Friday, February 12, 2010

Don't Tell Parents You Hate Their Baby's Name

All right, I admit my title is a bit misleading. I can't imagine you'd actually tell parents you hate little Eukanuba Iditarod Smith's name when the babe is nestled in his mother's arms. But if Mr. and Mrs. Smith tell you the name before little Eukanuba's birth? I know you will be extremely tempted to say, "I don't love it, actually," or "Do you have a back-up?" or "That certainly...has a lot of letters." Don't do that. Because while you may see yourself as the good Samaritan who helped a mother-to-be realize the error of her ways, to a pregnant woman you're just a dick who insulted something she put a lot of time and effort into.

I know: what if it's a really awful name? Most people will agree that life for young Audio Science Clayton (Not made up!) would be easier if someone had sat his parents down and explained the difference between a proper name and randomly chosen words. But let's be honest, unless you live in Hollywood and/or hang out with people who really love drugs, you aren't going to come across anyone who is going to name their child Jermajesty.

But you could run into someone who really wants to name her kid "Gertrude." And when she says, "We're naming her Gertrude Mildred Smith," the correct response is not, "Ug. I had a really mean aunt named Gertrude, and Mildred makes me think of mothballs." Your pregnant friend does not care about your mean aunt, nor does she want to play word association games with you. She has enough crap to deal with (back pain, peeing 23 times a day, assholes who won't give her a seat on the bus) to care about your issues with her baby's name. So shut your yap and tell her you love it.

You may think you're doing a service to point out something a mother might have missed about the name. Believe me, there is nothing she missed. When I told my mother the name my husband and I had chosen for our daughter, she said, "That's a long name. She'll never be able to spell it." (This was funny coming from a woman who gave me a name so unusual that not only can no one spell it, no one can pronounce it either.) It is true that my girl's first and middle names total seven syllables, but she has a three letter nickname and I can teach her her full name to the tune of "Camptown Races." See? Moms think of everything.

Then, of course, there's the argument that you're just looking out for the kid, since a ridiculous name will no doubt doom a person to a life of failure and shame. I don't buy it. I mean, in 1971, David Bowie named his son Zowie Bowie. "Good gracious," you're thinking, "That poor fellow must have become, like, a slime mold collector or something." No! He in fact went of to direct the acclaimed sci-fi indie flick Moon. Of course, he now goes by Duncan Jones, but that just brings me to my point: Even people with crappy names have free will. I have four friends who changed their names in college--two legally, and two just by introducing themselves by the name they wanted to be called. And their names didn't even suck. Biology is not destiny and neither is linguistics.

I guess I'm particularly cranky about this issue because, as I mentioned above, I have an unusual name. And while I understand that yes, there are terrible names out there (a friend mentioned that her sister ran into a girl named Jennaysayqua, pronounced "Je nais se quoi." It seems appropriate that the poor child's name translates into "I don't even know."), how boring would the world be if we were all named John and Anne? I love my name, unpronounceablity and all, and I'm exceptionally glad that no one talked my mother out of giving it to me. So the next time a friend or acquaintance says to you, "Well, we're thinking of naming her Harley Quinn," just stop, think about how someone else's name is really none of your business, and don't say anything but, "It's lovely."


  1. My grandmother, Gertrude, had a sister named Mildred. I am hoping that these old fashioned names come back into style before I start popping kiddos out because I really want a Gertie.

  2. My cousin had two possible names for her youngest, and her mother greatly preferred the one that she did not end up picking, and kept telling her how much she didn't like the chosen name, and continued to do so in the hospital after the baby was born. My cousin finally had to say "That is my baby, that is his name, STOP."

  3. I'll agree, but to a certain extent. Example: my BFF and I sat around laughing at weird names of people we know. The names Sparkle, Muffin, and Twinkle all came up. Then my friend told me in all seriousness that she wanted to name her firstborn "Phoenix." To which I replied "So we just spent ten minutes laughing at Sparkle and Muffin, and you want to name your baby after a mythical creature? THINK ABOUT IT." She wasn't happy, but too bad. That's hypocrisy at its best, and I'm calling her out on that.

  4. Here's what I think: if your child is going to have a non-traditional name, don't tell people until you have actual child to hold and call it an unusual name. No one will say boo about a baby they are holding in their arms, but have plenty of opinions when it is still theoretical.