest part about having twins aside from the puking, weight gain and inability to bend down and grab anything below the hip—or so says my wife.

Providing a proper name is one of the most important things you will ever do for your children. An inappropriate or poorly thought out name can lead to a life time of embarrassment and can even reduce the child's future earning potential. The rich and famous can afford to provide their children with abominations of nomenclature such as Apple or Moxie Crimefighter. I, on the other hand, am not nearly famous enough to get away with naming my child Loquacious Kazoo as much as I might like to.

In the court of law, some names have actually been considered forms of child abuse. In New Zealand, a girl named Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii was placed in to state custody so her name could be changed with the judge in the case pointing out that her name constituted a "social disability and handicap."

Sadly enough, I am not nearly as good at naming babies as I am at making them. However, there are some simple rules I stick by to prevent my child from a lifetime of social abuse.

Rule #1: Buck the Trend

The first thing we check when we come up with a name is its ranking on the top 100 names list. Anything in the top ten is ruled out. Sure, Jacob may be a great name, but who wants to spend the rest of his life being one of a countless sea of Jacobs in every classroom, church congregation or place of employment. Each time you run into someone with your name, you can't help but feel like they have absconded a portion of your identity. Especially in the Google age, the last thing you want is for a potential employer to check your name online and confuse you with another Aiden (the #1 name in 2008) who got caught embezzling from his employer.

Rule #2: Don't Make it Up

This seems to be more and more common these days as people take individuality to the extreme and approach naming their child the way a dyslexic five-year old approaches Scrabble. They just cram a bunch of letters together until something sticks. Kylon, Jolissa, Jesaray, Mavira, Ersaid; these might make for good names in Middle Earth, but here in America, we prefer something a little more conventional.

Rule #3: It is a Name, not a Nerd Confessional

I consider myself a bit of a geek. I love me some Star Wars every bit as much as the next guy. Nevertheless, that does not give me the right to name the twins Luke and Leia as much as my inner 10-year old wants to. Just because you attend the Sci-Fi convention religiously does not mean your child's name should be sacrificed upon the alter of Nerdom. This all but rules out Kal-el, Skywalker, Anakin, Padme, Frodo, Strider, Samwise and, of course, Optimus Prime.

Rule #4: The Serial Killer Test

There are some names that are synonymous with evil. There is just no nice way to name a child Adolf, Mussolini, Atilla or Cain. Similarly Ted Bundy and Ted Kaczynki have ruined the name Ted for everyone. Who can meet a woman named Lorena without also thinking of Mrs. Bobbit?

This has been perhaps the biggest disagreement between my wife and me. She really wants to name the twin boy "Carter". However, I cannot even hear the name without thinking about gas lines, stagflation and the Iran Hostage crisis. Sure Jimmy Carter has done some nice things for Habitat for Humanity, but he is without question the worst American President we have had since Hoover. Although the name has a nice ring to it, so does Lucifer. I might think about it if our two other sons were not also named after US Presidents. We have had many Presidents worth recognizing and I will not betray my political leanings by welcoming a Carter into my home. We might as well name him Clinton Pelosi.

Rule #5: Avoid Intentional Misspelling

While there are certainly some people who are going to disagree with me on this, I see no point in giving someone a commonly accepted name and unique-ing it up by intentionally misspelling it. What value is there really in having a Jacyn instead of Jason? Stefany instead of Stephanie? Suzzyn instead of Susan? Aarik instead of Erich? All you are doing is condemning your child to a lifetime of having to explain his name to people.

On this same note, we should all agree to avoid names that require grammatical symbols such as an apostrophe or dash. My oldest brother tells the story of deposing a young girl at his law firm whose name was spelled Le-a which everyone pronounced it Lia. When the mother found out how her daughters name was being pronounced, she became offended and exclaimed "Lia? Whose Lia? My daughters name is LeDASHa." That's right. Her name includes the first non-silent dash in English history.

So, after all is said and done, my wife and I still don't have names for the Unborn Two. We both agree on Danielle for the girl, but for the boy, my wife prefers Carter while I prefer Collin. As a compromise, we are leaning towards Christian. Yes that's right. A Mormon naming his son Christian. The thought alone might be enough to make Mike Huckabee's head explode. A boy can dream, can't he?


The Little Fishers said...

Other lesser known rules should include no rhyming names and trying not to duplicate historically iconic names (ie one of my track kids from a lds home: joseph smith)

Trait said...

As a kid, I hated my name because NOBODY got it right. It sounded like "Trey." Now, I really like it because it's unique. Thankfully, it's not so unique as to be ridiculous like some celebrity baby names. By the way, one of my favorite celebrity baby names is Jason Lee's son, Pilot Inspektor.

Another rule I would add is don't give your kid a name with the same first and last name derivative. Example: Tommy Thompson or Danny Daniels.

Rachel said...

So.. i read this when you posted it, but I had to come back, because over the weekend, this girl was telling me about this girl in her class, whose name was spell Le-a, and i responded with "Le-dash-a!" and she looked at me in shock and asked "how did you know that??!!" so thank you joel for increasing my ability to impress people... :)

The Average Joel said...

Wow? You mean there is another one? Next time you meet a person named Abcde it is not pronounced alphabet, it is pronounce Absida. Another one that might come in handy.

Neal and Shannon said...

As always, a despicably entertaining post :).

Speaking as a person with a first AND last name that sounds way too much like something else, I strongly recommend against Collin. It sounds and looks WAY too much like Colon. "Surely that won't make a difference," you quip. "Only the most juvenile of minds would call him Constipated Collin or Collinoscopy." May I remind you that I am still Banana Peel Neal? That I've only recently sluffed off Naked Neal? That our family still hectors me during family prayers with "kneel Neal"? And let's BOTH not forget that you and I are JINXED for life because of our otherwise noble last names. Your kid will have enough to deal with based on the last name he's inheriting. Please don't turn him into an automatic Jinxed Colon.

I'd also avoid a one-syllable name. It lends itself to a lot of add-on abuse (aka Neal-z, Nealburt, Nealio, etc.).

Kyle said...

I love your writing, Joel. I just wish you had as much time to write them as I do to read them. Somewhat knowing your political leanings, I must say I'm a little surprised that you left out the most notorious Ted of them all- Mr. Chappaquiddick himself, Ted Kennedy.

Ok, so to lighten things up a little, I have a name that my dad ran across in his exploits as a Captain in the Fire Department in CA. He went to a call in he ghetto of Pittsburg ( I know, redundant; sorry), and when he asked the mother of three that called for a domestic issue what her name was- she said something that was pronounced "fuh-mall-ay". Apparently her parents didn't know that the hospital doesn't give you your name when you're born. The birth cirtificate said "Female"; so that's what her name was. True story.