I remember my son’s soccer coach ticking his way through roll call, “Joshua, Jeremiah, Jason, Joshua, Joshua, Jason.”
You get the idea.
This was the 80’s and fashion dictated that boy’s names begin with a J.
To be fair, the prelude to my daughter’s games sounded little different, “Emily, Amber, Ashley, Emily, Ashley, Emily”.
I can sympathize with these name choices because the simplest protection a parent can offer a child is to hide them deep within a herd of names. Another school of thought maintains the opposite. It suggest that a proud name draws the child out of the crowd and into the realm of success.
But there is a dark side to this, some parents seem more enamored with their own self-expression than with the future of their child.
Years ago when a computer was as large as a room and cost more than a building, I worked a project to quickly find people. Our analysis told us it was faster to first search through a table of valid names rather than to slog through a database of millions of people.
So we created a table of unique given and surnames A given name is what the name suggests, the name that is given to you. Your surname is inherited.
And here are some of the odd given names that we found.
Names of beverages:
Imagine branding a child with a beverage name like: Evian, Fanta or Pepsi? Then there are the bar drink names: Chivas, Regal, Chardonnay and Guinness.
Names Shared by Vehicles:
In rural areas, some children share the name of the family pickup truck: Laramie, Saratoga, Cheyenne, Dakota, Montana and Sierra.
In urban areas, car names are more common: Camry, Porsche, Lexus, Infinity, Chevy or Celica. The only moniker worthy of a pass is Mercedes, a car named after a girl over a hundred years ago.
Off the Supermarket Shelf
In the produce section, you might hear a parent scolding their little cherub named: Apple, Cherry, Peach, Pear or Kiwi.
Moving toward the check out line, we might hear: Cocoa, Barley, Granola, Raisin and Rye.
Fortunately no names were gleamed from the cleaning products section.
Does a virtuous name produce a virtuous child?
We pray that Hope will be optimistic, Charity will be kind, Felicity will make us smile, Chastity will avoid boys with tattoos and Prudence will unfriend Chastity if she doesn’t.
One day we may encounter charming young men with names like: Rage, Doubt, Despair, Stingy or Angst?
Consider again the age old questions Ginger or Mary Ann? But then what of Cinnamon and Pepper? Or how about a girl named Jalapeno?
If she grows up to be anything like her name, don’t mess with her!!
One might expect names like Opal, Jade, Ruby, Diamond, and Emerald but not Feldspar.
One can predict with increasing accuracy that we will experience the phenomena of: Rayne, Rainy, Hale, Stormy, Sunny, Cloudy or Rainbow, but an increasingly popular name in Minnesota is Frosty.
So what is a parent to do?
Give them a middle name to opt out with.
When compelled to burden a child with your ego – at least have the courtesy of providing a fall-back nanme. Show kindness by giving them a common middle name, so when they escape your clutches, they can abbreviate their first name to an initial.
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first name is Francis. Any bets he took care of this on the first day of grade school?
J. Paul Getty was named Jean. Not a name for a ruthless tycoon.
The real scary one is J. Edgar Hoover. With a middle name like Edgar you got to wonder what the “J” stands for. It stands for “John” – go figure. I told you the guy was scary.
Some parents are so cruel they deny their children the chance to opt-out.
Think of poor Harry S Truman. Harry is not a bad name, but our 33rd president’s middle name was “S”. His parents chose the initial to placate his grandfathers, Anderson Shippe Truman and Solomon Young. The initial didn’t actually stand for anything.
Finally: There Has Got To Be A Law.
In the spirit of regulating everything for child safety, why not do what the Germans do?
In Germany, a baby’s name must reflect the sex of the child and not endanger the child’s well-being. There, creative parents are required to check with the local Das Standesamt (office of vital statistics) before tagging that cute bundle of joy with a name like Whoopi.
Not a bad idea.
46 thoughts on “A Rose By Any Other Name”
I work with students who were born in or are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Triomphe, Vainqueur, Celestin, Grecci (pronounced Gracey) and Gracia (pronounced with the short e sound) Promeldi and Godsend. Their names are all given as a portend of who they are to become. A triumph over adversity, or beautiful soul. Full of honor and pride. Names are fascinating.
THAT is how to name a child!
I love the German law. We had a down home version of that. I explained to my wife that we weren’t naming our child anything that will get sand kicked in their face.
I agree that there are far too many horrible names people give their children, for all the wrong reasons. You covered almost all of them, except for one of my pet peeves: “cute” and unusual spelling of ordinary names: Amy becomes Aimee or Ayme or some such nonsense. The kid will spend the rest of her life correcting people who try to write down her name.
As for middle names, I was nice to my daughter. I gave her the first name of Martha, since it was the name of the first born daughter on my mother’s side for several generations. But I drew the line at the middle name that had always gone with it: Cecil. That one died in my generation. Instead, I let my ego dictate and gave her my name as a middle name……
I pity the poor coaches and school teachers who have to read roll call with all those cute name spellings.
Uh, oh, I see my eldest daughter’s name in that list of names popular during your daughter’s time period. I really don’t recall the name Amber as popular then (mid-1980s).
My apologies to anyone who is a “junior” or a “senior,” but that’s one naming practice I don’t like. And I suggest avoiding your first name as a middle name for any of your children lest their (possibly bad) behavior be linked back to you. 🙂
I always got a kick out of the “III”(the third) designation. Why three? Obviously, the second is junior but we rarely hear “the fourth” or “the fifth” perhaps by that time people get sick of the whole thing.
