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stupid names people give their kids
one way to avoid having your kids hate you when they grow up
by jason gilmore (@JasonGilmore77)
3.12.04
humor


Thankfully, your humble author was given a normal, easy to spell name that is full of family meaning: Jason Gilmore. The middle name’s a little odd but it is certainly not embarrassing and overall, I have fully embraced it. (Think Roots. Think Kunta Kinte. Think Reading Rainbow. Now you’ve got it.)

Others, sadly, have not been as fortunate. And I -- having been born black and raised in what many of you would refer to as “the ‘hood” -- have been exposed to most of them. To start, let me familiarize you with the Clark family of Aurora, Illinois, where they had three daughters and a son. The daughters were named Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. Not surprisingly, their personalities fit their names to a T: Tuesday was moody, lethargic and paranoid, Friday was one of the funniest, coolest people I’ve ever met and Saturday -- as you might have guessed -- was a crack addict and occasional lingerie model. But what makes their names so stupid was not just that their parents were four kids short of a week (and apparently, a few cards short of a deck). Nor was it that their parents failed to understand that themes for your children’s names is rarely a good idea. No, what made these girls’ given names the ultimate faux pas of children’s monikers was the simple fact of what the parents named their brother. They named him Tom.

I’m not saying that any unusual name is stupid, because if we were all named John and Sarah, the world would be a boring place. It’d be like that scene in GoodFellas, when Pauly reveals that all his kids, nephews and nieces are named either Peter, Paul or Marie. When I was 15 and -- as I look back on it now -- insane, I liked this girl named Julie, whose mother was also named Julie. What follows is an excerpt from the time when I made a hormonally charged phone call to her house:

“Hello?”

“Yeah, dis Julie?”

“Um, yes this is Julie. Whom may I ask is speaking?”

“Yo, what’s up, baby? This is your boy Cool J. I’m a meet you by Ottawa Park so we can get our freak on.”

“Is this Jason? This is Julie’s mother, Mrs. Jones. Have you lost your mind? Wait ’till I see your mother at church tomorrow!”

Commemorating your child’s birth by giving them the name of the alcoholic beverage under which they were conceived is also ill-advised. Alize, Tanqueray, Courvoisier, Martini, naming your twins Bartles and Jaymes; that’s not going to do very much for your child’s self-esteem down the road. You might as well go the extra mile and name them Heroin or Cocaine.

In the Bible, it seemed like everyone’s tag or city had a purpose behind it. This was good too, unless you did something wrong, in which case you had to live with that label for the rest of your life. The prophet Hosea named his children Lo-Ruhamah (which means “not loved”) and Lo-Ammi (which means “not mine”). And as popular as Biblical names are in Western society, there are several that I do not suggest giving to one’s offspring: Jezebel, Judas, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Nero, Cain and my all time favorite infamous Old Testament moniker: Nebuchednezzar.

Naming kids after material items or attributes that you will never possess is bad business as well. Doling out markers such as Mercedes, Porsche, Lexus or Success will make your daughter materialistic and vain. Some are okay, like Faith, Joy and Serenity, if you don’t mind them enduring a childhood of people teasing them on the days when they do not live up to their preordained traits. Mothers, do not call your ugly sons Denzel, nor should you name your bucktoothed daughters Halle or Charlize. People do not become attractive by name osmosis. If that were true, everyone would name their sons Jason. And fathers, let me give you this word of advice. I respect your intent, but please, do not, under any circumstances, name your daughter Chastity. You have been warned.

If you have already named your son Kobe, it is too late to change it now. You may as well wait until the trial is over and hope everything blows over. If you had named him LeBron, like I told you to, you wouldn't be in this situation now.

Transgressions travel freely across racial divides and geographical boundaries. I have seen black people create names like Fo’shen. I have seen pseudo middle class white people give their sons wannabe old money handles like Thadford, Baxter or Huntington. Once, I came across a Vietnamese guy, born in this country, who was given the name Phuc Bich Dang. I’m going to leave that one alone, except to say that his junior high years must have been difficult.

So please be sensitive to these issues when naming your child. Their aspirations may be great: they may someday want to be President of the United States or CEO of their own corporation. All of which would be severely hindered by a lack of visible intent towards their main identity component. The choice is yours. You can name your daughter Condoleezza or Oprah if you want, but rest assured they will only be amongst the most powerful women in the world, max.


ABOUT JASON GILMORE

Jason Gilmore is a film director, screenwriter, novelist and unrepentant Detroit Pistons fan. Track him down on Facebook.

more about jason gilmore

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COMMENTS

tim lockwood
3.12.04 @ 1:32a

Jason, white people have their own burden to bear when it comes to naming children - namely, once we discover a trend in names, we all follow along like sheep. If you know when a certain name was popular, you can pretty well guess a white person's age just by their name.

Ten to fifteen years ago, a name like Cody would have been unique. Now, every white boy currently in first grade is named Cody, Hunter, Chase, or Tyler. In five years, when the batch of babies born in 2003 gets to first grade, it will be Aidan, Jaden, Caden, and Ethan.

I'm not making that up - check it out for yourself. Okay, so the site I just linked to doesn't differentiate, but those names sound SO much like the trendy suburban white-bread names I've grown accustomed to.

I can only imagine the way teachers will roll their eyes as they scan their new student lists in 2009.

juli mccarthy
3.12.04 @ 1:43a

Watch it there, Lockwood, my niece's name is Jayden. Although she's 10, so she was named slightly ahead of the trend. (It could have been worse - her mother initially wanted to name her Axl Rose Phaedre.)

Two quick name stories (and I have a billion of them): I know of a family that has four little boys. Their names are Aristotle, Euripedes, Omnipotence and Curly. And I grew up down the street from sibs named Faith, Hope, Grace and Chuck.

jason gilmore
3.12.04 @ 1:51a

see, juli, that's what I'm saying... if you're going to give your kids weird names, stick with it...don't have these wild names then name the other one Joe...what kind of mess is that?

tim lockwood
3.12.04 @ 2:26a

Juli, take another look at that list that I linked to. Jaden (Jayden) is now in the top 4 of boys' names.

But it points to what I was saying. One person comes up with an original name (apparently 10 years ago) and everyone says, "Oooh, I like that name! I think that's what I'll name my child. Baa-aa-aa."

Mrs. Lockwood and I have purposely avoided the sheep mentality. For both boy and girl names, we have decided on a name that didn't even crack the top 100 the last three years. Traditional names, good names, not weird names, but names that aren't heard very often.

(Aside to Juli - sorry, the name Julian didn't make it past her, at least this time around. And yes, I'm saying what you think I'm saying. Call us this weekend!)

sandra thompson
3.12.04 @ 7:33a

I don't want to talk about childrens' names. Or grandchildrens' names. When my husband and I named our second daughter Lauren in 1962, because we liked the sound of it as well as the actress, (who at the time was the only person on earth named Lauren), we had no idea that everybody and his brother, step-brother, neighbor and friend would do the same thing. We said, "Oh, good, now there'll be two of them." Hah! So what did she do? Named her first daughter Katharine, spelled the way Hepburn spelled it. I'm not going to tell you what my grandgeeks' names are. It's difficult enough being a parent, and perhaps the most difficult one thing you'll ever do is give a child a name. Of course, at least in this country, one is allowed to change one's name to anything one wants. I find that a comforting thought.

russ carr
3.12.04 @ 10:02a

You might as well go the extra mile and name them Heroin or Cocaine.

Back when I was a reporter, I remember going through the police blotter one morning and seeing the arrest of a woman named Marijuana (for crack possession).

juli mccarthy
3.12.04 @ 10:08a

(Aside to Juli - sorry, the name Julian didn't make it past her, at least this time around. And yes, I'm saying what you think I'm saying. Call us this weekend!)

OH MY GAWD!!!!!!!!

[edited]

adam kraemer
3.12.04 @ 10:13a

see, juli, that's what I'm saying... if you're going to give your kids weird names, stick with it...don't have these wild names then name the other one Joe...what kind of mess is that?

I believe that's called, in scientific circles, the PacMan effect: Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde.

russ carr
3.12.04 @ 10:17a

Congrats, Tim.
(Otherwise this is just to close the tag.)

tracey kelley
3.12.04 @ 10:34a

My husband worked a remote and a slew of people came by for free stuff. A woman came up with her two daughters, bragging about how she named them Chardonnay and Champagne, because "that's how they were conceived."

Yep. Not out of love, but out of lush.

Yay Tim!

I've always been a traditionalist with names. If I were to have children, I like the name Christopher for a boy and Renee for a girl. There's no need getting all Irish or whatever.

Another popular name that has exploded is Kaylie/Kylie. We have 3 friends whose daughters are Kaylie/Kylie, and I have a devil of a time keeping them all straight.

russ carr
3.12.04 @ 10:57a

I am inescapably "all Irish or whatever." Fortunately most Irish male names are fairly reasonable, though there is the occasional Seamus or Padraig. Had Brendan been a girl, instead... Kathy would have had to put her foot down to avoid Aoife or Maeve or Niamh.

jael mchenry
3.12.04 @ 11:35a

Maeve rocks. I don't know about Aoife.

This coming from the girl who just had to tell the "tent-peg-to-the-head" story AGAIN yesterday. Bible schmible.

mike julianelle
3.12.04 @ 11:48a

It could have been worse - her mother initially wanted to name her Axl Rose Phaedre.

Juli: how, exactly, is that worse? That name is AWESOME!

tim lockwood
3.12.04 @ 11:55a

As Irish names go, I've always liked the (girl) name Siobhan. First time I heard it was on the old soap opera "Ryan's Hope". It took me a while to figure out that the name that sounds like "sha-bonne" (or is it "sha-vonne"? I could never tell just by listening) was spelled that way. I had to read the end credits several times.

sarah ficke
3.12.04 @ 12:07p

I took a class in old Irish tales, and now I'm tempted to name a son Ronan.

