…you called your kid *what*?!

StupidKidsNames“Lara and Sam’s cute family outing with Rocket Zot”, the headline on the entertainment page gleefully announced. Not sure why I was looking at it, to be fair. I’m not much of a fan of celebrity, so I had no idea who they actually were.

Notwithstanding that the photo might just as well have been captioned “celebrity parents push newborn in pram”, the article (more of an ‘articlette’ really) got me thinking. Then it made me a little bit cranky. I might’ve even twitched.

But seriously, why do they do it? I honestly don’t get it. Why did they have to call it Rocket Zot? What did the poor kid ever do to them?

(And p.s., if you’re more miffed about me describing the child as “it” than you are about its parents tarnishing it with that appalling name, your slavish attention to political correctness is noted. Please don’t let me detain you further).

I wonder what possesses ostensibly intelligent adults to burden tiny just-borns with ludicrous names? Their defenseless bundles of joy can’t even voice intelligible objections, which only makes it worse. The kid’s already going to have a tough enough time of living up to its parents’ many unsolicited and unwarranted expectations for its future—now it’s also gonna have this dumb tag as the monkey on its back throughout the most sensitive years of its life.

Is any kind of damn given by parents about the impact that these wacky labels could have on the future psychological well-being of their offspring?

Truly horrifying baby names make me wonder about lots of things, including the apparent connection between famous people, bogans and folk who live in ‘regional’ or ‘rural’ locales. There must be a link of some kind, because a statistically significant proportion of all three groups is well-practiced in the art of criminally awful baby names.

Famous people are the worst offenders where downright nonsensical names are concerned. It’s as if they’re too wrapped up in their own mythology to be arsed with the bog-standard naming conventions of plebeian types. Such things apparently have zero relevance in the self-serving, egocentric world of celebrity. It’s all about ensuring every single aspect of their lives—including the name of their offspring—is fascinating, with a healthy dash of quirk. The child, clearly, has no say.

StupidKidsNames2There’s no shortage of examples of celebrity baby name crimes: Apple Martin, Blue Ivy Carter, Soleil Moon Fry, Bronx Mowgli Wentz, Bear Blu Jarecki, Seven Sirius Benjamin, Moon Unit Zappa, Jermajesty Jackson, Kal-El Coppola Cage and North West to name but a few, along with all the other innocent victims of Jamie Oliver’s, Paula Yates’ and Michael Jackson’s procreation. I’d go on, but my eyes are bleeding.

Meanwhile, ‘bogans’—and, to a lesser but still significant extent, people who live outside of our capital cities—rule the roost when it comes to new and unusual spellings of existing names, and completely made-up names. Arguably it’s because many of them couldn’t actually spell the name they thought they were choosing in the first place and believed that what they were proposing was, in fact, correct. The examples of this cruel and unusual punishment, mercilessly inflicted on a generation of children, are almost endless:

Roselyla, Shakayla, Taleisha, Allierra, Antwonet, Milla, Beberly, Anfernee (somefink tells me that mum or dad had a general issue wiv any word containing ve ‘th’ sound), Maffew (see previous comment), Taylah, Kaylaa, Jaylah, Jett, Coopa, Jazabel, Abrielle (looks like the leading “G” was lost in transit?), Aayden, Kayden, Shayden, Bayden, Jaydenn, Raiden, Haidyn, Zaydan, Taydon, Graydon, Brayden, Blayden, Braxten, Jaxxson, Saxon, Zaylen, Daylon, Baylen, Rybekkah, Micaylah, Jayke, Aleczander, Alixzander, Ty, Jai, Jhamasyn, Peyton (apparently now a girls’ name, previously a place name, a TV series name and an American footballer’s name), Lokhlan, Jazzmyn, Keyarnie, Bentlee, Aleece, Cristel, Jaymez, Kymberleigh, Brandun, Nevaeh (reverse it!), Tyffaneeh, Pricillia, Nayomey, Harmonee, Courtnee, Hollee, Phelicity, Mishelle, Melissah, Jessykah, Kael, Cyder, Ayva, Mhavryck, Aliviyah, Khobi, Maddalyn, Chloee, Danyelle, Djcynta, Kruze, Jhorjha, Harisyn, Genisis, Eirriinn (why didn’t they just duplicate every letter for good measure?), Eighmey, Ebonni, Baeley, Cyennah, Aliesha, Allesia, Alaysha (can’t you just hear mum leaning out the back door, bellowing ‘Alaaaaayshaaaa!’)… the list goes on. And on. And on.

