Friday, January 27, 2012

Naming Your Child (for Dummies)

Because you’re out there, you know you are.  I write this to outrage every last one of you.  Let’s rumble.

1.     Pretend to be a slack-jawed telemarketer that subsists on Red Bull, Skittles and weed.  You have a brother named Darryl.  I mean, really method-act, here.  You’ve been up since 4am for no apparent reason.  You drive a yellow Toyota Celica with one of those Calvin (urinating on something) stickers.  It’s now 8:15pm.  Can you pronounce the proposed name on the first (okay, second) try?  No?

2.    Read variations of the full name aloud, very clearly, like you’re speaking into a large PA system.  It doesn't matter that they'll go by “Pinky.”  The teacher/ drill instructor/prison guard/college president will call out “Cletus Alfonzo Smithfield.”

3.    Is the name connected, in any way, with a book/film/anime/toy franchise?  Kashyyyk Obi-Wan Jones-Miller is OUT.  Don’t be that parent.  You should be dragged into the street and shot if you have children named Bella, Frodo or Hermione.  (Shot after you sign paperwork legally changing their names.)  Honest coincidences, though rare, are excusable.  Unfortunate, but excusable.

4.    Superfluous letters are OUT, as are arbitrary letter substitutes, especially subbing “Y” for just about any vowel sound.  This “MycKynzyey" nonsense is what we’re talking about.  Use letters sparingly and with economy.

Listen to me.  When you (brilliantly!) spell a "traditional" name in a freaky way, you’re not being clever.  No, what you're being is a total chicken.  Like, um, we want to be, like traditional… but like we’re scared of being like the SAME!  Like, sameness is totally the WORST.

When you – let’s face it – pull a name from thin air to “differentiate” your child (read, "mark for life"), you thumb your nose at the parade of civilization before you.  ‘Cause YOU’RE smartererer and more originalistical than the 100 billion people that have gone before.  Right, buster.  Riiiiiight.

5.    Generally, your child should have no grounds for a civil suit (and importantly, monetary damages) relating to their given name.  Bonus points if you can pass off liability to a namesake (“Sue Uncle Festus, but leave us out of it.  He threatened to take us out of the will.”)

6.    The Google/Wikipedia Rule:  Be especially cautious when you’re using a famous name.  Cover of People or Us Weekly?  Out.  Cover of Time?  Maybe.  Cover of Scientific American?  Heck, why not?  Go for it.  Google every conceivable variation of the name.  Joe Stalin Cook or Sirhan Sirhan Thibodeaux might dust up a few hits.

If you’re using a historical name, make sure you know exactly what that historical figure is chiefly remembered for doing.  “Honey, says here this Benedict Arnold guy fought in the American Revolution for our side!”

7.    When naming a child, simply deferring to the father is… unwise.  By age 7, girls have their first thirteen children fully named.  Gentlemen, rolling in and issuing a name fiat after some unbelievably serious and contemplative thought during your morning jog is playing with fire.  Hot, raging, unquenchable, phosphorous-based fire.  And divorce proceedings.  Fellas, know your limitations and let “Patriot Brady Belichick Clarke” go.

Unless your frau’s choice is going to get your little boy killed in 2nd grade.   There’s that.

8.    Before picking an ethnic name, check your driver’s license (and a nearby mirror, if necessary) to ensure you actually belong to that ethnic group.  Thinking of a German name?  Great!  But if you can’t come up with your nearest German ancestor in 3 guesses, “Horst” is verboten.

9.    Last-names-as-first-names:  I can speak to this personally.  Mom’s maiden name for a first name?  Yep, that can work.  Absolutely.  But don't get cute.  Using U.S. presidential last names for girls’ first names is OUT.  Because, I mean, nobody in the world has thought of that before.  No, really.  You’re the first!  Don't give the world another Madison.

And using Irish last names for girls’ first names is OUT.  The Irish don’t even do this (see #8).

10.    A tricky one that I’ll call the “Boy Named Sue” Rule:  Be extremely careful with gender neutral names.  Like handling nitroglycerin in an Old West movie careful.  As someone who sports a name now popular in the preteen girl set, I'll say that it can work.  But you (meaning your child) accept certain risks.

No, you can’t use Ashley for a boy's name.  Yes, I know it’s in Gone with the Wind.

And now, an important word from Jack:


Morgan said...

Love the guidelines. And the name choice. :) Caroline was top of our list if little Lucas had been a chica. Can't wait to see a pic of baby Caroline with her long, curly, yellow hair and pink eyes.

One thing I wish I'd done before we decided on a name? Checked the Social Security name list for naming trends. That way, when we brought our little Aidan (a name I'd had picked out since I was...oh...15 or so) back to the US from China, I wouldn't have been shocked that our "traditional but not-so-common" choice had been swept up in an Aidan-and-names-that-rhyme-with-it craze. Maybe we should have been more kreative with our spelling and named him Aydynx (the x is silent) so that he'd stand out from the sea of other boys (and girls) with the same name. No?

El Comodoro said...

Yeah, the pink eyes are going to take some getting used to. As long as she's calmer than this one, I think I'm over it.

The Silent X! I missed one!

Jennifer said...

First of all, LOVE the post. I could not have said it better myself. Truly, with all the current sleep deprivation, there is no chance I could have said it better. Secondly, I can't wait to see Caroline's pretty pink eyes. I know she will be beautiful.

Roxanne said...

Let me start by saying that I very much like YOUR first name for a boy. I couldn't twist my husband's arm to go that route, but I associate it more with manly sea captains than with teenaged girls--though I've never known the former--only the latter.

Secondly, we named our son Thaddaeus. We are often asked, by church goers, "Where did you get his name?" Ummm. . .the New Testament. Lesser known apostle, but apostolic none-the-less. "Why is there an extra a?" Same answer--evidently the Greeks spelled both Nathanael AND Thaddaeus with "extra" a's before the Puritans got ahold of them and pared them down. We call him Thad.

Your kids have GREAT names. . .and I'm betting that Caroline's pink eyes will be just as gorgeous as her Big Brother's no matter their color.

El Comodoro said...

I'm stunned at church folk asking the origin of the name Thaddaeus. A name I like a lot, by the way. Were they fishing for the "oh, we had this crazy uncle named Thaddaeus" answer?

You just never can tell about people, sometimes.

I also just learned a lot about AE (evidently called 'ash' - no fooling). Go hit the Wikipedia entry; it's an absolute trove of nerdy info about graphemes and such.