Don’t worry, I’m not baby crazed or anything. But anyone who has known me for more than about a week knows that I am, for whatever reason, obsessed with names. Names for pets, names for babies, names for characters — it doesn’t matter. I keep a list of names that I like on my computer and I have a shockingly enormous collection of name books on my shelf at home.
When it comes to naming characters — because I am, after all, a fiction writer — nothing but the best will do. I spend hours picking out the most fitting name and won’t rest until it’s perfect. I’m sure I’ll do the same, if not to a more fanatical degree, should I ever have a pet of my own, or if I (god forbid) become a parent. But sometimes I feel other people don’t put in nearly enough thought into the names they give their children. As a huge name nerd, I have guilty pleasure names like Nero and Drusilla. Good names for characters. Bad names for children. Because remember — children are individuals themselves, and they grow up to be (gasp!) real people. And as bad as it is to be saddled with a boring-ass name, it’s definitely way worse to get a name like Dweezil or Pilot Inspektor or Peaches.
These are the trends that I hate the most for one reason or another in no particular order. It’s hard to rank the injustice
10. Giving your child a middle name … and then calling them by it.
I don’t know what the deal is with this. I don’t think I’ll ever really get it. Apparently it’s a thing that some Southern families do, maybe to differentiate two different family members named John, maybe for some other reason that I’m not exactly privy to. They’ll name a child John Robert … and instead of calling him John or Johnny or even John Robert or J.R, they decide to call him Robert. And not only that — Robert then becomes this child’s given name for all intents and purposes. He might even be called Rob or Bobby. And the only time John comes up again is if his parents are really furious and he’s drawn on the walls or drunk all their good whiskey, and they yell “JOHN ROBERT SMITH, YOU GET YOUR LITTLE BUTT DOWN HERE.” So why is he not named Robert John? I can’t come up with any good reason for the confusion that’s definitely going to ensue in school when his teacher calls attendance and he has to explain to the entire class that he goes by Robert, not John, and that it’s his middle name. Why not just cut out all that tiresome explanation by just naming him Robert John? It’s just silly.
9. Giving your child a “filler” middle name.
So let’s go the complete opposite route as above. I don’t understand why you would give your baby a first name that never gets used and a middle name that is used as a first name, but I also don’t understand why you’d even give someone a middle name if it doesn’t have any meaning to you. You can use the middle name slot to honour a family member or a friend, to put that really cool name in there that you’ve always loved, or to give your child the option of going by their middle name later on in life (in case your choice of first name wasn’t their cup of tea). I maintain that girls with the middle names Marie, Rose, and Ann were named by unimaginative parents, because you can use this name spot for anything you want. It can have meaning or it can be your opportunity to be creative and have fun without dooming your child to an embarrassing name situation for all eternity. So really — unless you have a great-aunt Marie or roses happen to be your favourite flower, leave the dull names at home. I personally take great pride in my “weird” middle name, though I know not everyone does. I like having a full name that nobody else in the world has. Because is it likely that there’s another Kendra Sidony Recht out there? Nope. It makes me feel like I truly am one of a kind. And I’m not saying you have to name your child Mary Prunella. But what about Mary Jacqueline, or Mary Sophia, or Mary Isabelle? Why does it always have to be Elizabeth, Claire, Rose, Ann, or Marie? And really, who wants to be one of four Sarah Anns or Emily Roses in their class? No one, that’s who.
