Latest 3 Things

Monday, December 13, 2010

3 Bad Names

We live in a time when parenting as a skill has never been in greater peril or further beyond reproach. The current generation of parents is the least prepared and least cognitively capable in history, and yet their destruction of the social viability of the newest generation is protected as though “parenting” has suddenly appeared in the Bill of Rights. Perhaps one of the most egregious examples of the rearing of the “Can’t Lose” generation is the first real act of parenting foisted upon them: their naming. There was a time when naming children was a tribute to the past or dedication to the people and places which brought them about. That time has passed, and now naming has become about creating an identity for a child long before they even have one, and identifying the parents as creatively inspired people rather than simply loving parents. Far from its intended results, this practice has resulted in a generation of kids named more like a box of crayons than actual people. So while the day of Jimmies, Joes and Jennifers, goes here are 3 names you really shouldn’t give your kids.

1. Old Names. Names grow popular during certain times, and end up being almost assigned to a generation. So while “Ward” & “June” seem like perfectly reasonable names for the parents of the “Beav”, and “Steven” and “Elyse” sound exactly right for the parents of 80’s character icon Alex P. Keaton, hearing those names assigned to modern day kids seems to fit as poorly as their currently fashionable clothing. Honestly, if there’s a colorable reason in 2010 to name a little girl “Beverly” or a little boy “Ronald” then I’d like to hear it. There is a place for naming children after their grandparents or important people from their family history, and it’s called the middle name. While it’s true that many things go in cycles (e.g. music, fashion, economies, etc.) names are not always amongst them. Lately classroom roll calls sound more like nursing home rosters, and its hard to imagine going to a birthday party a Chuck E. Cheese for a kid named “Cyrus”. It’s no surprise to hear that a generation that gets the vast majority of its “inspiration” by plagiarizing past artists looking to the past for creative flair, but its especially disheartening to note their utter lack of taste, perspective or concern when they name their children like the character list from a Golden Girls episode.

2. Flower Sour. Most things that came out of the sixties are forgiven their expressive transgressions, as almost everyone (including new parents) had spent or were spending the majority of their time higher than a hot-air balloon ride. And while this era of substance-inspired hallucination produced some of the most amazing artistic revelations (in music, fine art and performance) we’ve ever known, it also licensed some of the most absurd and irresponsible naming this side of American Indians. The sixties licensed parents to name their children more like pets and fictional characters than actual human beings. Seriously, naming kids after natural objects is only excusable if you’re wasted. Otherwise, Rainbow, Flower and Rock are more like cruel jokes than inspired tributes. Can you imagine what it must be like, in a room full of Jakes and Jennifers what it must be like to be the only “Sunshine” or “Breeze”? If you want to give a child an appreciation for nature, you take them camping or send them to summer camp in the woods, you don’t name them after it. In fact, I can’t think of a better reason for a kid to rebel against the natural movement than being named “Birdsong” or “Moonbeam.” If my parents named me “Lake” or “Sky” I’d be burning up natural resources like a fat kid goes through birthday cake, just to spite them.

3. Miss Spelled. Making spelling mistakes in e-mails is embarrassing. Making spelling mistakes in text messages is forgivable. Making spelling mistakes in naming a child is a more reliable indicator of indignant stupidity than forcing people to wear their SAT scores on their shirts. A quick search for “alternate” spellings of “Kaitlyn” yields fifty six different versions (including the mnemonic gems: Kaitlynne, Catelyn, and Caytlinne; yes, seriously). Creating an uncommon spelling of a common name is about as creative as changing the brand of gas you use and thinking you’re driving a different car. And inserting silent letters into names is the sort of faux originality that makes me want to start slapping people with garden implements. Seriously, Joe with an “X”? It erases any kind of utility you might hope to obtain by giving a kid a decently common name, by forcing them to spell it every time they meet someone. What’s more, how much respect can you possibly have for someone who has a silent “Q” in their name? In any event, they’re fighting an uphill battle when meeting new people. If you want folks to know that your kids are exceptional and unique people, try raising them a generous personality, a strong education and strong sense of self - and give them a name that doesn’t require a disclaimer.

* * *

When it comes to names, I see them a lot like athletic equipment: on their own, they aren’t going to make you great, and if they work properly, they simply help you be as good as you can be; but if they’re bad, really bad, they can make things a whole lot harder for you than they should be, and even put you at a disadvantage. In the end, parents don’t have a responsibility to make you great, but rather to give you the best possible opportunity to do so. Great people don’t come from great, creative or interesting names any more reliably than then they do from “Mike”, “Sarah” or “Scott” - in fact with the five richest people in America being named Bill, Warren, Larry, Christy and Charles, maybe that unique name doesn’t seem like such a can’t miss step to success after all.


Kristina said...

You're going to hate my kids' names. (I like the Flower Sour ones :))

How about my name, Kristina Raye, and my daughters Courtney Raye, Scianna Jaylynn and Ehleena Kerowyn :) My kids can go by their first name, because everyone knows who i'm taking about.

And speaking of misspellings, why do you need two N's at the end of Glenn in order to pronounce it right? :):)

Kerry said...

I don't know if you will like my kids names of not, but each seems to fit the child very well. My oldest is Emma Colleen (a good German name mixed with a good Irish name) and the youngest is Kennedy Fallon (all the Irish there).
I wanted to have differnt, yet normal names for the girls and it worked for a while until Emma and Kennedy became popular again. The thing that always gets me is when people ask me how to spell Kennedy- I always have to say the normal way and they look at me like I am crazy!

Anonymous said...

The "4th thing" for me would be the any of the seemingly original but meaningless, boring and androgynous names like: Brayden, Cayden, Hayden or Jayden, etc., or anything rhyming any of these examples. The "5th" thing would be any of the more common "native-American sounding names commonly employed as pseudonyms by strippers" like: Cheyenne, Dakota, etc.

Ava said...

Jesus Christ! (Yeah, that's what I'm gonna name him.) :)

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