a first name like someone threw a scrabble game across the room.

Salon has an article on the most popular baby names for 2010, and it seems that the current batch of American infants will have yet another good reason to put their parents up at Our Lady Of The Clogged Feeding Tubes or Aspiration Acres nursing homes in fifty years.  Much like you couldn’t cross a kindergarten playground in the mid-1990s without having to elbow boys named Kevin out of the way, Mrs. Krabapple’s first-grade class of 2016 will have a lot of nametags reading Jacob and Isabella.

Germany has a policy that lets the civil servant in charge of filling out the baby’s birth certificate reject the parental choice of name if the bureaucrat feels that it would be inappropriate, or a burden to the child later in life.  I don’t support such draconian infringements on parental rights, especially since a legal name change is a rather swift affair in the United States, but that doesn’t keep me from flinching a little when I come across kids that have been saddled with:

  • Super-popular names that are so common that they become generic, especially Hero/Heroine of the Movie of the Year names.
  • Many siblings, all named by spinning the Wheel Of Biblical Names.  (Bonus points: having all of them start with the same letter.)
  • “Creative” spelling variants of common first names, especially those that substitute phonemes, or tack on extra letters:  Brandee, Britnee, Synndy, Stefphanye, Johnathon, etc.
  • “Ethnic”-sounding made-up names, especially the De-, Ja- and La- variants: DeShonte, JaMarcus, Lakeesha, and so on.

Name your kids whatever you want, folks.  I’m not the Arbiter of Acceptable Names, and I’m pretty sure some people would consider my kids’ names odd or annoying in some way, too.  Just be aware that a reckoning will come when little Isabella finds out that she’s been named after a bloodless emo heroine pining after a sparkling vampire.  And if you name your baby boy Edward and give him Cullen as a middle name, don’t be surprised if he ends up climbing a clock tower with a scoped rifle and a sack lunch at some point in his life.


51 thoughts on “a first name like someone threw a scrabble game across the room.

  1. Matt says:

    My mother taught me the proper technique for determining if a child’s name was appropriate.

    First, stand at your back door and yell the potential child’s full name. Make sure it rolls off the tongue appropriately, doesn’t stop traffic and cause the dog to look at you funny.

    Second, imagine said child at 85 years old sitting in the nursing home and being addressed. What sounds cutesy and trendy in early life is a geriatric ass-kicking out of sight of the nurses later on. Imagine a nurse addressing a old woman in a floral print nightgown as “Tiffany” or “Brandi” and see how it fits. If snorts, jeers or eye rolls is part of the response to that persons name late in life, consider something more appropriate.

  2. divemedic says:

    I recently saw a 1 year old child as a patient. Her name was La-a. I asked her mother how to pronounce that, and the replied: “La dash ah”

    As far as I am concerned, that name is child abuse.

  3. Kristopher says:

    My favorite is “L-a”.

    Pronounced “ladasha”.

    The dash ain’t silent!

    • Kristopher says:

      Ah … I see ity’s gone completely viral. I saw that name on some other blog about a month ago. So, Divemedic … other parents think the name is a good idea?

      Here I thought it was apocryphal …

  4. guy says:

    Which reminds me, I need to look up a girl named Kandy from my grade school class to see if she eventually bludgeoned Mr. and Mrs. Kayne to death.

  5. I wonder if it has anything to do with the lack of male involvement after conception in many of these births. I can’t imagine my husband being willing to name our children after favorite fictional characters, even if I went with something as innocuous as Andrew Jackson Libby, much less flavor-of-the-month-vampire-chick-film.

    • Tam says:

      I can’t imagine my husband being willing to name our children after favorite fictional characters…

      No good man would name his son after his wife’s favorite sparkly vampire; he’d name him after his favorite NASCAR driver instead! ‘Cause “Rusty” is ever so much more dignified than “Edward”… 😉

      • Rusty P Bucket says:

        Ha ha ha!

        Stop being nice Tam! I would hate to have to take back all the rotten things I have said about you…

    • Jake says:

      who was responsible for George Washington Carver? Mr. or Mrs. C?

