Thursday, November 22, 2007




"Paging Ms. Chandelier...Ms. Crystal Chandelier. Your Prescription Is Ready."


There is a host of traditional names slapped onto mewling, unsuspecting babies in the United States when they're born: William, Emily, Alex, Susan, Mary. And we've all seen and heard those more creative names--some of which have cultural or familial connotations--such as Shaniqua or Anders. But then there's a whole other class of names out there: the out-and-out "Did Mama's epidural seep into her brain?" monikers.

I heard a story several years ago about a woman who was cooking in her kitchen when she went into labor. She ended up naming her baby "LaMonjallo" because the last thing she saw before she hit the floor that day were the words printed on the Lemon Jell-O box on her counter.

And then there was the time a friend of a friend of a friend (the most reliable of sources, and always just where I need her!) was in line at McDonald's, and in front of her was a kid who was cutting up, dancing around, bumping into folks. After rolling her eyes a lot, his mother finally shrieked, "Spatula! I have two words for you: BE HAVE."

No matter how you Ginsu up a name and the word "behave," however, the fact remains that the tags we use to identify ourselves on our homework, job applications, and ultimately tombstones, matter. A rose by any other name smells like garlic toast.


Feeling as I do about names--convinced of their importance and ability to shape lives--I found myself involuntarily snurfling with laughter and disbelief last week at the end of my Short Story class, as I read over my students' responses to an activity that had asked them to analyze their feelings about their own given names (as much as I like to mess with the kiddies and pack their hours with meaningless busywork, this assignment actually related to a story we'd read about a Chinese man who had to change his name during the Cultural Revolution). Part of the activity required them to explore optional names for themselves; that is, if they had to abandon their given names and choose new ones, what would they choose and why?

Gentle Readers, here is a cross-section of their answers, carefully vetted to give you a clear picture of the analytical abilities of our nation's next generation of leaders. They would change their names thusly:

"Probably something like Sydney because I have always wanted to go to Australia and I just like the name."

"Semore Butts--saw it on THE SIMPSONS, thought it was funny."

"My new name would be Hiro Nakemura. It's the name of an awesome and funny character on the show HEROES."

"I would change my name to Buddy. I think it would be kind of cool and funny if everyone called me by a slang version of the word friend. It would be like not having a real first name."

"I'd change my last name to Shanks and my first name to Adam. Shanks because it's badass and Adam because it flows with Shanks."

"If I were to change my name, I would change it to Jagermeister. I would choose this name because the meaning of it is 'hunt master.' I love to hunt things of all kinds. I think this name would be suiting for me. It is also the name of a rather popular drink. I also like to drink it. I could drink my own name. Not many people can say that. I would also have a nice looking coat of arms. It would be the picture on the Jag bottle. It's a big old buck."

--------------------------
By my calculations, President Jagermeister, Vice-President Shanks, and their Cabinet of Intellect will take charge of the White House in roughly 2037, ushering in a tenure of leadership that will make Americans long for the relatively-sensible logic and thoughtfulness of thirty years earlier.

This is your heads-up. They're coming.

Duck.
Cover.

Move to China; change your name.

35 comments:

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

oh. my. god. I had to read this aloud to my husband, and both of us are still grinning.

He has just informed me that he will rename me "Isis Juggernaut" because I am like a goddess, and I'm built solid.

I think I might pee myself.... man, I love him.

*on floor laughing*

geewits said...

How old are your students?!? That was crazy stuff. Even weirder was my Mom and I had a long conversation on Monday about the importance of names. So we were thinking the same stuff. My name always made me feel special because although it has become rather common now, it was not when I was a child. People always said, "What a pretty name!" and one day I realized that all the Susans and Cindys and Cathys and Marys never got to hear that. Then I named my daughter an old-fashioned name when everyone was doing the Brittney, Courtney and Jessica thing, thinking it would be unique, but NO, there were a trillion of them at her school! Names are tough!

Sincerely,
Laffy d'Pup

AmyTree said...