A while back, I was flicking through Facebook during the morning commute (I was most likely near-comatose from all the previous day’s narcissistic trivialities, involving public transport, exercise, kids, plates of food and selfies) when I came across a friend’s unexpectedly amusing post. Underneath it was a series of ever-more amusing comments. But my amusement was interrupted by an observation from someone who’d otherwise sounded intelligent, rational and well-rounded—until she referred to her daughter. “Storm”.

Jesus Christ on a hoverboard! What the fuck kind of name is that!?

Does Storm sound more like a character from The Bold & The Beautiful, someone from a Marvel comic, or a pole dancer? Please, someone tell me, coz I can’t decide. I have it on good authority that even Storm’s grandmother can’t fathom her own daughter’s choice of name for the poor child.

And don’t even get me started on her poor brother, “Dash”. Actual names. I kid you not.

The choice of name says so much about parents and their hopes and dreams for their kids, doesn’t it? Only someone with a stone cold heart and two glass eyes would claim never to have felt that gushy swell of emotion on learning a newborn’s name—you know, that reaction that virtually has you saying aloud, “oh, what a good strong / sound traditional / interesting [in a good way] / pretty name”, before casting an eye over the child’s executive producers and thinking, almost unconsciously, what great parents they must be. What’s in a name? Quite a lot, apparently.

StupidKidsNames3What, then, does a questionable choice of name say? How does the selection of a truly absurd name, that’s only likely to attract the kind of attention a child absolutely doesn’t need during its most emotionally vulnerable years, reflect on mum and dad? Good taste notwithstanding, some name choices certainly reflect an astounding lack of good judgement, suggesting that ma and pa gave approximately zero consideration to their baby’s sanity or physical safety in later years.

Children can be both the cruelest and the most emotionally fragile of beings. You can just imagine the veritable field-day his classmates will have with Rocket Zot’s name during primary school. And if he turns out to be a bit socially awkward, introverted, a little geeky, if he has a unique style about him, suffers with acne or has a limp, pain and torment will almost inevitably follow during adolescence. Gods help him if he’s also gay, ginger or, even worse, left-handed.

Of course, from the moment of conception most parents imagine their progeny to be flawless—attractive, talented, outgoing, popular, confident, high-achieving in every possible way, without a struggle to speak of in any aspect of their future life. Cue the effects of having a dodgy name inflicted upon them by the very people who were meant to be looking out for them. They’ve simmered just below the surface since childhood and the now-adolescent kid’s had years and years to wonder why his parents decided to punish him with such a ridiculous name. Good luck dealing with that particular adolescent tantrum, mum and dad!

Just as with name choices we approve of, when we see a choice of name that we feel is utterly preposterous it’s difficult not to pour scorn on the parent(s), even calling into question their very ability to provide a stable environment for poor little Rocket Zot.

As he gets older, Rocket Zot’s life will be one request after another to either spell and/or explain his name. Did Lara and Sam give any consideration to the giant chunk of time he’ll lose from his life to said spellings and explanations? I think not.

At any rate how, exactly, does one explain away the dubious choices of one’s own parents? Today, Gen-X can usually blame an unusual name on the fact that their parents were pot-smoking, tree- hugging hippies in the 60s. All Rocket Zot’s generation will have to fall back on is that their parents were either bogans, celebrities or pretentious wankers. Or they were just idiots. And who wants to talk about their beloved parents like that, however truthful it might be?

Recently, I happened across Mia Freedman on the radio (I swear I wasn’t actively seeking her out). She was discussing children’s names with numerous panelists, one of whom commented that there was generally a sense of middle-class scorn towards the naming conventions of those in lower socio-economic bands. One listener called in to suggest that less financially well-off mothers were prone to giving their children uncommon or unusual names in order to give them “an edge” in life that they otherwise might not have. The next caller suggested that anyone who believed it was a positive thing to attach ridiculous monikers to already underprivileged children was more stupid than their name choices had already suggested they might be. Ouch! A harsh comment… but I couldn’t help nodding and muttering “aha” in agreement.