      • 8notch says:

        If I recall correctly, his name was simply George. He was owned by Mr. Carver, thus being Carver’s George. After Emancipation, while at school he noticed that the other kids had more than one name when role was called. Therefore he called himself George Carver. When asked of his middle name he decided on Washington because they had been taught what a great man Washington was.

        • Jake says:

          I did not know that. Thanks for the info -I learn something new every day!

        • Rick R. says:

          That’s also why names like “Jackson”, “Jefferson”, “Franklin”, and other Founding Fathers are somewhat heavily represented as surnames in the African American community.

          I’m somewhat surprised that “Lincoln” isn’t more popular — perhaps many felt it would be inappropriate to adopt such, so soon after his death.

  6. Eric says:

    I had a coworker whose first two initials were J.C. and he persuaded his parents to name his four younger brothers so that they all had J.C. as well.

    Five boys from one family, all with the same initials!

  7. Anon says:

    I’m reminded of G.G.’s full name, from Unintended Consequences. A work of fiction, but probably closer to reality than we know.

  8. Jeff says:

    These kinds of stupid names aren’t new. The late comic Alan King had a routine, circa 1960, about inappropriate names and cutesy spellings for kids.


  9. williamthecoroner says:

    Don’t forget those perennial OB favourites, Twinna and Twinnba! (Twin A and Twin B, for those who haven’t heard the joke.)

  10. Caleb says:

    I had an ancestor named Cullen who was a fairly badass chap; missionary to the Zulus, translated the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Zulu, and generally kicked ass all over Africa in the 1800s. Thanks to Twilight, I cannot name any of my male children after said badass dead relative because retards will think I named them after a shitty vampire.

    • TimP says:

      Which is a shame, since Cullen is a cool name. You expect a Cullen to “do things”. It’s not quite a normal everyday name, but it’s not a hippy name either. You sort of expect a Cullen to be something like a missionary, or a “great-white hunter”, or a soldier. I.E. it’s a manly man’s name.

  11. Windy Wilson says:

    My brothers have first names that begin with the same letter as my first name, and I worked with a woman who had four siblings whose names all started with “K”. I also know a couple who arranged the names of their children so their initials were all the same — C.D.N__, with a sort of secret meaning of “Can do N__”. They are normal sounding names that pass the back porch test and the nursing home test, as well as, in the case of the boys, the playground test. No Kevyns or Chomondeleys in the bunch.

  12. Al Terego says:

    So how the fuck did that appendage vowel slip by the Arbiter of Acceptable Names in your case, Mark?


    • Marko Kloos says:

      My mother intended to name me Marco (Italian form of Marcus), but the German official wrote down the name phonetically (to a German speaker). Thus the “k” in what is a perfectly cromulent Italian name, not a “Mark” with a superfluous vowel tacked on.

      • Al Terego says:

        Ah. I’d have guessed blame would lie in some nexus of the bureaucrats there with their brethren here. “Public servants”…talk about your cromulence. AT

      • Kaerius says:

        And here I was thinking you might have some finnish blood in you. (I’ve known a couple of finns named Marko).

      • Jake says:

        I actually know a German named Marco – apparently, that day the bureaucrat was feeling liberal.

  13. Don says:

    I have a student who insists that his name is an “Egyptian” word for money. I actually looked it up once, and the only result Google or Bing return for his name is his Myspace (so I was justly punished for my nosiness.)

    I don’t know if it’s supposed to be ancient Egyptian or Arabic or what, but he says his grandmother is Egyptian and gave him the name.

  14. Michael G. says:

    My boss has this weird arrangement with his wife, where she didn’t take his last name after marriage, their (five) children have his last name, but all of their first names start with the first letter of her last name.

    Where do these people find the free time to think up bullshit schemes like that.

    • Eric Hammer says:

      If she is anything like my wife, probably at 1 am after he decides he just doesn’t care anymore and has to be awake for work in 4 hours.

  15. Ziggy says:

    Once saw a pair of sisters on some kind of Jerry Springer type show.

    Names were Latrina and Lazanya

    • Montie says:


      Those are actually quite mild. The only reason I know how to spell and pronounce girls names like Shareeka and Rasheka (both the ee and the e are pronouced as long e) or Sholonda and Lashonda (is there a pattern there?), or boys names like Jumonte and Damonta (the e and the a are both pronounces like a long a) as well as the very popular Jamal, is that I have had to write them on reports lately.