In this town, there’s a surname of Bury. They own a variety of businesses, including a trucking one…. and of course, the name is boldly painted on the truck – Bury Quorn…..
Personally, I think it’s a little too early to bury it just yet, there’s still some life in the town.
PS Apparently the pronunciation is what makes all the difference….. but a newcomer like me wasn’t to know that!
Yeah, you want to be careful about the name you put on a truck.
There’s George Foreman, who named all his kids George, and we can’t forget Moon Unit Zappa. Of course, we have to mention Texas Governor Hogg, whose daughter was named Ima. The rumor that she had a sister named Ura is false. Ima actually was quite a gal, and did a lot of good in the state.
When I was born, my folks named me Linda because it was such an uncommon name. No one ever had heard it — in 1940s Iowa, anyway. Then, they added Lee as a middle name. That was fine — nice and alliterative — but when I added Leinen at the end, I got a great monogram and a name that sounds vaguely like a Hawaiian disease.
Actually Moon is doing quite well in life. She is a successful actress. Go figure – but it does help to have influential parents.
Fun, but also important, Craig. I knew a family named Pyle who named their son Rock. it’s beyond me why someone would do that. –Curt
This is priceless. Hey, another name! I used to work in preschools and there were some doozies. Great post, Greg. What a riot.
I remember our teacher trying to read through the class roster. but her problem was all the Eastern European names, like the ones with mostly consonants that employ a “y” as a vowel.
There was a custody battle in New Zealand regarding a child who had been named Talula Does The Hula In Hawaii. The judge had some common sense. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2008/jul/24/familyandrelationships.newzealand
OMG!! I can’t stop laughing! 😂😂 Years ago, a girlfriend of mine married a man with the last name of Crapps. Yeah. 😳
Their first child, a son, was named Shoot. Yup, Shoot Crapps. You can’t make this stuff up.
And hey! Everyone calls me GINGER. Does it help that it’s a nickname?!!
🔹 Ginger 🔹
Ginger is a great name!
Whoopi with a middle name of Cushion. Fone post, Greg.
I’d never heard about Germany’s requirements in re given names.
I don’t agree with that sort of thing. You should be able to name a baby as you like, even though weird names might result.
See ya’ —
Many years ago, a North Dakota man tried to change his name to 1001. The DMV objected and went to court. They said the name as a number would blow up their computer programs. The judge told them to reprogram the computers. They objected again saying it would cost millions.
This is crazy! A delightful post! Yep, even common names kids want to change. One of my sons identified with David. But we named him Jeffrey. In later years he was called JR. last name initial added. He thought it was cool, finally! 🙄 Christine
I wanted to name my son Jeff but one of my cousins jumped on the name. The odd thing is, they are from the Irish side of the family and every male is either called “Pat” or “Mike” and there are a lot of them.
Great post, and I am in full agreement, with this one small item – if “Brillo” is considered a cleaning product, it has been done – sorry. Even sorrier for the girl child named Brillo.
Brillo! Ouch! At least they weren’t named “Tidy Bowl”.
Ha! Do they still make Sani-Flush? My daughter, Sani
I know a kid who’s parents were huge fantasy nerds, and they named their kid Drizzt (after the Drow Elf Ranger in Forgotten Realms). Now, I like my fantasy novels from the D&D worlds as much as the next turbo-geek…but I wouldn’t go THAT far.
My boys have common names…because I grew up with a load of kids singing “Porky Sue” and didn’t want to inflict that kind of pain on my offspring.
I did opt for the out…I was much more comfortable with being named after a small round piece of wood you play with (Peg) instead of that awful Buddy Holly song.
What a great line! I am sure you got called “Peggy” from time to time. 🙂
I’d suggest another rule, that names should be spellable. My mum had a friend whose middle name was Sheila. Come high school exams, the friend was in a panic as she didn’t know how to spell it. Mum generously volunteered Sheelagh.
It is confusing. My daughter-ln-law’s name is Kaitin (did I spell that right) and every time I try to write it, I have to stop and think. I can never remember the spelling. Sorry Kaitlin. 😦
Back in the days when I worked with birth records, I was shocked at some of the names parents gave their kids. Some one pointed out that I was culturally bound and biased, which made sense when I thought about it. But sometimes…one baby girl was given a name that referred to the delight of a woman’s genitals. Howya gonna live that one down beyond the first grade? 😦
The BCA has a real identification problem with the number of immigrants who do not know their birthday. The DMV database has tens of thousands of people born on January 1st.
Wow…how do you build that into predictive revenue curves for age-based benefits? And think of all the women coming through Ellis Island who were named “Fema-le” because it was the best quick fix for a front-end puzzle!
I worked with a man whose last name was Shirley. Through Ancestry.com, he learned that his family name was Chorley – but to the ear of the clerk at Ellis Island, it sounded like Shirley. I imagine that happened to millions.
Dayton’s likely profited from that (remember those commercials?) 😀
OMG…I totally geeked out there…sorry! Lol…
But funny names are fodder for the masses!
Stingy is my favourite – but I’m being Generous.
That’s okay, I am Forgiving. 🙂
My older son is name Michael. In school and on the soccer team, role call went like this: Michael B, Michael J, Michael Mac, Michael S…..it was nuts.
In many cultures, people have patronymics and matronymics (names based on father and mother’s name) which gives rise to places in the Dakota where all the males are named John Johnson.
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