C'mere, AquaFresh!
November 13, 2003 6:50 PM   Subscribe

We've had lively discussion of unusual baby names here before, but this BBC report about a growing American trend is certainly a curious and rather disturbing angle.
posted by moonbird (111 comments total)
Yeah, the next thing you know some parent is going to name their darling daughter after a hotel in France ....
posted by anastasiav at 6:54 PM on November 13, 2003

Children have been named after big brands as diverse as beauty company L'Oreal, car firm Chevrolet ...

I used to live upstairs from a woman named Chevelle. She was around my age (born ca. 1970). I didn't have the nerve to ask if she was concieved in the back seat of one.

But maybe it's not so weird. Maybe a baby born in an elevator will get named Otis.
posted by jonmc at 6:56 PM on November 13, 2003

My wife had given birth to twins and we named one Fair and the other Balanced
posted by Postroad at 6:56 PM on November 13, 2003

It is no different from the 19th century when parents named their children Ruby or Opal... it reflects their aspirations

I am named Stephen, after "Saint Stephen" - tough luck parents.
posted by stbalbach at 6:58 PM on November 13, 2003

Postroad, while I value your comments highly,
I'm afraid you'll be sued by Mr. O'Reilly.
posted by troybob at 6:59 PM on November 13, 2003

People really are getting exceedingly stupid. Perhaps all food should be served in containers which require basic problem solving and cognitive skills to open, perhaps by following written instructions on the back. Thin the crowd out a little.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:03 PM on November 13, 2003

I have one word to say here--"Tiffany".

And there are plenty of English girls named "Tiffany", so the BBC better stop biting our USerican ass about this.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:06 PM on November 13, 2003

And let's not forget the consortia
of Brit girls name 'Porsche.'
posted by troybob at 7:09 PM on November 13, 2003

seems i take more care in giving my cats respectable and appropriate names than some people do for their children. niiiiice.
posted by t r a c y at 7:09 PM on November 13, 2003

posted by inpHilltr8r at 7:19 PM on November 13, 2003

sometimes children are named after luxury items, sometimes luxury items are named after children.
posted by taz at 7:20 PM on November 13, 2003

So... Who's going to bite the bullet and name their kid Metafilter?
posted by denbot at 7:20 PM on November 13, 2003

Let's all remember that Ramona Quimby was way ahead of the curve on this, naming her doll Chevrolet back in the 60s.
posted by soyjoy at 7:23 PM on November 13, 2003

"Soda" and "Seven" from a great Seinfeld episode. 'Nuff said.
posted by davidmsc at 7:23 PM on November 13, 2003

My mother's middle name is Chase, supposedly after the bank, and her sister's is Ford. This was back in the '40s before it was hip. Their brother evidently didn't get corporate sponsorship, though... he got away with "Littleleaf."
posted by moonbird at 7:23 PM on November 13, 2003

My daughter has a classmate called Galaxy.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:24 PM on November 13, 2003

15 years in the future

Segway Chin : "Hey have you seen Viagra?"
Spongebob : "No, I think she's out with Levitra."
Sony Bono : "Huh, I thought she was dating Ex-Stacy."
ACTIVISION.COM Smith : "Man, she's so hot."
posted by Stan Chin at 7:25 PM on November 13, 2003

Heh...thanks for reminding me, soyjoy...loved the Ramona books as a kid. I always liked the dog's name: Ribsy. But what the hell kind of name is "Beezus?" Oh, that's right...short for "Beatrice."

And speaking of names -- can anyone tell me how or why "Chuck" is the appropriate nickname for "Charles?" Or "Hank" for "Henry?"
posted by davidmsc at 7:25 PM on November 13, 2003

Consider this list of girls' names from my child's 6th grade class: Shayna, Chandler, Shelby, Cotura, Chesney

Some interesting choices.
posted by davidmsc at 7:26 PM on November 13, 2003

>Jacob and Emily were top for 2002.

That's just messed up.
posted by graventy at 7:28 PM on November 13, 2003

I went to school with a girl whose last name was Cherry. Her first name was Pepsi.

When we lived in American Samoa, many of my Samoan friends had names like: Cocoaland (because Cocoa comes from America), Pringles, and Sunkist.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 7:31 PM on November 13, 2003

This whole thing is McFucked Up.
posted by trondant at 7:38 PM on November 13, 2003

In the William Gibson book Virtual Light, a character is named Chevette, and in Idoru, a character is named Chia, because "...her mother, who'd spoken very little English at that point, chose Chia's name from something cycling past on the Shopping Channel, the phonetic caress of those syllables striking her there in Postnatal Recovery as some optimally gentle combination of sounds Italian and English..."

Thought it was apropos.
posted by Snyder at 7:59 PM on November 13, 2003

People name their kids after flowers all the time, there are plenty of Daisys, Roses and Hyacinths not to metion Lilys...the day I ran into a Lobelia, a Kansas farm girl, was unique though. (My daughter's name is Chloe, which means "profusion of blossoms" but is not a specific flower).

