What's in a Name, Part Two

There have been a lot of people talking about weird baby names lately. STFU, Parents (one of my fave sites) had a post recently about it. Odd spellings and overly unique Hollywood baby names even showed up on CNN today! Let’s face it, there are some rough ones out there. However, stories of strange names are nothing new.

There’s the fairly racist urban legend of Lemonjello and Orangejello. People always swear that they know someone who knows someone named Lemonjello, but I’ve never seen any real record that they exist. There are kids out there in the world supposedly named Vagina, Urine, Eczema and loads of other physiological things, which are probably false.

It’s amazing how these urban legends have persisted, when so many people actually have real names that are just as strange. I went to school with a guy whose middle name was, I kid you not, Soulman. Presumably, we know what song was playing when he was conceived. Mary Christmas? There are tons of them on Facebook.

There are no laws in the US about what you can name your child either. In other countries, take Iceland for example, you can choose from a list of about 7000 names, and you have to have a hearing if you want anything different. They say this is to enable all children to keep from getting bullied and to get good jobs as adults. Makes sense to me. Many countries won’t let you name your child after people who commit genocides, the devil, or brand names. Also logical choices. In Germany, you can’t give your child a gender-neutral name (bad news for all champions of Pat, Dana, Lindsey, Riley, etc).

I think the one that makes the most sense is the Iceland one. I like to pretend that my child is going to get awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for curing cancer one day or become President. “Do you, Xanthe Dagmar Naylor, solemnly swear to uphold the constitution?” Clearly, we are not naming our child Xanthe Dagmar, but it’s something to think about.

Also, people get all up-in-arms about names that younger parents (and older ones) are giving their kids now, all in the name of uniqueness. The lovely kids of MTV’s Teen Mom are going to get blamed for this, as Nevaeh and Bentley have skyrocketed to popularity in the last year or two, at least in the US. You can start the “kids these days” hand-wringing and pearl-clutching all you like, Grandma, because older generations were just as bad.

In the 19th-century, it was all the rage to name your daughters after flowers and jewels (Pearl, Daisy, Violet, Hyacinth, Pansy, Amethyst, etc). Funnily enough, the flowers (especially Lily, Daisy, Poppy and Violet) are making a comeback. These names aren’t that bad, unless you consider that the people of England who are naming their kids this probably didn’t have gardens and lived in ultra-crowded, dust-covered slums during the Industrial Revolution.

Even earlier, there is a lot of evidence for really, really awkward names, courtesy of the Puritans, our much-beloved colonial ancestors. Hortatory names and biblical ones were all the rage in this group. Consider these: Mercy, Hope, Faith, Grace, John, Susannah, Mary. Not too bad, eh? What about Hopewell, Cotton, Thankful, or Jemimah? Maybe you could live with those too. How about Mehetabel, Belteshazzar, Fly-Fornication or Sin-Notwithstanding? Those are weird, even by today’s standards. My favorite is surely the name of free-market economist Nicholas Barbon: Nicholas If-Jesus-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebon.

I would go by Nicholas too.

As for our favorite biblical boy name, it's Jesse (grandson of Ruth - which is my mom’s name). However, in the UK, a jessie is a schoolboy taunt for someone who’s very girly and not sporty.

Oh well, back to the drawing board...


Popular Posts