The Name Shame

Millard understood.

Giving one’s children ridiculous, bizarre or otherwise perverse names is the height of parental arrogance and narcissism, an abuse of power in which Golden Rule considerations evaporate in the desire to place a distinctive mark on the child of one’s creation, like a brand or a particularly garish tattoo.

There is some weak historical evidence that an oddball name can point a child to leadership or other kinds of singular achievements by isolating him or her from peers. A number of U.S. Presidents have had rare names, with four using their middle monickers to be more distinctive, and one, Lyndon Johnson, being specifically named by his mother so he “would look good on a ballot.” But there is also evidence that strange names are handicaps, and no doubt at all that they risk making children a lot more miserable than calling them Ed, Elizabeth or Frank.

Over at Deadspin, Drew Magary has harsh criticism for the apparently rising trend of wacko names, and all power to him. He combed through a Parents Magazine survey of the names favored by 13,000 people, and arrived at the horrifying conclusion that “Americans are somehow getting even worse at naming children, and they show no signs of correcting themselves.”  Among his trenchant commentary on the names he discovered:

• Izander “I’d like my son to sound like a shirt. Can you do that?”

• Jaydien That’s right. JaydIen. Don’t forget that I. That I is what sets young Jaydien apart from the mere Jaydens of the world. Now don’t you people who named your kid Jayden feel behind the times? You bought the beta version of that name. It’s like buying an iPad too early. Six years from now, the name will have morphed into Jayydizzosoian, and then you’ll really feel like a sucker…

• Tulsa If you’re gonna name your kid after a place, at least have the common courtesy to name him after a legitimate tourist destination. No one wants to hang out with a kid named Tulsa, or a kid named Kalamazoo. Ol’ Kal. Always gettin’ in trouble…

• Zaiden Of course Zaiden is here. It takes Jayden and throws a Z in front, which makes it SO STRONG. God, I just wanna slap a loincloth on little Zaiden and club dragons with him. Be on the lookout for Drayden, Fayden, Waiden, Strayden, and Klayden coming to your hood...

Those are the boys. For the girls… God, I’m so sorry for you, little princesses. Here is what your meth-addled mothers cooked up for you:

• Annyston Joined by brother Schwymmir

• Brylee Isn’t this an ice cream brand? It should be an ice cream brand….

• Fallyn “I’d like my daughter to sound like a dystopian young adult novel, please”…

• Jerrika You know what comes next, right? You guessed it: ZERRIKA. You will meet a Zerrika one day, and then you won’t know what to do with yourself

• Julissa Classic hybrid name. It joins the likes of Emichelle, Eliza’Betty, and Jessikate.

• Luxx Why not add that third x and fulfill her destiny? That’s what you want, right? You want little Luxx to grow up, move to the Valley and earn $60 a week getting jet spraykakke’d for a series of Brazzers short films, yes? There’s no other reason to name your child Luxx…

You can read the entire post here, in all its sad, slightly obscene humor. The fact is that sticking a helpless child with names like these is selfish and cruel. when there are hundreds of solid, easily-spelled names in the culture to choose from that won’t make your child the target of taunts until he’s old enough to drink…or to get elected President.


Pointer: Advice Goddess

Source: Deadspin

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at



26 thoughts on “The Name Shame

  1. I don’t see the problem with Tulsa. It’s not hard to spell or pronounce, it follows a naming tradition even the author admits has footing, and it has a certain heartland charm to it.

    • I don’t mind Tulsa either…it’s one of the dancers’ names in “Gypsy,”; John Wayne had cahracters in his movies with names like “Mississippi” (Rick Nelson) and Colorado (James Caan.) Denver Pyle, Dallas Green, Huston Street, Texas Guinan, London Lee, Paris Hilton. I wouldn’t want to be named “Schenectady” or “Des Moines”, though.

  2. The “odd” name did not seem to hurt Barack Obama. I recall a few years back, when someone forwarded a website address to me, where one could simply enter a name and click to find out how many people of that name are in the U.S. I don’t remember with certainty, but I believe this was around 2008, when Obama was just beginning his campaign. For fun, I plugged in “Barack Obama,” and the website reported that there was a grand total of ONE person in the U.S.A. with that name. Odd, indeed!

    Naming has become just another form of entertainment, it seems. Drew Magary alluded to a porn website (I looked it up). Enterprises for that form of entertainment, and “stars” in them, are never going to go extinct. Neither are “pop stars.” Their names get weirder by the week. Such role models! I don’t think any amount of outrage, short of some obsessively enforced United Nations Treaty that somehow links naming of children to abuse (and equates assignment of names other than some fixed set to, say, genital mutilation) is going to slow down the trend of creative naming.

  3. This is one of my pet peeves; here on the loony coast oh so many have to do this. We have some friends who work at the hospital and every week we get the top 3, they are stunning. I remember reading an article IRT a study a few years back that indicated that based on name alone your chances of getting an interview dropped significantly if you had an odd name or if “alternative” spelling was used.

  4. I like the way everybody has to name their child with a unique spelling or a unique pronunciation. This makes the first day of school just a joy. “Is Lara here?” No, my name is pronounced like “LAURA”, it is just spelled “Lara”. I also have to have Caitlin, Caitlyn, Catlin, Catlyn, Catlynn, Caitlinn, Caitlynn, Katlynn, Kaitlynn, Katlyn, Kaitlyn, Katilin, Kailinn, Kaytlynn, Kaytlin, etc. They will all choose to sit together and be study partners. I am going to start pronouncing the name “Kathleen” like it should be. I don’t pronounce Sean as “seen”, I shouldn’t pronounce Kaitlynn as cate-lin, should I? OK, I won’t really do this last one. I just wonder if today’s children and college students are going to have to use their middle names (that were chosen to please their grandparents) once they grow up just like their grandparents, Moonbeam and Dandelion, had to.

    • Michael, all signs point to the “Culture Club” getting ever more diverse. If I have to do substitute teaching again, I won’t be surprised if I have to roll call a “,,,,,Kameelion” – I’ll just nickname him “Boy” or “George” or “BG.”

    • I have a Sean and it is unbelievable the number of adults through his school years that called him Seen the first time. My nephew was a Shea and ended up changing his name as a young adult because of the number of people that could not pronounce it. He always gone She-ya. All he changed was the spelling. Now he is a Shae. He intentionally spelled it wrong. I wouldn’t have.

      The funniest story I have about names though is when I was registering my Sean for school. It was a pre-register where they were just trying to gather names and numbers of incoming students for the next terms. The bulletin asked that if we had children scheduled to start in the next two school years, we call and get them on the list. The lady asked for his names in order – last, first, middle. I gave his last name, she said first name?, I said Sean, she said S-h-a-w-n?, I said S-e-a-n. She said middle name? I said none. She said N-u-n-n? I said no, as in he doesn’t have one! It made us both burst out laughing.

      • Good one. My sister once was introduced to a female lawyer I knew whose given name was “Dido,” as in the story of Aeneas. She pronounced it DID-Oh (I was taught that the pronunciation was properly DIE-Doe.) My sister introduced herself by saying, “My name is Edith Marshall, what’s yours?” and the woman replied, “Dido.” My sister said, “Your name is Edith Marshall too?

      • You bringing up the lack of a middle name reminded me of a friend of mine who was a 5th generation Marine. He was “the 4th” of his name sake in all but one regard. In the military someone without middle initial often has to put NMI (no middle initial) on forms. So what did his dad do? He made his middle name NMI. He loved it, it was his father’s perpetual joke, and every time he used it his father came to mind.