I once knew a "Blossom", not named for the TV show/character, she was born to some hippies long before that.
posted by m@ at 8:04 PM on November 13, 2003

I must admit that Wendell is not my original given name. And although my 'real' name is not immediately recognizable as a brand, I did once own a cassette recorder with my name on it. Besides, that name was also kind of an 'internet brand' long before I started blogging.

In the words of Michael Stipe: "I've said enough; I've said too much."
posted by wendell at 8:17 PM on November 13, 2003

In regards to an ethnographic standpoint - I wonder what the ethnicity and/or culture of these parents are.
posted by jazzkat11 at 8:18 PM on November 13, 2003

" I have spoken all the day with Preparation H. Boy what a pain in the ass"
posted by elpapacito at 8:21 PM on November 13, 2003

Recently, after looking at a baby-naming bulletin board and wondering if the modern bad naming trends -- from Jaydenne to Kam'ron to MaiddyLynne -- were as prevalent as I feared they were, I decided to look at a random hospital's new-baby site. It was even worse. One of the first names I encountered was a variation of Alexis -- spelled A'Lexxus. I sort of had to give cred to the parents for so cleverly combining an overly trendy girls' name, an unnecessary apostrophe and a "high-class product" into one awful name. Poor kid.
posted by lisa g at 8:38 PM on November 13, 2003

Even the oddest names may sound quite normal to us (or rather to our society) a hundred years from now.

Nearly two hundred years ago an English couple on a extended honeymoon tour of Europe named their two daughters after the cities in which they were born - Parthenope and Florence. Their friends thought it was terribly odd and rather ridiculous. But before the century was out hundreds of baby girls would be named after Florence Nightingale, though the name is out of fashion now. Though no one was ever named after her sister Parthe, she being a nonentity and rather neurotic, so that still sounds rather odd.
posted by orange swan at 8:39 PM on November 13, 2003

He adopted the name Ford Prefect upon his arrival on the planet Earth, based on his research, which indicated that it would be nicely inconspicuous.

Perhaps it will. Perhaps it will.
posted by dhartung at 8:48 PM on November 13, 2003

There is a kid in a local school here with the first name of Orangejello. Although it's pronounced or-an-juh-lo, I still find it a bit odd.
posted by moonbiter at 8:52 PM on November 13, 2003

You just know that the 2020 NBA draft will feature a first round selection named Escalade.
posted by MAYORBOB at 9:11 PM on November 13, 2003

And speaking of names -- can anyone tell me how or why "Chuck" is the appropriate nickname for "Charles?" Or "Hank" for "Henry?"

Probably a shortening of the way the names were pronounced in the past and in different languages. See Hank, for one example.
posted by moonbiter at 9:14 PM on November 13, 2003


That's not a name, that's a porn alias.

There needs to be some kind of mandatory training where all new parents learn the Secretary of State test.
posted by PrinceValium at 9:23 PM on November 13, 2003

My friend has cousins named 'Mercedes' and 'Porche' ...His uncle collects luxury cars.

...And yes, this is a sickening development. Not surprising, though. Remember that ridiculous publicity stunt that IUMA had for couples to name their baby 'IUMA' to win cash and prizes?
posted by Down10 at 9:32 PM on November 13, 2003

So... Who's going to bite the bullet and name their kid Metafilter?

If it's not a member, I sure hope Matt gives them an account.
posted by AstroGuy at 9:34 PM on November 13, 2003

My mom's an elementary school secretary, and she's also mentioned an Orangejello. With a sibling named Lemonjello. (And there might be a third I can't remember.)
posted by Utilitaritron at 9:41 PM on November 13, 2003

And always remember that the Edsel was named after the son of Henry Ford.
posted by wendell at 9:42 PM on November 13, 2003

>Jacob and Emily were top for 2002.

That's just messed up.

How about Jakub? I was on a pregnancy board and some twit wanted to name her child either Jakub or Maddisynn. I ran screaming from the place after that. Another board I was on featured a 19 year old who gets huffy that people think it was dumb of her to name her first child Merlyn. I just don't understand why people have this compulsion to give their children awful names, and why they seem to have no friggin' clue how dumb they sound. (We're planning on naming ours Nathaniel, which no one except my 14 year old seems to object to.)
posted by Shoeburyness at 9:48 PM on November 13, 2003

I dated a girl named after her parents' postal code: Marika (m4r1ka). She hated it. I thought it was fantastic.

Robert Rodriquez has a son named Rocket. He has another kid with an "odd" name but I can't remember what it is.

I ever have a boy I'll name him Howlin'.

No offence meant to anyone here, but aren't there enought people named David, Steven, Jacob, Anne, Mary, etc? I applaud people who give their kids unique names (though admittedly, after products is very strange).

Shoeburyness, I'd rather "awful" than common. :) Personally, I prefer Merlin to Nathaniel any day. (Honestly, no offence meant.)
posted by dobbs at 10:05 PM on November 13, 2003

I still think Telephony would be a great name for a girl. Sort of like the Greek muse of conversation.
posted by SPrintF at 10:08 PM on November 13, 2003

The name Mercedes is Spanish and extremely common for women of a certain age...my maternal grandmother was one, as was a great aunt on that side of the family.