8. Naming children after yourself, your spouse, or another friend or family member.
Many people might read this and get upset, because frankly, the reason most people name their children after other folks in their lives is to honour them. It’s a noble cause — I’m not bashing it. But as great as honouring family members or friends may be, is it necessary to have two (or more) people with the same name floating around in the same family? And unless it’s a name like Elizabeth that has a wide variety of nicknames (Liz, Beth, Betsy, Betty, Elle, Eliza, Libby, etc), confusion will be inevitable. But it’s more than confusion at stake. I feel that when people name their kids after themselves or another family member, they’re sort of robbing a child of his or her own identity. I know that sounds drastic, but hear me out: a name is a point of pride. It is the thing that is your own from the day you come into this world until the day you die. People remember you by this name, they define you by it, and if you happen to be Scott Junior — or heaven forbid Scott III — you instead get all these familial expectations pushed on you, whether your parents mean it or not. There is already a prescribed identity to the person or people carrying this name who have already lived and have already done many things, both good and bad. A “junior” starts off as a mini-me — and that’s the point, isn’t it? Thinking so highly of yourself that you name your child to honour … well, you? And with a junior or a III, there isn’t even the distinction of having your own middle name, which could at least help to set you apart. It’s especially bad when the poor thing is relegated to being called “junior” as a nickname. I mean … yikes. Look, guys, I get tradition — I understand that tradition, to many people, is a very important thing. But does it have to seep into naming practices like this? There are other ways to honour somebody. Off the top of my head I can think of quite a few. You can use a similar name, or a name with the same meaning, or choose that person’s birthstone or month or favourite flower or something else that’s in their interests. My mom hates her name, so it’s not like I’d ever saddle a child with it. But if I really wanted to honour her, maybe I’d call my daughter Cassandra, because it’s the name of a character in her favourite novel. Or maybe I’d let my mom choose a few names, and bring her into the naming conversation. That probably shows more love and respect than just choosing the name Barbara. So since you can honour people in fun and creative ways, is it really necessary to repeat names within a family? Especially because then you can avoid all the petty drama when Great Uncle Edgar finds out that he doesn’t get a baby named after him. Remember that no children want their parents’ heavy hopes and expectations weighing on them for all eternity, and they certainly shouldn’t have to be reminded of these lofty goals every time they hear their name called.
7. Naming your child the same name as another child in the family.
This kind of goes with the above quibble, but it’s less out of honour and more out of stupidity. At least, that’s what I get out of this sort of situation. I know that you may have a large extended family, and that you and your cousin might both adore the name Liam, but if your cousin uses Liam, do you really need to do it too? There are other fine names out there. There are, in fact, hundreds of thousands of them. Why must you decide to confuse your entire gaggle of friends and family by naming your child the same name as another child that you spend a lot of time with? Do you really need two cousin Liams? It’s especially weird if it’s not a family name. If it is, that’s not really my cup of tea but I can at least somewhat get behind the reasoning. But if it’s just a name two different people in the same family (or circle of close friends, even) just happen to like, you should probably let the person who has the child first (or at least announces their intention to use the name first) have the name. Because doesn’t everybody want their child to be special?
6. Names inspired by the place of conception.
Pro-tip here, parents: no kid wants to find out that his or her name’s meaning is the place in which you copulated. It doesn’t matter if the end result was little Brooklyn; it’s still sex, and it’s still probably not a thing your child wants to think about when finding out the origin of their name. I had this experience myself once when I was told — very tactlessly, I might add, over dinner — that my parents considered naming me Geneva. As in Switzerland. Let me tell you, there’s nothing that puts you off a nice fancy dinner like the thought of your parental units doing it. And really — does any kid want to know that about their parents? Yes, of course intellectually we all know our parents had to do the deed otherwise we would not exist, but we don’t want to actually know any of the details. We like to keep it fuzzy, bleeped out like a censored rap song. And that’s just the good names that come out of this scenario. How else do you think we get names like Number 16 Bus Shelter? I’ll leave it to your imagination.
