A Rose By Any Other Name

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.

Meteorological events?

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.

For instance:

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.