My own parents were indeed hippies and were "given" my name by an Inuit ex-girlfriend of my dad's. Actually, it was more a case of having it thrust upon them; she laid her hands on my mum's belly in her 8th month and said "her name is Shyana". They had chosen not to be informed as to my gender and I think mum was just too damn superstitious to call me anything else. Decided it was my "true" name. Bah.

I used to detest it, and I've had thousands of nicknames, but when all is said and done I am amused by the fact that the only other Shyana's I have met face to face were named after me.
posted by squasha at 10:11 PM on November 13, 2003

A friend of a friend is named Female (pronounced like tamale) because her ESL parents misread the birth certificate and thought the doctors had given her a name.
posted by rorycberger at 10:13 PM on November 13, 2003

If I have a son, Pistol Pete. If a daughter, Rosacea.
posted by Hildago at 10:16 PM on November 13, 2003

I have heard the Orangejello/Lemonjello siblings' story so many times for so many years, I am pretty darned sure it's a myth. Same with "Female."

See Snopes' page about this kind of name.

It's always a FOAF, isn't it?

My FOAF story involved someone at college named "Marijuana Money," but I don't knowif it is true.
posted by litlnemo at 10:32 PM on November 13, 2003

Has anyone ever wondered what Frank and Gail Zappa were thinking when they named their kids Dweezil, Moon Unit, Ahmet and Diva?
posted by Lynsey at 10:39 PM on November 13, 2003

Litlnemo beat me to that Snopes link, but yeah, I call bullshit until I have proof.
posted by sklero at 10:51 PM on November 13, 2003

There was, however, a person at my high school named Stoney Brickwall. Not sure on spelling.
posted by Hildago at 10:53 PM on November 13, 2003

Lynsey, my guess is "hehe".
posted by rudyfink at 10:56 PM on November 13, 2003

Orangejello/Lemonjello siblings' story so many times for so many years, I am pretty darned sure it's a myth

Hmm. I'll have to check to make sure I got the name right (I might have replaced an equally ludicrous name with 'Orangejello', as there is a distinct possiblity that I have read the snopes entry).

The source is not a FOAF but my brother, who works at as a janitor at the school in question.
posted by moonbiter at 10:58 PM on November 13, 2003

I know of a couple who named their newborn son... ahem... Leviticus Amadeus Gretzky Johnson. No joke.
posted by Robot Johnny at 11:04 PM on November 13, 2003

Well, Lindsay--uh, I mean Lynsey--Frank decided (according to his autobiography) that his kids were gonna have a hard enough time with a. the last name "Zappa" and b. his reputation that they might as well have wierd names. (A "Dweezil" is Zappa-speak for your little toe, btw.)

Jacob and Emily were top for 2002.

You don't say.
posted by arto at 11:09 PM on November 13, 2003

That is rather funny. Naming your kid after a cosmetic brand name for instance, however in 15 years it probably won't raise an eyebrow.

I guess car companies aren't going to be naming car models Tiffany or Babs any time soon.

OTOH, a few days ago here in Ontario, Marylin Churley, a Cabinet Minister and party Deputy Leader, whose party didn't get minority status in the House of Commons [7 seats instead of the minimum 8] and therefore aren't allowed to mention or use their party name on their letterheads and all correspondance, has changed her last name, adding her party affiliation to it so when addressed in the House of Commons, they have to use her full name. That's Marylin Churleyndp. No longer just a member of the New Democratic Party. Don't know when it takes effect, but her web site has yet to reflect her new name. [The MPP status is Member of Provincial Parliament]
posted by alicesshoe at 11:20 PM on November 13, 2003

My parents, in trying to be unique in giving me a name, stuck together as many girl's names as they could come up with and then tacked on a really long last name. All these new-fangled names make mine seem so overly southern and old fashioned. Though I have considered legally changing my name to Orb seeing as that's what everyone calls me anyway (I cannot tolerate hearing my name spoken out loud repeatedly).

Had I been lucky enough to been born a boy, they would have made me a Nelson, Jr. Damn I wish I was a boy.

And if you were called Lora-Lee Anna-Marie, you'd hate it too.
posted by Orb at 11:39 PM on November 13, 2003

From a friend who had to collect this guy's name for statistical porpoises:

Glory Be Free Salvation Holly Hazel Basil Brown.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:45 PM on November 13, 2003

Sounds like something out of the Mormon Name Generator.
posted by arto at 12:59 AM on November 14, 2003

Sony Bono

[this is brilliant]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:42 AM on November 14, 2003

Ah, when the English-bashing began, way back there up there (^), just because the report was from the British media, it was interesting to note it was done with the usual American lack of background, so:

Anastaviav: As her grandfather started the chain, the family name is just that - the family name.

Sidhevil: Tiffany, the jewelers, was named one of its founders - Charles Lewis Tiffany - who was American. Some years later, America produced a "singing sensation" by the same name. We Brits are blameless in this instance...

