Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Baffling Conundrum of Human Existence: Part II

In the similar vein of my recent post on the baffling nature of torture porn, I'd like to talk about another questionable practice that is becoming more and more prevalent in American society: giving babies ridiculous and/or terrible names.

I'm going to preface this by saying that I'm not a parent. I don't have any babies. I have no experience in naming babies, so maybe it's really a lot more difficult than it seems.

I have however, been a baby. I also know what it is like to grow up with a stupid, pun-inducing name. My last name is Ball, and I can tell you, it made fourth grade a really fun time. But that's my last name. I don't blame my parents for not legally changing their last names before I was born. I do, however, take issue with parents who give their babies stupid names on purpose, out of a misguided drive to seem creative and unique.

The most offensive baby-naming practice is, I think, using the letter Y in place of other vowels. For example: Madisyn, Ayden, Gertryde, whatever. The base name is largely irrelevant. Or, rather irrelyvant. The idea seems to be that you can take a tired, overdone name (such as Madison), and make it "fresh" and "interesting" by changing the spelling. Unfortunately, that is a myth.

Of course, there's also the practice of replacing C's with K's and vice versa. Super original. Rather than name your son boring old Christopher, you can name him Kristopher! Ground-breaking!

Spelling a boring name in a stupid way doesn't make it more creative. It makes it more annoying. Everyone who sees the name spelled out can tell what the parents did there. And, quite frankly, I think it's been done enough times now that we can stop pretending it's a new thing.

Beyond a vague knowledge that some people I went to school with spelled their names really strangely, I wasn't aware that there were real people who thought the practice of replacing vowels with the letter Y actually existed until fairly recently. Fairly recently, I was in a room with a bunch of women who were talking about wanting to have babies and discussing what they wanted to name them. If I remember correctly, Madisyn and Ayden were both specifically mentioned as "great" "really cute" ideas.

Granted, I do live in Utah. In Utah, it is fairly common practice to come across people named Lehi and Nephi and Omner and things like that. Utah as a state is notorious for terrible, terrible names for babies.  Babies who then grow into adults who have to introduce themselves to potential dates and employers as Naphtali or Zedikiah for the rest of their lives.

Somewhere in Utah, there is at least one little girl named Christmas Cantata. There's another named Christmas Eve. I quit. I quit. I...just can't. I quit the human experience right here and now, because that's plenty.

I understand the desire to name a baby after a scriptural hero of some kind. You, as a parent, would like your child to emulate the characteristics of their namesakes, and you're hoping that by naming your child Ezekiel, he too will see a vision and become a messenger for the Lord. That's a nice goal for your child. Unfortunately, the fact is that the chances of that happening are really pretty slim, and even if your child does see a vision and become a messenger for the Lord, his name isn't really going to make a huge difference either way. As I understand it, the Lord looks for qualities and patterns of behavior, rather than the right first name when picking his messengers.

Also, if the baby is female and you really want to go Book of Mormon, your choices are Sariah and Abish. To my knowledge, those are the only females mentioned by name in the book of Mormon. There's also King Lamoni's Wife and King Lamoni's Dad's Wife. So, you know, take your pick.

Or just go with Christmas. It's not nearly as unpopular as it should be.

It's all well and good for the parents, who give their children asinine names and their equally asinine peers praise them for being so "creative" and "original," but they aren't the people who have to go through life being named Irelynd. In fact, I recently read a study that said that children who are given unique names tend to be more prone to committing crime. The logic behind this hypothesis is that children who are given normal, popular names tend to be more capable of fitting in with the rest of society, whereas people with weird names are more prone to ridicule and discrimination. This alienates them from society and makes them more likely to live outside the law.

Several years ago, I purchased a book containing several hundred "unique" baby names, names that were touted as "fresh, hip alternatives" to names like Jason and Sarah. Granted, I don't care for the name Sarah either, but no one got beat up for having that name, whereas I'm basically certain that any little girl that ends up with the name Dexter is begging for brutal mockery for the rest of her life.

Which actually brings me to my next point. Giving a child a name that typically does not accompany his/her gender is cruel. Really very cruel. Name a boy Kelly, and his life is plagued with gay jokes and sexual harassment from his peers, regardless of actual sexual orientation. Name a girl Dorian, and it's like you're begging her to become a lesbian and/or you were really hoping for a boy. Girls don't get the gay jokes so much. What girls get is ostracized from the other females in the peer group (who probably make gay jokes about them). Thus, she has no choice but to hang out with boys, and her behaviors become more stereotypically masculine to match the peers that will accept her.

Both Kelly and Dorian are allegedly considered gender-neutral names. They aren't. They are not, so people should stop punishing their children by pretending that they are.

I was once reading a baby names website that maintained that "Butch" is a name that is appropriate for both genders. It's not. It is not an appropriate name for a female under any possible circumstances. I don't care who you are or what your sexual orientation is or what kind of motorcycle you drive. If you're female, you don't want to be named Butch (although if there are females out there reading this who feel differently, please feel free to correct me).

Finally, there is the practice of naming babies after figures in popular culture. (Presumably) Thanks to Stephanie Meyer and her abstinence propaganda, Isabella was the number one baby girl name of 2009, according to the Social Security administration. Jacob was number one for boys. I was actually surprised that Edward wasn't higher on the list, but then I remembered that women who were old enough to ovulate pretty much invariably preferred jail-bait Jacob.

Once again, I quit the human experience. I really just can't do it anymore.

I guess the question that I'm posing that applies both to this discussion and the torture porn post from earlier is "What in the name of God is wrong with society?"

Sometimes, I really wonder what certain parents were thinking when they named their children. Did they just take an immediate dislike to the child? Was it a really difficult pregnancy and the mother wanted to punish the child? Were they hoping for something else but decided to use the original name they picked anyway?

There are some parents that are able to successfully straddle the line between names that every child has, and names that alienate their child from society. I feel that my parents were largely successful on that front. My siblings and I all have names that are interesting and somewhat on the unique side, but they don't cross over into being weird. My hat is off to parents who can do that. I understand why many parents want to avoid their child being in a class with six other children with the same name. It's confusing and annoying for everyone involved.

My personal naming preference is to use names that are classical in origin but are not so old fashioned as to have fallen completely out of disuse. Names like Alice and George (although the name Alice, much to my dismay, is on the rise, once again thanks to the abstinence propaganda of Stephanie Meyer). Good solid names that don't sound like strippers or pageant queens.

Recently, my brother-in-law and his wife had a baby. They named him Maxwell. Maxwell is an excellent name, for several reasons.

-It's appropriate for a tiny baby.
-It's appropriate for an adult man, which he will eventually be.
-It sounds like a superhero name.
-The phrase "Here is the President of the United States, Maxwell R. Kurth!" doesn't sound stupid. (I'm told this is an important test while picking a name for a baby).
-He will not have to go by his middle name because he's embarrassed by his first name
-He shares a first name with the manliest-named man in the world, Staff Sergeant Max Fightmaster.

In summation, well played, my friends.


  1. Is there really a Staff Sergeant Max Fightmaster? Because if there is, I hope I only meet him as I am dropping off my wayward child(ren) at his summer bootcamp.

  2. I always thought Lampshade would be a good name for a kid.