My short summary of this ethics controversy is: This mother is nuts.
A woman, 24, is due to have her first child in August, and, she says, the first born son of everyone from her side of the family has been named Gaylord since the early 19th Century. She is determined to carry on the tradition, though her husband is horrified, maintaining that to name any boy “Gaylord” is child abuse.
That’s probably overstating it, but just a bit. Gaylord is not a common name (it’s from the Old French gaillard meaning “joyful” or “high-spirited”), but Wikipedia lists 25 famous or accomplished Gaylords, only one of which I had ever heard of, the baseball player on the list (of course). That’s Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry, who won over 300 games during a 21 year career in which he was famous for throwing spitballs, an illegal pitch. Perry is one of the three Gaylords on the list who is still alive, including a French long-distance runner named Gaylord Silly.
Now that’s child abuse..
But I digress. The mother says she offered her husband a compromise, agreeing that young Gaylord would go by “Gail” in school “so that he doesn’t have to deal with bullies.”
Will someone make this family listen to Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue”? How many boys are called “Gail?” If I had to choose and my objective was to avoid bullies, I think I’d take Gaylord over Gail. Of course, no kid should have to make that choice because his crazy mother insists on keeping a pointless tradition going for no reason other than, well, to keep a pointless tradition going.
The mother claims her husband was originally just fine with naming the boy Gaylord but calling him Gail; now, she says, he tells her he thought she was joking. He refuses to discuss the name further, and his family is now involved, pressuring her to pick a more traditional name.
“I now have his whole family hounding me and overreacting, telling me it would be abusive even when we’d just be calling him Gail,” she wrote on Reddit. Now the mothers-in -law are fighting about it. Her in-laws even sent over a list of “approved” names, which the mother-to-be says she finds “incredibly offensive.”
What is wrong with this woman? Here are the baby-naming ethics basics:
- Both parents should be happy with the name chosen.
- Both parents should have several names that they would accept. Having one name only is unreasonable.
- The prime consideration should be the child who is going to have to live with the name his whole life. A parent who wants to saddle a kid with a name that is guaranteed to make him the object of ridicule is being a selfish, unethical jerk, whatever the reason. Tradition isn’t a justification.
- The “Don’t worry, we’ll name him Ishkabibble but he can call himself ‘Ish'” plan is not an ethical solution.
- Naming a boy either Gaylord or Gail is cruel, and there’s no excuse for either.
- The extended family should butt out. There’s an old Dick Van Dyke Show episode about that problem. It’s not one of the better episodes, but even the gag name Rob and Laura’s son ends up with the satisfy the in-laws is better than Gaylord, because it’s a middle name.
- To reasonable people, that’s the ethical solution to these issues: put the offending name in the middle. If the child likes it for some reason, he can do what a remarkable number of our Presidents did (Ulysses, Grover, Woodrow, Calvin and Dwight), which is to use his more unusual middle name in place of the given first name.
Sadly, my guess is that the child is doomed whatever name he ends up with. His problems with this mother are just beginning.