Troybob: The name is Portia. Keep it in mind though. as it may help those people who can't pronounce Porsche correctly.

posted by benzo8 at 2:35 AM on November 14, 2003

Me-ow. Fucking Brits got their panties in a bunch again. Charles is rubbing off.
posted by The God Complex at 2:47 AM on November 14, 2003

Those statistical porpoises make harsh bosses!
posted by infravires at 2:48 AM on November 14, 2003

You can't just name your baby anything you want here in Germany either. You have to pick one from a list.

(I just moved here and that fact stunned me into silence for a full minute.)
posted by jopreacher at 2:59 AM on November 14, 2003

That is a draw dropper, jopreacher. And something tells me Adolf isn't on that list. Very common name before the end of world war II, but no German baby has been named that since. Of course, that seems to be due to government control rather than cultural mores.
posted by orange swan at 3:47 AM on November 14, 2003

Charles is rubbing off.

That's an unfounded accusation......expect a call from the palace imminently.

I have a cousin called Portia, nothing to do with the car, the name has been in the family for generations, the first daughter to be born in any generation is saddled with the name.
The male equivalent is Whitfield, which makes me glad I am one of the younger of my generation.
posted by Markb at 3:58 AM on November 14, 2003

Used to be, people made a name for themselves by their actions and deeds. Nowadays everyone's trying to be a star right out of the womb.

Here's a tip to expecting parents: some of the most powerful people in the world today have very boring first names. Just choose something that won't get them beat up on the playground, and you'll significantly improve their odds at leading a normal or potentially successful life.

You can't just name your baby anything you want here in Germany either.

I learned that when I first visited and was similarly dumbstruck. What in the hell is wrong with the Germans?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:48 AM on November 14, 2003

Those sure are some funny names said:
anastasiav, Civil_Disobedient, orange swan, The God Complex, Shoeburyness, inpHilltr8r, Utilitaritron et al.

It's funny how we almost all go under wacked out personal pseudonyms here on the web, partially sure for privacy but also because we get the chance to rename ourselves.

When I'm president I'm going to make the kids name themselves, when they're six. Until then it's baby boy lastname and so on.

My name probably would have been G.I. Joe Chewbakka under those rules.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:40 AM on November 14, 2003

Please! Who cares what a person is called, really? I think it's better that parents take the time to name their children after something they like or find interesting rather than whether or not it "goes well" with the last name. It shows a little more creativity and I think most would feel somewhat unique having an uncommon name, even if they never admit to their folks. As for naming kids after corporate names, well, aren't most corporations named after, um, people?
posted by LouReedsSon at 5:44 AM on November 14, 2003

Some of you people are SO intolerant. I also applaud the trend toward more unique naming, having grown up in a world where every third guy I ran into was another Michael. What some of you are not taking into account is that while it might have been weird to US in school to have a classmate named (fill in the blank with something preposterous), it won't necessarily be so in a world where most of the students answer to equally unusual names. My 7-yr-old nephew is one of only two people in his class with what one could consider a "classic" or "normal" name. Many of the names that now seem normal to us started out as unique and weird to people. Familiarity breeds acceptance.

A rose by any other name....
posted by rushmc at 5:50 AM on November 14, 2003

We have naming laws in Sweden too. "a name may not be perceived as offending or lead to the child feeling uncomfortable" - so you can't name you kid "idiot", and no brand names are allowed at all. There are thousands of names out there that aren't commonly used these days one can use instead. At least we don't ban kurdish people from naming their children kurdish names (law in Turkey).
posted by dabitch at 6:05 AM on November 14, 2003

ps - having lived my life as the only one named my first name in Sweden, I can tell you, a rare name is as much a pain in the ass as it is fun to feel unique.
posted by dabitch at 6:07 AM on November 14, 2003

Portia goes way back. Read Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.

Shakespeare used great names. I always thought the name Goneril from Lear was beautiful, though I pity the poor girl saddled with that one. Way too much playground fodder.
posted by archimago at 6:22 AM on November 14, 2003

Way too much playground fodder.

Kids are basically cruel to each other and will twist the most common names to hurt another. Hopefully they grow out of that behavior, eventually!
posted by LouReedsSon at 6:30 AM on November 14, 2003

I think naming laws are frivolous, and then I see things like Jalen Dugpree Da'Ma ''G'' and Urhines Kendall Icy Eight Special K. Baby's named a bad, bad thing!

When I first saw that last one, I was under the misapprehension that "Special K" is a diet cereal, silly me.
posted by mimi at 6:35 AM on November 14, 2003

Divine_wino has a point.

Personally, I want to go back to the spirit quest naming tradition.
posted by Yossarian at 6:39 AM on November 14, 2003

And if you were called Lora-Lee Anna-Marie, you'd hate it too

Orb's great, but I love the effect of your full name. Sounds like a Shel Silverstein creation.
posted by Feisty at 7:00 AM on November 14, 2003

I too have heard, through a FOAF, of kids named Lemonjello and Orangejello down here in Austin. I really can't believe these names are so widespread that 3 mefiters would know of independent cases, so I hereby declare those names Urban Legends.

I knew a Japanese woman named Rissa. Her parents did give her a name, but didn't assign any kanji to it--they let her choose the kanji when she got old enough to.
posted by adamrice at 7:06 AM on November 14, 2003

The name Mercedes is Spanish and extremely common for women of a certain age

And in fact the car was named after Emil Jellinek's daughter:
Jellinek demanded ever faster and more powerful cars from DMG. He entered these in race meetings – first and foremost of these was the Nice week – where he would race under a pseudonym, using his daughter's name. He soon became known as "Monsieur Mercédès" in motoring circles.
In April 1900, Jellinek concluded an agreement with DMG concerning sales of cars and engines and the decision was taken to use "Mercedes" as a product name. In addition, it was agreed that a new engine "bearing the name Daimler-Mercedes" was to be developed. Two weeks later, Jellinek ordered 36 of these cars at a total price of 550,000 marks - a sizeable order even at today's equivalent value of DM 5.5 million. A few weeks later, he placed an order for another 36 cars, all with 8 hp engines.
posted by languagehat at 7:16 AM on November 14, 2003

From the article:
...and no less than 49 boys were called Canon, after the camera.
Canon was a perfectly good word long before the camera company came along. How did Evans determine that these 49 were named after the camera company, and not one of the older meanings of the word? Did he interview all 49 sets of parents?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:20 AM on November 14, 2003

The Ultimate List of Stupid Names (self-described).
posted by rushmc at 7:30 AM on November 14, 2003

For the record, I know Portia, not Porsche, is the name--
was just making a funny, though it was a bit lame.
I remember the joke from a movie I'm fonda:
Jamie Lee Curtis's 'A Fish Called Wanda.'
posted by troybob at 7:44 AM on November 14, 2003

...and also when rhyming with the name 'Portia'
it was a minor challenge to incorporate 'consortia'.
posted by troybob at 7:45 AM on November 14, 2003

Ack. Oh, and another unique name.
posted by SteveInMaine at 7:52 AM on November 14, 2003

Aye, DevilsAdvocate, that was what I was thinking, too. Also, Del Monte - I know several families with the last name Del Monte, and several children who have been given familial names as first names, especially in the maternal line when the name would otherwise have been lost. It seems to me that a collision of these two common practices is much more likely to have created that name, than someone looking at their can of fruit cocktail and feeling inspired. The brands all got their names from somewhere; without asking the parents, it's impossible to tell if the children got their names from the brands, or from the same place the brands got them.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:53 AM on November 14, 2003

My parents kicked around the idea of first names like "water," "birth," "trade," and "deutsch" but ultimately decided against that particular form of cruelty.

A friend swears up and down that his son will be named Arson and his daughter will be Felony.
posted by nickmark at 8:26 AM on November 14, 2003

The nice thing is that a name can be changed if someone feels it doesn't suit them. Unlike many other parental choices.

I have decided to name my first son Fornicado Flachulenchi and my daughter Malevola Hotchix. (Fortunately, they will be literary children and so should not have to suffer too much as a result.)
posted by rushmc at 8:31 AM on November 14, 2003

rushmc, I recently had an Evangeline checking out my groceries. And I had a cat named Mehitabel.

I'd like to meet a Toyota Corolla Johnson someday, myself. Lips, don't unpurse.

A guy I knew in college, whose last name was June, swore he'd name his first daughter April May.

Bill Lear's daughter is named Shanda.
posted by alumshubby at 9:00 AM on November 14, 2003

The best rule o' thumb I've ever heard for naming children is that your child should be able to walk into a boardroom at the age of 40 and introduce him/herself without making everyone snicker.

It's funny how we almost all go under wacked out personal pseudonyms here on the web, partially sure for privacy but also because we get the chance to rename ourselves.

Well, yeah - there definitely is the fun aspect of creating a user name. I wouldn't want to go with your rule of people naming themselves at the age of six, though. I think my favourite name at that age was Jamie after the Six Million Dollar Woman. My six-year-old niece would go with Sparkle.

Yeah, names can be changed. Though not always. I like my own name, but would love to ditch my dreadful middle name, but can't as my dad wanted to name me after his beloved grandmother and it would really hurt his feelings.

Also I've knew one person who kept changing her name every few years because she thought she'd become a whole different person in that time. She hadn't, and it
just made her look like a silly poser.
posted by orange swan at 9:23 AM on November 14, 2003

Most European countries have naming laws. We think of the children ;-)
posted by ginz at 9:25 AM on November 14, 2003

To tell the truth I've been trying to convince my wife that our two kids should be named Peter and Alexander.

Not stupid, but pretty transparent what I'm going for.
posted by Yossarian at 9:48 AM on November 14, 2003

My wife went to elementary school with a young lad named Climax. I went to high school with someone famous, no wait his name WAS Famous.
posted by soren at 9:49 AM on November 14, 2003

For those who think that giving a child a "creative" name is a good thing, I'd like to show you this post from about a month ago on the "Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing" message board (made to someone who was seriously considering naming her child things like "Xzamien Zaire":

I hear where you're coming from; every mother wants her child to stand out in a crowd. However, please consider what I have to say. I have some experience in the matter, having a unique birth name myself.

My personal experience is that having an unusual or unique name is not a positive thing in any way whatsoever. It's made many areas of my life more difficult. Even my parents have regretted their decision. (My junior high school principal - yes, the principal - once asked me if my mother's cancer had spread to her brain before I was born. I kid you not.)

Quite simply put (and this is my personal experience and absolutely no insult to you or your child is meant), a lot of people look down, waaaaaay down, on children who have unique names. They assume the child is unintelligent, lower-class, and less capable than a child with a more common name. Unfortunately, many of these people have the power to affect the child's development and self-esteem (eg. the principal).

It would be ideal if this weren't the case, but unfortunately society is what it is. Heck, I'm almost 40, well-groomed, well-educated, and (at least during the day) somewhat literate, and still people who find out my birth name was Louveelee ask me things like 'when was the last time you were on Jerry Springer?', and 'is your trailer single-wide or double-wide?'. Nice assumptions, eh? Imagine what a child would have to deal with, given that most children can be mercilessly cruel towards anybody recognizably different.

It doesn't stop when you grow up. First, there's the fun of paperwork. Imagine if you had to spell your name five or six times to every person you met before they got it right. Imagine knowing that half of those people were snickering about your name behind your back. Worse, imagine the mess if a misspelled name cost you a paycheck or delayed your tax refund (or made you more likely to be audited!!), or if Selective Services assumed you were a man and sent you a registration notice. Imagine if an employer decided that you were too underclass/trailer trash/whatever for his office just by looking at your name. Imagine if a prospective mate did that. BTW, all of these happened to me before I changed my name.

Some of the best families give their children very common, even boring names - William, Henry, Beatrice, and Anne, for instance, are common names in the British royal family. I know I'd much rather have had a supposedly boring name - it would have made things so very much easier for me as a child.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, allow your child to stand out and be unique based on his or her character, convictions, talents and values, not on the name her mother chose years or decades earlier. No child is made boring by a common name, and no child is made special by a unique name.

I wish you and your child all the best.

I totally agree with her. It's more important to me what it will be like for the child to actually have to live with the name, than indulging my own whims, or some sort of need for people to tell me how "creatively" I named my child. If people want to be creative, they should take up painting or something. I also want my child to be remembered for his own accomplishments, not because I gave him some bizarre name.
posted by Shoeburyness at 10:25 AM on November 14, 2003

this thread reminds me of this song...

My daddy left home when I was three
And he didn't leave much to Ma and me
Just this old guitar and an empty bottle of booze.
Now, I don't blame him cause he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me 'Sue.'

Well, he must o' thought that is was quite a joke
And it got a lot of laughs from a' lots of folk,
It seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
And some guy'd laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell ya, life ain't easy for a boy named 'Sue.'

Johnny Cash - Boy Named Sue
posted by alicila at 10:41 AM on November 14, 2003

The best rule o' thumb I've ever heard for naming children is that your child should be able to walk into a boardroom at the age of 40 and introduce him/herself without making everyone snicker.

But that's the point—by the time these kids are 40, a lot of these names that strike us as unusual or silly now will go unremarked. You've got to step outside of your own little time-space window and see the big picture.

I also want my child to be remembered for his own accomplishments, not because I gave him some bizarre name.

You're conflating two entirely different issues. Accomplishments and names are unrelated...as your quote points out. Truly, I find the argument that people should all share a limited set of phonemes as "names" hidebound and ridiculous. If you feel insecure if there aren't three other "Marks" or "Marys" in your class or workplace with you, then I submit that that is a more serious problem than people having to ask you how you spell your unusual name. Naming conventions, like language itself, are plastic and evolve over time. Many of the names you would be willing to give your seal of approval to as "normal" were once thought weird and outrageous. Seems to me it's time to move beyond such limited (and harmful) points of view. If your complaint is that people will treat people with unusual names badly or ostracize them, then you should agree with me, because that's exactly the attitude you are propagating with your insistence on marginalizing them rather than accepting them.

Besides, the split between "normal" names and "weird" names is a false one to begin with, because people's opinions about what constitutes one or the other vary tremendously. There is no uniform, widely-accepted standard. Should we adopt one? Would you prefer that the government make a list of 100 approved names for each sex and legally require parents to choose from the lists?
posted by rushmc at 10:54 AM on November 14, 2003

I've known a girl named Porsche, and one with same named spelled Porsha. I've also known a Destiny, Charity, Precious, and Sparkle. I know a guy whos first name is Sueing, I think thats how its spelled, though he went by his middle name. I've also known a Darione, again not sure on the spelling. I've never thought of these names as unusual, they're just names after all.

I have friend who wants to name his first son Optimus Prime, and his second Chadd 5000. I'm pretty sure he's serious. He has said that he will marry the first girl that will let him name his kids that.
posted by philcliff at 11:07 AM on November 14, 2003

Those who called b.s. on 'Orangejello' in my case were correct. My brother tells me the kid's name is actually 'Djounaise.'

My mistake, and I apologize for propagating that little bit of urban legend.

He also tells me that there is another child at a different school he works at (they rotate the janitors throughout the school corporation here) who's name is 'Questiny.'
posted by moonbiter at 11:09 AM on November 14, 2003

He has said that he will marry the first girl that will let him name his kids that.

