Want Your Kids To Succeed? Don’t Give Them These Names

Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names. ~Japanese Proverb

The naming of cats is a curious matter. ~from Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats




This is what we call a Bad Sign


I always seem to get suckered into reading one of those Yahoo News fluff pieces on the newsfeeds. You know which ones I’m talking about. The world seems poised to spiral into World War III, nobody can afford gas, and they’re running stories on Kim Kardashian farting on a crowded plane or how much children hate their iPods. Cry me a river. But, like a train wreck in slow motion, sometimes I can’t compel myself to look away. This was the case with their recent “story” on baby names. Why do I even care about this topic? I don’t have kids, don’t plan on having kids anytime soon barring a religious miracle, don’t even particularly like kids. Nor am I saddled with a particularly obnoxious moniker (my parents had the good sense to shy away from “Harmony” or “Freedom.”) Nevertheless, I’m drawn to the subject of naming as surely as Ralph Nader is drawn to consumer rights rallies.

The story in question explained that parents in western and more liberal states were more likely to give children “invented” names or twists on traditional first names. In New England, on the other hand, there are still lots of Henrys and Agathas and Enids (never knew whether that was a guy’s name or a girl’s name.) I use one rule of thumb, which is the one still used in many Scandinavian countries: don’t give kids names that will make them the subject of ridicule. What do I mean by this? Well, it’s pretty simple…

I bet his name is Joe Bob

Names with absurdly high expectations. Adonis, Princess, Hercules, and LaDuchess are perfectly acceptable names for your horse, dog or cat. Giving these noble names to a child only sets him or her up for failure. What if Duke ends up being a meth addict, or little Venus ends up a serial shoplifter? If you’re going for a royal theme, stick with a classic like Victoria, Carlos, Edmund, Elizabeth (but not Diana. Sorry.)

Absurdly creative spellings. I keep waiting to read a news story about a girl called Kaytlinn who goes on a rampage after having to spell her name for the 376th time. Now, there are some exceptions to this rule (such as Catherine/Katherine or Marcus/Markus, for example), but when your kid’s name starts to look less like an Irish name and more like something out of an epic fantasy novel or a Star Trek re-run, step back and reconsider. This is a name your kid will have, barring a legal change, for the rest of his or her life.

Names that aren’t really names. This, again, is rather nebulous. I’m sure at some point in history, it wasn’t kosher to name kids after months, or flowers, or one-hit-wonder bands. I like some of these names, but others just ain’t right. Take Honor (a cool name if ever there was one) and contrast it with its cousins Chastity or Purity. Not so much. Most of the “flower child” names fall into this category. The rule of thumb I use? If you can imagine it on a cat’s cage at your local animal shelter, don’t use it.

Redneck names. Joe Bob, Lou Ellen, Jim Ray, and Bobbi Sue…you’re all included. Unless you want your kid to grow up to be a country singer or truck stop waitress, avoid these. People will assume they chew tobacco, like NASCAR, or live in a mobile home. Perhaps all three.

Wacked-out  wannabe rapper names. Honest to God, I once came across siblings in my line of work whose names were Kash Mony and Kurrenci. I’ve also known Rowronica, Sharoyaltty, and Jamontravius. Now, while I’m as much into debunking stereotypes as the next person, I question the intelligence levels, not to mention spelling ability, of parents who pick these names for their kids. If you’re looking for a traditional African or other ethnic name, there are plenty of cool, established names out there that don’t sound like Snoop Dogg’s hangers-on.

Saccharine cute names. You know the ones. Sugar. Precious. Angel. You may think your kid is the sweetest thing since a diabetic coma at Willy Wonka’s candy factory, but this doesn’t mean everyone else does. Remember the creepy serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs? His dog was called “Precious.” And I also recently read a story about an assault on a Christmas shopper in Seattle…the assailant’s name was Precious Angel.

WTF Hollywood monikers. Celebrities may be rich and famous, but they usually lack good common sense. I’m sorry…but Pilot Inspektor, Apple, and Heavenly Hirani Tiger Lily are going to get the shit kicked out of them at some point in their lives. The worst part about celebrities naming babies is that they often inspire stupid, OK Magazine-reading housewives in Des Moines or Shreveport to copy their trends. I applaud celebrities who are able to give their kids names like Sam or Olivia. There just aren’t enough.

Variation on a Theme of Braden by Paganini. 50 years from now, will they re-name Donald Duck’s nephews Braden, Jaden and Kaden? It seems like every fricken’ kid under the age of five has one of these names that rhyme with another popular name. Be original. Trust me, you don’t want your kid to be Aiden #4 or Kayla #3 in the classroom. I speak from experience (having been “Heather F” for about ten years.)

Where The Hell In The World Is Carmen Sandiego? Unless your kid actually was conceived in Geneva or Milan, or worse, Amarillo, shy away from the place names. They’ve had their run in the sun, and now it’s time to retire that trend. (The one notable exception being the cast of Zombieland. If you’re violently slaying the undead, it’s OK to be called Tallahassee.)

Ooh, I Love Stephanie Meyer! If anyone actually names their daughter “Renesmee,” I may have to ingest rat poison. Literary inspirations are fine as long as they’re not too obvious.

Funny, You Don’t Look Italian. I’m all about keeping cultural heritage alive and embracing tradition. However, if you’re not Russian, don’t name your son Dmitry. If your family isn’t from Italy, shy away from Giovanna. Don’t use a traditional Japanese name if you’re not Japanese.

Being a fiction writer, I try to stay on top of naming trends (I highly recommend the various editions of Beyond Ava and Aiden, Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana by Rosencrantz.) It’s a special interest of mine, and I suspect I’ll always read those darn Yahoo News feeds. I can’t help it.

For the record? My first choices of names…Fiona Ellen for a girl; Roderick George for a boy. And you thought I was going to say “Murdock,” didn’t you?

Murdock, H.M. Murdock

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on February 25, 2011.

3 Responses to “Want Your Kids To Succeed? Don’t Give Them These Names”

  1. I read today that an Egyptian man named his child “Facebook” – made me think of “Faceman”!

  2. I always think I’m gonna end up naming kids after celebrities I like. Thankfully they all have pretty normal and average names like Chris, Shawn, Michael, Dwight..(except Sharlto, poor Sharlto and all that mispronunciation!)I hope I have boys considering the celebrities are all male!

  3. That’s great! Remember when everyone was naming their kid Espn after ESPN? You’re right about the doom that some names portend. Well done.

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abandonen toda esperanza aquellos que entren aqui


You - philosophical, thoughtful, witty. Me - still thinks fart jokes are funny. We should DEFINITELY get together!

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