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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And now, an important word from Jack: