Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What's in a name?

It all started when my very best friend told me she was pregnant. Just like that, pregnant friends were everywhere, having apparently gotten together and decided that 2010 was THE year for maternity wear. I was thrilled for them, but worried for me. What if they turned into ‘smug pregnant women’? Luckily none of them have (so far), but I began to feel left out. Not because I actually wanted a baby, with tiny fingers and chubby toes and… gah! Okay maybe they’re a little bit cute. No, I felt left out because I wasn’t in on the trend. Babies, you see, are the new ‘it’ accessory.

More than that, I worried about how it would affect our friendships because I am self-absorbed things would never be the same. What happened to staying out until dawn? To dancing and debauchery? Okay fine, I haven’t actually done any of these things in years, but it didn’t help the gnawing anxiety that things were changing.

My friends weren’t the only ones procreating. Suddenly, women everywhere were giving up their freedom at the expense of tiny humans who would rule their lives for the next 18 years. They were doing things like buying 400$ prams and organic mushy carrots. They were probably doing all these things before, but I’d never actually noticed. And they were naming their children… oh were they ever! Some of the names these poor kids would have to deal with seemed like unwarranted punishments.

If you have a child, you might want to stop reading now, because I am about to write down my personal rules for child-naming, and I’m likely to offend at least one yummy mummy. I know everyone has personal preferences when it comes to this, usually having to do with unfortunate results when combined with the last name (put it this way, my parents would not have named my brother ‘William’ because the nickname-lastname combo would have sounded quite similar to ‘Billabong’). These are my personal guidelines. Feel free to use them, or to send me hate mail.

Rule #1) No nicknames in place of formal names. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to this one, but I really think that if you want to call your kid ‘Tony’, you name him ‘Anthony’ or ‘Antonio’. If you want your little girl to be a ‘Liz’, name her Elizabeth. Put the formal name on the birth certificate, and call your child whatever you like. It’s why they’re called nicknames, people!

Rule #2) No medieval professions (again, a more personal one). I know names like Cooper, Carter, and Fletcher have become quite popular, but where will it end? Cobbler? Tinker? Serf? Townwhore?

Rule #3) No nouns that are linked to personality traits. You just know little Joy will be a miserable child, little Hope will be despondent, little Charity will be selfish, and... I think we all know what will become of little Chastity. And speaking of little Chastity...

Rule #4) No stripper names. Why on earth would you name your child 'Candy' (Candace is fine), 'Destiny' or 'Cookie', when you know they'll end up giving lap dances for a living? Okay, most people who give their children these names are probably strippers themselves...

Rule #5) Last names as first names only if you can find them on your family tree. I have to admit, I am quite a fan of the 'last names as first names' trend, but only when it applies to your own family. Don't name your kid 'MacKenzie' unless somewhere in your ancestry you were part of the clan. And for the love of God, please don't spell it 'Makynzee'.

Rule #6) No 'yooneek' spellings. Your child's name will still sound the same (once people have figured it out), and then she'll be just another 'Emma', even if you spell it 'Ehmah'. Different spellings for similar names in other languages are, however, perfectly acceptable.

Rule #7) No abandoning your cultural/ethnic background. If you are pasty white, and your husband is pasty white, do not name your little girl Ebony (unless she's adopted). It might be a pretty name, but she'll have to spend her whole life explaining that her parents were being ironic. Same goes for some Brazilians who, inexplicably, name their children things like 'Washington' and (this one's a doozy!) Waltdisney (though I think they might spell it 'Ualtdisni')... fala serio! I'm not even going to get into how weird that is.

Rule #8) You don't live in the Lord of the Rings series. Please stop naming your children 'Gwenevere Finevere Elthwith Tinklebottom' or anything else that makes them sound like a hobbit.

Rule #9) No place names that aren't already established people names. Names like Devon, Paris and Virginia have all been human names for a long time. However, if you choose to name your kid 'Tokyo' or 'Vancouver' we're all going to assume it's because that's where the little one was conceived. And no one wants that mental image.

Rule #10) No combo names. Your kid isn't a meal deal at McDonald's, so don't give him a combo name. Double names are fine (these are just two names put together, sometimes with a hyphen), but it's a bit silly to take two names, lop off half of each, and stick them together. I don't care if you like both names, or if they're both names that have meaning to you. When you perform DIY on names, it sounds just as silly as when you do it with random words. ('Deotamin' is, like, a totally masculine name! I made it up by combining deodorant and vitamin!) Plus it makes your kid sound like a celebrity couple.


Evelyn said...

V. enjoyable -- people came to see what I was laughing about.

Seen recently on a class list of 13-year-olds -- "Reef" (presumably male, but no information either way). Why stop there? Why not other geographical features like Peak or Butte? Lake or Inlet? Something pretentious-sounding like Archipelago or unpronounceable like Isthmus?

There is endless fun in this topic.

jenanne said...

this is a very thorough list! & i thank you for it. (i hate the unique spelling trend... IT ALL SOUNDS THE SAME, PEOPLE. & ENGLISH SPELLING IS COMPLEX ENOUGH ALREADY!)

however, i must admit that technically my name is a combination. i was named for a friend of my mother's, whose grandmothers were called jennifer & anne, thus making 'jenanne'. though i lack a hyphen, so maybe i am not violating the rules? ;)