I hope he's patient...
posted by jalexei at 11:15 AM on November 14, 2003

I have a theory that at around the seventh month of pregnancy the soon-to-be mother considers weird names for her offspring. Would Esmeralda or Xanthe be a good option for a girl, or Horatio or Prosper for a boy? The oddest names I've seen have been given to premature babies - my favourite was Boadicea. I know of a boy called Revlon and, in our town, the parents who'd called their daughter Chanel were sued by the fashion house - fortunately the judge threw the case out of court.
I've yet to see Chlamydia or Neisseria used as girls' names, but I suppose it's only a matter of time!
posted by tabbycat at 11:23 AM on November 14, 2003

Okay, here's my whole, ugly story. Wendell is not my given birthname (as I admitted above), and somewhere around the age of seven, I was getting tired of my "real" name (I couldn't 'customize' it, like Robert can be Rob, Bob, Bobby or even Bert), and asked my parents what else they had considered naming me. My dad made the rare (for him) joke that, if he'd had one more vodka martini the night I was born, I'd have been named Wendell, because it was alliterative. Fast forward five years and I'm in a somewhat pricey private school in the San Fernando Valley (my parents primarily took me out of public school to get away from bullies... I only ended up meeting a much higher socioeconomic class of bully), and my mother worked there as a librarian and substitute teacher to help pay for it. Dangerous combination. During one 'rainy day recess' when she was looking over a class one grade above mine, she started spilling family secrets to the kids, including "Wendell". Armed with that name, the school bullies (including one of the sons of a "television legend") moved me up from the third-most-picked-on-kid in school to number one. I consciously escaped "Wendell" in high school, and did some creative writing using a 'pen name' with the same initials as my real name. Then, in college, I got into radio, specifically some of the more creative, less serious talk jockeys who were on L.A. radio in those days (Dick Whittington, Dave Hull and the intentionally-youth-oriented Elliot Mintz). I made the calculated decision to become a 'regular' caller, and since they were always known only by their first names, I wanted a unique nom de talk. I'd heard several people use both my real name and my previously adopted pen name, so, since I had already decided to push the humor in my presentation, after long consideration, I publicly became Wendell. Using the name actually liberated me to become less introverted and more of a performer ("It's not me saying that, it's Wendell") And if I wanted attention, it worked. I got so aggressive calling Dick Whittington, he once commented "can't we just put Wendell back on hold", and that led to a running joke (with my full cooperation) that had me being brought on the air for a minute, finish half of what I wanted to say, and be put back 'on hold' until Tomorrow's show. I ended up with sympathy, a fan club, "Keep America Beautiful, Keep Wendell On Hold" t-shirts, an almost-successful attempt to con my way into the Guinness Book of World Records, and, two years later, the job of screening the phones for Dick Whittington. Wendell has been veddy veddy good to me, even if I haven't been all that good to Wendell sometimes. But I wouldn't recommend anybody naming their first son Wendell any more than I would recommend naming him Sue, Cartman, Deutronium or Oxyclean. (In the currently low likelihood that I do pass on my DNA, I'd probbly want to name him Benny or her Gracie)
posted by wendell at 11:43 AM on November 14, 2003

Cool story, wendell, but I'm a bit confused. Are you suggesting that "Wendell" is all that unusual of a name? Because it doesn't seem so to me (I've known Wendells). In fact, "Benny" strikes me as a much more unusual name.

Which just illustrates my point about the ear of the beholder.

Or is it your original name that you are not recommending be used?
posted by rushmc at 12:05 PM on November 14, 2003

I came up with a name that's like Seven: Scuben. My wife's thinks I'm crazy and was glad that our new baby was a daughter so I wouldn't press her on it (though I briefly considered Scubena). It sounds goofy at first, but it's kind of interesting after you say it a few more times.

Anyone here is welcome to it, of course, since I'm pretty much done with the child conceiving.
posted by bbrown at 12:32 PM on November 14, 2003

I wish my name was Magistron, Dark Lord of Undergarments, but it's too unwieldy for conversation.
posted by The God Complex at 1:19 PM on November 14, 2003

My friend has cousins named 'Mercedes' and 'Porche' ...His uncle collects luxury cars.

We named the daughter unit Caprice Mercedes. Not many of those in her school. (Maybe we should have used "Classic" instead of Mercedes for her middle name.) For the record, she is quite pleased with it. Whenever she sees someone else named Caprice she makes a face, she likes to think she's the only one with that name.
posted by Wet Spot at 1:54 PM on November 14, 2003

The cousin I'm closest to (emotionally) is named Mercedes, because when my uncle was a teacher that was the name of his favorite (Hispanic) student. Unfortunately my cousin is whiter than chalk and lives in Montana, so she's basically accepted being nicknamed Benz and being generally good-natured about it. I think that's how most people with unusual names become, out of self defense.

Not that I in any way condone naming one's offspring after a product, much for the reasons outlined above in Shoeburyness' excellent quote.

I think it's perfectly possible to have a spell-able, sweet, enjoyable name that you don't have to share with anyone. My given name is Ellen, and I can count the number of other Ellens I've met on one hand. True, I became "Nelle" somewhere along in high school but I fully expect to "switch back" later in life, and have never considered legally changing it. I've never had anyone but odd folk spell/pronounce it incorrectly, and it's pretty to say and hear.