        • Recalling Harry S Truman’s phantom middle name (which was literally “S”) and Ulysses S. Grant’s mistaken “S.”—his middle name was “Hiram,” which was originally his first name—the army mistakenly recorded it as an S rather than an H, and Grant liked the “U.S.” bit. The S didn’t stand for “Simpson,” it was literally a typo that stuck.

  5. My father wanted to name me after a Marine Corps officer he searved with that a unique name for this country, but not for Ireland I found out later, and when he aproached said officer about doing so the officer told him “Why the hell would you want to do to the boy?” lol So I got it as a middle name instead.

    • I tried to talk my wife into letting me name Grant “T. Rex Marshall”—I was only half kidding. Now he says he likes the name. He likes his middle name, “Viktor,” the Russian spelling, and uses it whenever possible. Ulysses, Grover, Woodrow, Calvin and Dwight were all middle names—the middle name is the place to get creative.

      • All my brothers and sister have family names as do a great deal of my cousins. So family reunions if you yell Liz, Maggie, Mary Lawerence , Ross or Hugh at least a half dozen people will respond. But if you yell Bill or Will I will be the only one. Even my bothers and sisters middle names are family names so it doesnt help to use those .

  6. I read a nine year old girl named ‘Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii’ managed to get her name changed by a court order. Some parents just should not have children.

  7. Names that begin with “Z” are every bit as awesome as you’ve heard.
    Those “Jechmans” are nothin’ but a bunch of punks!

    However . . .
    True story: My first and middle names are the middle names of my two older brothers (my only siblings). My parents were SO convinced that I would be a girl that they had no boy names at the ready–but had bought dresses.

    But for one chromosome, I would be Melissa Diane Zechman today.


  8. My daughter has two middle names. One, Alexandra, not at all uncommon. The other, Tseu-Chiu, was a gift from her Mandarin grandfather, meaning “gaining in virtues”. Many “unusual” names may, in fact, be ethnic, and not from red-neck goober parents (that grandpa was a university professor).

  9. My grandfather’s first name was PeTe – that’s not a typo. It was pronounced as Pete, but the T was capitalized to signify P.T. Barnum. Imagine applying alternative capitalization to all those Catelyn/Caitlin/Katelynns!

    • The lovely 3-yr-old granddaughter of my ladyfriend is a “Kayley”. I wonder how many different forms there are for that!

  10. The sreenwriters of “Dr. Strangelove…” obviously had fun thinking up character names for the film — Gen. Jack D. Ripper, Gen. Turgidson, etc. My favorite in the “slightly obscene” category was that of the US President: Merkin Muffley.

    (Enter “merkin” into Google.)

  11. In the 1980s, my father was in dental school. They had a student patient named Vagina. The story is that during the delivery experience, her mother heard the word “vagina” and thought it was “pretty”. So, out of the vagina came Vagina.
    I also teach, and one of my students had a child whom she named Ty’lasia. I asked her if she was going for a continental theme, and the next ones would be Ty’lafrica, Ty’leurope, etc. I have since moved school districts, and I know she had another child her senior year. I do not know what she named it, but I sure do hope she stayed with the continental theme. I’m sure she will have at least five more, and what a great idea! If she chooses to have more, maybe she could move on to an oceanic theme – Ty’lindian, Ty’latlantic,Ty’lartic…. Oooh! the possibilities!!!

  12. I once worked at a newborn picture place and we had to call and confirm spelling with the parent if we came across any names that seemed odd before we put them on Jr.’s name and date embellished photos. I have personally made calls to parents to confirm the following names:

    3:13 (and yes with numbers)
    Mountain (little girl, oh how I feel for her)
    Manses (is that what it is when you don’t get your menses?)
    Elbow Joint
    Kane and Abill
    …and we did have one set of parents send back their pictures to have them reprinted when they saw the spelling of Nevaeh, (oh how I hate that name), they insisted that it was spelled nevaeH. That’s right, now it seems you capitalize the END of the name when you really want to be important.

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