5. Names that put incredible expectations on children.
We’re talking, here, about names that confer a lot of meaning upon the child. It isn’t bad to give your child a name that means “wise” if you want him or her to be wise. But to actually name your child a virtue, particularly one that’s hard to follow, it could really backfire. I feel like sometimes by naming their daughter Chastity, parents are congratulating themselves on a job well done. “Brilliant,” says the mother, “Now she’ll have this constant reminder that SEX IS BAD.” Dad will agree. He’ll say, “She’ll be the most virtuous of them all.” Now, have you met any girls name Chastity? I haven’t, but I’ve got friends who have, and they all come to the same general consensus: all Chastitys are complete hoes. I feel like a name like that just begs to be rebelled against. Think about it. All her life, little Chastity has been told what her name means. She’s definitely been teased about it since the boys in middle school figured out the definition, and the girls probably all whispered behind her back, giggling that maybe Chastity isn’t living up to her name, or maybe that she’s a total prude like her name. And can anyone live up to it? Chastity has no choice but to either fully rebel and get the flak or go with it and still get teased. But it’s not just virtue names; there are names like Hercules and Beauty that nobody can live up to. Can a boy named Hercules really be that strong, that god-like, that attractive? What if Beauty’s just a homely little girl? It’s great if your kid can live up to names like this, but who are we kidding? It never works out quite the way you want it to.
4. “Youneek” Spellings.
I spell “unique” this way because sometimes it’s the only way to properly express the injustice being done to normal names everywhere. Every parent wants his or her child to be one of a kind, and they want their child’s name to reflect this. That’s nothing new. But there are heaps of interesting names that aren’t in the top 100 or even the top 1000 that you could use to make your baby stand out and not look like they went to a white trash convention in Appalachia. Instead of looking for these hidden gems, many parents decide that they want to name their child something very mundane, very run-of-the-mill, but because they feel there are too many little girls named Emily bopping around in their neighbourhood, they decide the best way to deal with this is to use the name but spell it Emmy-Lee or Emmaleigh. Newsflash, parents: it still sounds exactly the same, so your dumb kid is still going to be one of six Emilys in her class, plus it looks like you had an aneurysm while choosing her name. Is Katelynne really all that different from Caitlin? Doesn’t Jaxson look way stupider than Jackson?. And does anyone actually think the spelling Lyndsie looks cute? Really, guys, it’s not unique, you’ve just spelt it wrong. And imagine the confusion when the poor thing is trying to first write its name, or correct teachers at school! There’s also this brand new thing with the letter “y.” Everyone loves the letter “y.” I can’t tell you the reason, except for the fact that many new parents seem to believe that the letter “y” makes a different noise than it actually does. Trashy people like to stuff as many “ys” in their kid’s names as they can handle. Fynn. Jasmyne. Addisyn. Krystyna. THE LETTER DOESN’T SOUND LIKE THESE THINGS. USE OTHER VOWELS. And hey, boy-names-on-girls lovers (we’ll be getting to that soon) — it doesn’t make a name more feminine when you replace other respectable vowels with their shabby cousin “y.”
3. Boys Names On Girls.
For a very long time, I’ve had a thing against boys names on girls. I’m aware that names like Lindsey and Jocelyn used to be boy names long ago, but I’ve made my peace with those. It’s inevitable that every now and again, over time, names will migrate from one sex to the other. But that isn’t the trend I’m talking about. I’m talking about the trend where parents feel that to be cool or edgy, they have to name their daughter Kennedy or Killian or Bryce. They do this to be unique and interesting. They see actresses like Blake Lively and they say “see, it worked for her!” But Blake Lively is beautiful and can pull off a masculine name. What if your daughter is a fugly as? What if she hates that her name is Maxwell? This is where feminine middle names come in, of course, because then if she’s Maxwell Louise, she can always go by Louise. And boys might think it’s cool, but they also might tease her incessantly for it. It’s a toss-up. Plus, you’ve got to gauge how popular this boy name is going to be. In Bergen County, New Jersey, you’d better bet that there will be about ten male Michaels per grade, so you probably shouldn’t name your little girl that. And can we talk about the repercussions of using boy names for girls? Because I’m pretty sure these days Madison and Riley and even Elliot are listed as unisex names. Hell, on babynames.com even James, a classic biblical name, is classified that way. Supporters of this trend will say that it’s a move towards equality, in which no name is gendered — but is that actually true? Nuh uh. The second a name moves from masculine territory to feminine territory, the boys lose another name. It may not be fair, but it works the same as when we judge men for wearing makeup but not women for wearing jeans. As soon as Ashley became a popular moniker for baby girls all across America, the name went out of vogue for boys. A boy named Laura would be beaten up every day in the schoolyard for the rest of his young life. The parents who think boy names fit girls well do not also believe the opposite, which makes it annoying and hypocritical, because then they are stealing names from the boys and giving them all to the girls — and once a name swaps sides, it doesn’t often swing back around.