Its seems to me that for those in the States, names in the 350-600 range of popularity are a treasure trove of under-used, but wonderful names (although there are certianly some doozies down there too) like nobody gets named Judith or Simon anymore.
posted by nelleish at 3:24 PM on November 14, 2003

partially sure for privacy but also because we get the chance to rename ourselves

Actually, I've used CD as my handle since BBS days when I was involved in activities that were less than legal.

Since you're judged almost solely on your thoughts on the faceless 'net, it often helps to have a unique identifier so people can recognize the name with the ideas. But psuedonyms are just that -- no one is going to take you seriously if you apply for a job online with a handle of "AssMaster_290". You can imagine what kinds of calls to the Department of Homeland Security my handle would elicit if I used it in everyday life.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:30 PM on November 14, 2003

I don't like extremely common names either. I'm a 32 year old Amy, and I was always one of many Amys (or Aimees or Amies-- same difference) and I hated it. But you don't have to make up something weird to ensure that your child doesn't have a super-common name. The thing that really bugs me is weird spellings of names. Just because you spell it Maddisynn instead of Madison doesn't make it any less common or tacky. You're just setting the kid up for a lifetime of spelling their name to EVERYONE. What I look for is a name that is uncommon, but not unusual. My ideal is that a child might meet a few people with the same first name in their life, but not everywhere they turn.
posted by Shoeburyness at 10:57 PM on November 14, 2003

The thing that really bugs me is weird spellings of names. Just because you spell it Maddisynn instead of Madison doesn't make it any less common or tacky.

Because God told us how all names were "supposed" to be spelled, right?

"Weird" is just what you're not accustomed to.
posted by rushmc at 6:37 AM on November 15, 2003

rushmc: You have a point but you're overdoing it and beating people over the head with it. It's true that fifty or a hundred years from now some names that now seem "weird" will be unremarkable; it's untrue, and an obvious fallacy, to conclude that every weird name will therefore be common in the future. For every Fornicado that becomes popular (as indeed it should!), there will be thousands of Maddisynns and Dugprees that will remain weird. And in your zeal for free-spiritedness you're refusing to address the basic point that kids shouldn't have to suffer protracted torment because their free-spirited parents decided to saddle them with a weird name. If they come of age and decide they want to be called Birdbath or Lexxus, they're perfectly free to adopt such names. Until then, let them live in peace.
posted by languagehat at 7:15 AM on November 15, 2003

It's true that fifty or a hundred years from now some names that now seem "weird" will be unremarkable

Or five, or ten.

For every Fornicado that becomes popular (as indeed it should!), there will be thousands of Maddisynns and Dugprees that will remain weird.

But not becoming common is not the same as remaining weird. When all of your peers share 30 names between them, you tend to view "odd" names in a certain (negative) way; when most of your peers have unique (and sometimes weird) names, you tend to be more accepting of any name, whether you've seen it before or not. It becomes pretty much a non-issue (as it should be).

you're refusing to address the basic point that kids shouldn't have to suffer protracted torment because their free-spirited parents decided to saddle them with a weird name.

Perhaps because I think "suffering protracted torment" is vastly overstating the case. Sure, some people with unusual names were teased about it as kids (or even as adults). Some were bothered by that, some weren't. But all kids will be teased about something...it's just human nature. Many kids are teased about their surnames, even if their first name is Richard or Sarah. Would you propose that we should therefore limit everyone to "Smith," "Jones" or "Williams?" What a bland, uniform society THAT would be!

Also, I think that having an unusual name, and even having to deal with some flack resulting from that, can teach a valuable lesson about independence and self-esteem. Obviously, there are SOME names I would be opposed to that cross the line ("Dumbass Smith," "Worthless Bastard Jones," et al), but only those with obvious harmful intent.
posted by rushmc at 4:00 PM on November 15, 2003

Another point about weird names is that they're becoming more common. In the future, there will be so many of these type of names that the run-of-the-mill ones of today will be uncommon. People will ask, "Is that Maddisyn or Madduhsun?"
posted by bbrown at 6:25 AM on November 16, 2003

What I like is an unusual name that can be shortened into normal nickname - the kid can then have the choice of standing out or not having to bother with explanations and constant repeating and spelling. Jessamyn is a good example of this kind of name. As is my own name. I usually do go by "Beth" - but that's at least in part because I got so tired of explaining that my name wasn't Stephanie.

There can be some serious ramifications with having a very common name. My art instructor has a very common first and last name. There are three other women in Toronto with the exact name. One of them has really bad credit and my art instructor has had many a problem with getting confused with this other woman.
posted by orange swan at 9:01 AM on November 16, 2003

Two years ago I found myself teaching a middle school class which had a pupil named "SirShawn". The first couple of times I heard it, I thought it was "Sershon" or something. It wasn't until I pulled out the attendance listed that I saw for sure. It made me think of the Lake Woebegone character whose mom named him Senator, because she liked the sound of it.
posted by kayjay at 9:06 PM on November 16, 2003

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