"I could drink my own name". That is amazing logic...
It's an interesting exercise - my own 'real' name is pretty but doesn't have a history - my parents just agreed on it. Amy Tree is the name of a village in Cornwall that we drove past many, many times while the guinea pigs were living with friends - it just kind of stuck. :-)

furiousBall said...

did you know there was a running back for the Eagles in the early 90s named Siran Stacy. His first name was (this is true) a mispelling of Saran Warp. Sadly, (I just found out by using The Google) he was in a horrible auto accident last week, his wife and four of his children were all killed.

boy, usually my comments are kinda funny...

lime said...

oh my stars. that is frightening. i agree with you on the importance of names though. i carefully considered the name for each of my children. mr. lime and i wanted names that were not common but not weird, and names that imparted our hopes for the kind of character each child would develop and reflect. in case they decided they hated their first names we gave them unadorned, standard middle names.

god decided to show his great sense of irony with our first one. her names means gentleness. she is a raging, dictatorial child who is no respecter of persons and whose utmost concern is with winning every argument.

terrible names of people i have met...
dick ball
dick shook
justin case

funniest named person i ever met...
korean law student named sue yoo, perhaps she was destined.

Diana said...

Now I really am afraid. But do you think the youth of China are any better? I'm going to scout property in Antartica, personally.

My favorite cringe-worthy name? A boy named Precious Darling. He goes by "Presh". Fortunately for him, he's not a small child and can take down anyone who messes with him.

Palm Springs Savant said...

Seemore Butts. love it. good post!
-Rick

Her Grace said...

Yes, but has he actually tried Jagermiester? Because he may want to do that before he heads to the courthouse for his name-changing ceremony.

I heard a story when I was still teaching that I never believed to be true, but now I'm not so sure. A mom named her child "Nosmoking" (NAH-sma-king) because the first thing she saw after birth was a No smoking sign.

Tai said...

And lest we forget the race car driver, Dick Trickle.

I was lucky. My 'name' is rather uninteresting, but I've been known as Tai (prounounced TAY) since I was about 12.
I made it up. It stuck. I answer it more readily than my 'real' name.
But I really feel for LaMonjallo, man. That sucks.

Jazz said...

Wow. That's scary. They'll have us wishing for a Dubbya. Now that's a scary thought.

cathy said...

When I was a child I wanted to be called Fiona. I'm obviously not leader material.

Jeannie said...

I never thought about the drink thing - had a friend who's last name was Blue. And I think he drank Labatt's Blue. And we never once made the connection. Or maybe he drank 50. dunno now.

My sister told me years ago that she was changing her name after her divorce. I asked her to what? She thought I was kidding.

CS said...

That Lemonjello story is one enduring bit of apocrypha.

But this was funny timing - last night my Mom was trying to convince one of us to change our name so we could take a god-awful monogrammed monkey-print canvas bag off her hands. Her initials are LKC. I told her I was going with Lithuania, Kingdom of C (my first name).

Maddy said...

Very good. We have been duly warned. Hopefully senility will protect me by then.
Cheers

Karen MEG said...

Names are tough; I would have never thought to name my kids anything that appeared to me just before they were born. I'd like them to know that I put just a little more thought into it than that. Just a tad.
But then, this is coming from a woman who's probably got one of the most popular names of her generation. I don't think I had a single class without another Karen in it. Seriously.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

lol! my niece was very determined that I should name the Disreputable Cat "toliet" but I firmly turned her down.

Emma in Canada said...

I believe it is First Nations/ Native American tradition to name your child after something you see during labour. Or is it conception? Anyway, that could explain the Dusty Trails or Morningstar that I mentioned in my post. And you are so right...psychic connection going on there! Except that you are the witty, smart one.

My mum was telling me today that last week she registered a baby called Precious Pearl. Honestly, I am not sure how she keeps a straight face at her job some days. Or how she doesn't say "What the fuck are you thinking?"

Claire said...

