What’s In A Name?
It’s my favourite time of year!
Every year about this time, the NZ Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages publishes a list of baby names that parents have proposed naming their children but which the Registry considers too weird.
It all started a few years ago when it was learned that some loving parents had named their child “Talula Does The Hula in Hawaii.” Apparently the poor girl was so traumatised that at age nine she applied (successfully) to the courts to have it legally changed.
The official line is that such names are deemed “too creative,” but you really have to wonder if something other than creativity is driving some of these parents’ decisions.
You’re probably wondering what sorts of names get rejected. Well, this year Lucifer got rejected not once, but three times. There was no mention of Satan or Beelzebub. But Messiah was also given the thumbs down. Nice try.
Punctuation marks are also out. Someone wanted to name their kid *. I don’t know if they planned to call him “Star” or “Asterisk” or what his nickname would have been in that case, but they wanted the symbol. If I were those parents, my second choice would have been The Child Formerly Known As *.
Speaking of which, you can’t name your kid with a title. So Prince is out along with King, Knight and Bishop. But there was no mention of Pawn. Usually names made of single letters are rejected, such as C, D, I and T. But Q and J were deemed OK.
Some of the all-time favourites on the list of rejected names include Fish and Chips, proposed for twin boys, Sex Fruit and Stallion.
I decided to do some research to find out why people give their kids bizarre names. My first thought was that people might be trying to emulate celebrities and not getting it quite right. As bad as Harper Seven, Sage Moonblood or Moon Unit might sound, they are a lot better than Sex Fruit.
Unfortunately, the evidence points to an even more disturbing reason. Apparently the main reason for giving kids unusual names is that parents think that run of the mill names like Mary and John are boring and insufficiently representative of the special uniqueness of the fruit of their loins. The truly scary corollary to that line of thinking is that people think that a unique name makes the person unique. One extravagantly named teenage was quoted as saying “If my name was Jane, I’d be plain like everyone else.”
Instead, she is unique just like everyone else.
There are even web sites where prospective parents can search for “Unique Baby Names.” I checked a few out. They don’t say whether they guarantee that your child will be unique if you give them one of those names, but a quick look at the list makes one wonder whether a kid with one of those names would be in for some unique treatment on the playground. For example, the offerings for boys include Ham, Innocent, Serius and Yorick. Girls are equally at risk: Flick, Lettice, Ralphina and Yaffa.
In Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton says, “according to one influential wing of modern secular society, there are few more disreputable fates than to end up being ‘like everyone else’; for ‘everyone else’ is a category that comprises the mediocre and the conformist, the boring and the suburban. The goal of all right thinking people should be to mark themselves off from the crowd and ‘stand out’ in whatever way their talents allow.”
It’s a scary thought if uniqueness is measured by the ability of one’s parents to pick a funny name from a web site. We might as well all run out and get tattoos to differentiate ourselves.