Let’s not forget, though, that naming conventions—like language generally—are fluid and have been evolving for centuries. Some flower and fruit-inspired names, that are either commonplace today or already old-fashioned, probably seemed just as ridiculous 100 years ago as some of today’s celebrity baby names. After multiple generations of Matthews, Marks, Lukes and Johns, Amandas, Melissas, Kates and Michelles, since the turn of this century parents have gravitated towards names reminiscent of our great-grandparents’ generation—William, Thomas, Jack and George, Lily, Olive, Charlotte and Ruby. Folk with, perhaps, a more confident or creative bent are calling their sons Sebastian, Hamish, Oliver, Jasper or Hugo, while the well-to-do—particularly in the UK—embrace previously ridiculed ‘toff’ names like Tarquin, Crispin, Tristram, Woodrow, Bartholomew and Digby.

Let’s face it: even Tarquin is better than Rocket Zot. At least Tarquin is a ‘real’ name with some actual history behind it, derived as it is from the name of the last BC-era king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus.

But Rocket Zot’s certainly not alone in his parents’ choice of laughable names. There are innumerable variations on the same theme. One of my most favourite types is the existing name with an alternative spelling arbitrarily, if not unintentionally, applied to it (many examples of which were listed earlier). The unfortunate infant recipients of these mostly bogan names won’t just need to spend the rest of their lives spelling and explaining their name, each and every time they have to say it, but they’ll almost always need to clarify its pronunciation as well.

StupidKidsNames4Oh to be a fly on the wall when some of the world’s great intellects discuss whether their proposed spelling of dear little <Abbigayl / Johnythen / Khrystyna / Maddissynn / Qristyl / Viktoriya / Rach’elle>’s name is ever likely to become more of a curse than a blessing to their beloved child, who they’d never intentionally damage. Of course, that’s a wholly pointless wish on my part—parents who intentionally adorn newborns with names like that are clearly too stupid and too self-interested to ever stop to consider potential impacts on the child; they’re so dumb they probably don’t even realize the damage they’re about to inflict with such a woefully awful name.

But wait: there’s even worse! Simply making up a name that’s never been heard before, either using an existing word or place-name, or by creating a completely new string of letters which, more often than not, wouldn’t cut the mustard as a word, let alone as a name. There’s some potential for this to be a beautiful thing, but it rarely is. Examples: Adorabelle, Fyntyn, Guinessa, Hashtag, Mackson, Shardonnay, Skyy, Twyce, Brogan, Baacardee, Autumm… all, apparently, actual names given to actual babies born in recent years.

I appreciate individualism as much as anyone else, I truly do. Being unique and original and creative is all well and good—but whose originality and uniqueness and creativity are we talking about? Whose originality and uniqueness and creativity is a child’s name meant to represent, or enhance? Why not let the child decide for itself whether it wants to be unique, original or creative? Why not let the child develop a personality of its own which is entirely separate to and independent of any self-fulfilling quasi-personality, built up solely around its bizarre name?

What if the child turns out not to be intellectually gifted in any way? What if the kid ends up being the shyest person ever to walk the earth? Or, worse, a crushing bore with no confidence, minimal personality, few interests or hobbies and without a single creative bone in its body? Oh come on, enough with the horrified, shocked gasps and faux-outrage! We all know it’s possible. Everyone’s different. And every single uncreative crushing bore in the world who ever existed started out as a child, who probably wasn’t much different.

In recent years there’s been increasing acknowledgement of the damage that silly names can do to children. In 2011, the New Zealand Registrar of Births, Death and Marriages reported a crackdown on the registration of stupid baby names, recalling that a nine-year-old child had been so traumatised by her name, “Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii”, that she applied to have it legally changed in 2008. In accepting her request, the presiding Family Court Judge said an odd name “makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap”.

So where’s the duty of care that inherently comes with parenthood, when the first thing they do to their child is impose a name that’s likely to be a social and/or psychological handicap? And who’s meant to benefit from a ridiculous (or, at best, a ‘somewhat unique’) child’s name anyway—the child, or the parent(s)?

There’s ‘unique’ and then there’s just being different for the sake of it. “But we don’t want our children to have the same name as everyone else”, some soon-to-be parents might say. Apparently they’re somehow unaware of the hundreds and hundreds of names they can choose from, the majority of which wouldn’t leave their children mentally scarred, having to spend their entire lives in a world of name-spelling and name-explaining pain, or wanting to change their name to ‘John’ or ‘Jane’ as soon as they’re old enough to legally do so.

There’s enough pointless chit-chat in the world as it is. I can only despair of a future where all that noise will be nothing but the spelling and explaining of absurd names—24/7, 365.

Oh dear.

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