Noted, and agreed.
Funniest name for a child I ever saw: Barney Turnipseed
WTF? Your last name is the same as a nasty tasting vegetable and then you give your baby a first name that screams "Rube!". Poor baby.

My Reflecting Pool said...

Oh dear. This is distressing. I'm sure this generation are just as smart as the other generations, they just feel freer to state whats in their head. Hopefully thats all. Otherwise, we are in big trouble.

SQT said...

You mean after all the angst I had over naming my children I could have named them something like "Schnaps" and they would have been okay with that? All that worry for nothing.

Worst names of people I have met:

Elvis Pres Lee (I was a teacher and this kid was one of my students. His sister's name was Diamond (the stripper pole awaits) Lee.

Urine~ (pronounced U ree n) Polish mom saw it on a sign and thought it was pretty. The girl went by "Boo Boo." Poor warped child.

WanderingGirl said...

This why I enjoy naming kittens instead of children... Pie, Sweetpea, Stila and Otis... good for cats, not for kids.

Franki said...

I would go with Wangin Bang.

No explanations necessary I trust.

Princess Pointful said...

As a child of the 80s, I had a soft spot for Buffy at the age of 8.
This was pre-Vampire Slayer, mind you.

It is interesting to reflect on such things, though. My first name is actually the combination of my dad's first name and my mom's middle name, and thus feels pretty damn symbolic to me.

susan said...

Growing up as one of a zillion Susans, I tried my best to name my kids something very original...it turns out both of my kids names were in the top three of the year they were born. So much for being unique....

actonbell said...

BE HAVE:
But I AM being have!
I'm not sure which is sadder, the name or the illiteracy.

Jagermeister. That's funny. Actually, I've noticed that Hunter has become a rather popular boy's name. The alcohol idea reminds me--there's a celebrity sensation named Tila Tequila.
http://www.jibjab.com/view/181317

Scary times, indeed.

(And I'd like to be Chocolate Porter)

frannie said...

I always heard it was twins... leMongello and OrAngello.

seriously.

velvet said...

Wow, that's scary. Truly scary.

We did what Lime did and gave both the boys uncommon first names, followed by common middle names so that they have a choice later on. Of course, if they think that both of the choices stink, they'll just pick another name anyway. Oh, well.

I never liked my real name, but have no idea what name I would choose for myself. Hmm.

Theresa said...

Still laughing like crazy. Don't think that running away to China will save you, because kids are the same everywhere. We named our youngest Violeta, which is kind of old-fashioned, but it seems to be making a comeback. When she was born she was kind of bluish-violet, so we said, "Yes, Violeta, that's the perfect name." Actually, we were trying to decide between Violeta and Paula, and that just kind of confirmed the choice.

August said...

This is hysterical. Jocelyn, you are a good sport. A real trooper.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I write novels. I completely suck at naming. It's the hardest thing for me. I realized a recent book had 3 different people named "Chris". Fuck me.

I don't blame the kids.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

There is a doubtless apocryphal story about a woman who, confronted with the birth forms, believed she had to choose between "male" pronounced "mah-lee" and "female," "fem-uh-lee."

I once named a kitten 'Anathema." I got exactly what I deserved. I was much luckier with my children.

As a child, I yearned to be anything but Susan, so lacking in exoticism and originality. Still, far better than "Nosmoking" or "Spatula." People on drugs shouldn't be allowed to breed.

Glamourpuss said...

Teaching constantly reminds you of the depth of the gene pool. I miss that feeling of superiority.

This from the woman who now answers to her nom de plume as readily as to her given name.

Puss

Glamourpuss said...

Oh, and I once taught a boy whose father was a car enthusiast; first name 'Aston', middle name 'Martin'.

Shudder.

Puss

Mother of Invention said...

AS a primary teacher, there are certain names I'd never call any boy of my own...seems all the Justins, Brandons, and Ryans just spelled trouble! Gone are the Billy's and Bobby's of the 50's 60's!

my4kids said...

I've seen way to many weird names to even know what to say sometimes. Working in drs offices was always interesting!