2. Themed family names.
Very few things are tackier than sibling sets with themes. Or shall I say overt themes, because some are clever. You can get away with some. You may not realise at first that a sibset named Juliet, Tamora, and Sebastian are all named after Shakespearean characters, but you’re sure as hell going to figure it out right away when they’re named Luna, Hermione, and Sirius. It’s too much. Way too cutesy. Don’t name all your girls after flowers, and certainly try to avoid things like having the same endings (i.e. Hunter, Jasper, Tyler). And while it may be cute and tempting to follow in the Kardashians’ footsteps, it’s probably not the brightest idea to name all your children starting with the same letter. Now, I should preface this by saying I’m not terribly bothered by siblings both having names with the same letter. My sister and I are Kendra and Kerry. However, this was incidental — it just happened that my parents liked the way the names sounded together as a set, and they really liked the name “Kerry” — so what if it started with the same letter as mine? But the problem arises when families set out to do a sibling set with just one letter. Let’s say it’s the letter O. They love Olivia for a girl and Otto and Owen for a boy — but then god forbid, what happens if they have another girl? They don’t care for Octavia or Ophelia or Opal, but they’re afraid to go against the pattern they’ve already set up for themselves. How can you have three children with O names and one without? See, now they’ve backed themselves into a corner and there’s not terribly much they can do about it aside from suck it up and scour the interwebs for an O name they don’t despise, or they break the pattern and little Amy is forever asking questions about why she is the one with the different name, and when you tell her it’s because she’s special, your little O crowd gets upset because then they aren’t special. Man, aren’t kids great.
1. Matchy Twin Names.
This is like above but worse. I feel as though some people think twins are the same person split into different bodies. But to be clear, a twin’s identity isn’t defined by the fact that he or she is a twin. They just happen to come out of the womb with another person who may or may not look exactly like them. They’re separate people. Not one person multiplied by two or divided in two, depending on the way you look at it. This misconception is going to plague your twins for the rest of their lives, so you probably might not want to give people any more fodder. Don’t give them names that rhyme, or names that are boy-girl variations of each other (like Luke and Lucy or Nicholas and Nicole). Don’t give them any names that might have the same nicknames, like that one MTV Teen Mom did with Aliannah and Aleeah — you can’t control what other people call them, so they could both end up as “Ali.”. Because come on, it’s confusing for everyone involved, including the twins. And you. Remember that you need to remember who is who, too. I sometimes think people forget that for approximately eighteen years, they will be calling their children to dinner, yelling at them for running into traffic, or asking them to do chores — all of which will require you to recall who got what name. And believe you me, no one likes getting called by the wrong name. Sometimes my dad calls me by my sister’s name by accident and I give him the stink eye. And sometimes he calls my sister Paul after his brother. No one really knows why. But that’s another story entirely.
I think the worst possible “matchy” sets, though, are the really strange ones, where people forget that their children are siblings. Some twins are called Adam and Eve. Or Edward and Bella. Or Romeo and Juliet. Please, readers, enlighten me. Why would you want to name your twin son and daughter after tragic lovers? Or any lovers for that matter? Isn’t it going to be very uncomfortable and weird when they realise the inspiration behind their names? It would give me the fucking creeps.
There are heaps more terrible trends out there, but I don’t have the time or energy to recount them all. There’s the “-Ayden” trend, in which half the names in the top one hundred are Brayden, Aiden, Caden, Jayden, et al. There’s the trend of naming kids word names like Apple and Story, and the the trend of putting random apostrophes into random spots in the name. There’s the trend of poor folks naming their children Bentley and Tiffany after things they could never afford in a million years, and the list goes on and on and on and on and on. And hey — if you happen to have children you’ve named with these trends, please feel free to bash me until the cows come home, because after all, enough people do this shit that I wrote a post to complain about it.