Russ, how do you pronounce Aoife?

My family has a slew of "family" names. The women's names are particularly old-fashioned: Virginia, Madeline, Eugenia. And as a kid I thought that there was no way I'd ever name my daughter Virginia or Eugenia, but now I'm starting to think it would be neat to keep the tradition going.

russ carr
3.12.04 @ 1:10p

Aoife = EE-fah. It's the Gaelic counterpart to Eve or Eva.

And Tim, I've long been a Siobhan fan.

dathan wood
3.12.04 @ 2:14p

And as popular as Biblical names are in Western society, there are several that I do not suggest giving to one’s offspring: Jezebel, Judas, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Nero, Cain
Yep, Dathan thought Moses was full of it and led a rebellion in the desert. Needless to say, he's no bible hero. My mom thought if I started out with the name a bad guy, I could only go up from there. Better than Lee Harvey I guess....

jael mchenry
3.12.04 @ 2:20p

The Biblical Jael lulled a guy to sleep and then put a tent peg through his head.

But he was a bad guy and the good guys were grateful, so they sang a song about "Most blessed of women be Jael." So... my parents focused on that part. The happy part, with the singing, instead of the nasty part, with the bleeding.

People often back off slightly after hearing the tale. I'm like, "How am I supposed to tell it nicely? There's a tent peg!"

dathan wood
3.12.04 @ 2:24p

Camp it up, she's kinda the original Buffy.

lee anne ramsey
3.12.04 @ 3:18p

Okay, I have to admit that for our entire freshman year, I thought Jael's name was J.L.

I've often been tempted to change my name to Skye just to irritate my parents. (Hi, I'm 30.) But since I recoil in horror at ever being anyone but "Lee Anne Ramsey" I doubt it will happen. A major sticking point with boyfriends...

michelle von euw
3.12.04 @ 4:31p

Love the Irish names. I'm a big fan of Aislyn, though I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to sneak that one by, unless it's buried as a middle name.

Name trends are hysterical. All the Jessicas, Jennifers, and yes, Michelles, have been replaced by Hannahs and Graces and Emmas, names our mothers would have found way too stuffy and traditional.

jael mchenry
3.12.04 @ 4:35p

See, I always liked Emma, but now I wouldn't do it cuz it's become trendy. Stinkin' Friends.

Back to Fiona, then. And Nolan. The secret is to be different enough to stand out, but not weird enough to be mockable.

robert melos
3.12.04 @ 10:34p

I've always loved unusual names. As a Robert, in a family of roughly 9 other Roberts, we ended up with Bobby, Big Bob, Little Bob, etc. For a long time I wished I'd been named Fred. There were only two of them in the family.

One time I worked with a customer who went by Ty. He even professed to being Tyler, but when he had to put his legal name on a contract he sheepishly told me it was Tylenol.

As for the Irish names I like Finnian, Seamus, and Ayre.

tim lockwood
3.13.04 @ 1:16a

My mother-in-law sent a list of relatives' names from her side of the family.

There was one that was rather unfortunate, and it stood out among the rest: Felixine.

Okay, I just re-read this:

One time I worked with a customer who went by Ty. He even professed to being Tyler, but when he had to put his legal name on a contract he sheepishly told me it was Tylenol.

And I have to ask, did his parents at least have the decency to name his siblings Bayer and Excedrin?

[edited]

robert melos
3.13.04 @ 5:34p

And I have to ask, did his parents at least have the decency to name his siblings Bayer and Excedrin?

Not that I know of. His girlfriend, with whom he was buying the house, was named Shilenni.


matt morin
3.15.04 @ 4:19p

I need to get my mother in on this discussion. She's been a neonatal nurse for 35 years and has heard more strange baby names than all of us combined.

The best (or worst) ones - and I swear this is a true story - are the parents who named their twins the following:

The boy: "L.R. - Low Rider"
The girl: "R.V. - Recreational Vehicle."

juli mccarthy
3.16.04 @ 1:03a

I decided to keep my penchant for "cool and fun" names restricted to my cats. Which is a very good thing, or my child could have ended up being named Rocket.

We tend to stick to fairly classic names in my family (Jayden being the sole exception - she was named for a Star Trek:TNG episode) - we have Katherine, Mary, Victoria, Angeline, Abigail, Jayden, Aurora and Joseph.

russ carr
3.16.04 @ 10:35a

That R.V. chick has her career already laid out before her.

adam kraemer
3.16.04 @ 11:04a

Okay, I have to admit that for our entire freshman year, I thought Jael's name was J.L.

Well, it sort of was.

lisa r
3.31.04 @ 4:15p

Back to Fiona, then. Two words: Think Shrek. ;)

I can beat the L.R. and R.V. story. A blacksmith once shared this story with me: Seems his mom was a nurse in the maternity ward in a western South Carolina hospital. One of the patients over heard the nurses talking about the baby having "meconium stain" in the delivery room, and thought it would be a cool name for her child. The nurses had to explain that meconium is the scientific word for "first bowel movement".

Moral of the story: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, even in the name game.



[edited]



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