  16. Shane says:

    I ran across the name “Latrina” at work a couple of weeks ago and my mom had a customer named Placenta. The woman’s mom thought it was a nice sounding name when she kept hearing it in the delivery room.

    • perlhaqr says:


      Yeah. I have heard a story from a reliable source of a young mother, who, after delivering her child, and still high from the strain of the event (and the 5 or 6 rocks of crack she had consumed immediately prior to beginning L&D) decided that “You-reen” was a pretty sounding name. She saw it written down on something in the room. Spelled “Urine”, of course.

      • guy says:


        Isn’t that the name of a constellation ’round Betelgeuse way? 😛

  17. LittleRed1 says:

    My brother went to school with an otherwise normal young lady named Chesna. During labor her mom had seen a small airplane out the window and asked what it was, then couldn’t remember exactly how it had been spelled (luckily for the daughter).

    I went to college the first time with identical twins Kiesha and Kriesha. We all had class with a math professor who could not say “r”. The result was slightly painful. The young ladies had been co-valedictorians of their high school, but had parents who went for cute over kind.

  18. Tam says:

    I always thought that LaTrina Patina d’Bree would make a pretty name.

    I used LaTrina d’Bree in network games for a while, before going back to Love Rhino or Auntie Tank.

  19. Rey B says:

    I served in the Navy with a Ted Land. His sisters name was Allison Wanda, I am sure she married young just to escape.

  20. Montie says:

    Sigh…my kids are in their 20’s and thus just starting families of their own, so I am discovering the joys of grandparenting. The popular names thing is quite right. My daughter’s son – Jacob. My son’s daughter – Isabella. For some reason they each thought they were being original.

  21. Montie says:


    On the particular beat that I work, I find a lot of younger folks with names having an uncanny similarity to the one you so poetically contrived.

  22. Sarah says:

    Hehe. Our parents named all five of us from the Bible, but stuck with names that are still making routine appearances in modern society. None of us were stuck with “Nimrod” or “Beelzebub.”

    Years ago, I met a toddler named Xena Gabrielle. Now, she’s entering early adulthood and, quite possibly, no longer has living parents. I know that I wouldn’t if my mother had named me after two TV-show characters.

  23. Fred2 says:

    Thank goodness I was named for dark ages European king. ( Not Arthur.)

    Thanks to historically inclined parents and an archaic spelling, I have 6 consonants, one vowel and not one, but 2, rolled R’s that native english speakers cannot actually pronounce unless they are scottish and/or have consumed about a liter of Whiskey.

    I actually like it. It rhymes with nothing, so no teasing, everyone who sees it remembers it, years later. And it sounds like a wolf contemplating a hunk of warm prime rib after an invigorating week in sub-zero wilderness.
    Also, as near as I can tell, I am an army of one as far as proud bearers of that name. So no embarassing “Yeah, my name is Chad (first name not: hanging), or McVeigh (no relation), or Mohammed ( no, not the one who, blew up, combusted, etc.., no relation thank you very much.)” moments.

    I’m thinking of naming my kids good trad names like Hrothgar or Fulk. Will they want to kill me?

  24. PhillipC says:

    My mother dealt with it this way: My father and two brothers got to pick one name apiece, and she got to choose the order they were put into. They were to be common enough not to cause problems, also.

    My name ends up meaning “The exalted one loves horses in the meadow”. Every name from the Bible, although one is a gender reversal. When I was old enough to ask about it, I thought it was cool, but sometimes having two middle names was inconvenient, and I could never decide on which one to use on documents.

  25. Joel says:

    Sometimes it’s just bad luck. I named my one-and-only daughter Rachel, thinking it was a non-controversial but not very common name, certain not to get her in any schoolgirl trouble. It turns out that over the next couple of years, approximately 99.65% of all parents of new girl babies made the same decision. I dunno why. It’s been over twenty years, and she still rags me about it.

  26. Rick R. says:

    My family tends to use family names, traditionally spelled. Often with an earlier generation’s maiden name as the middle name.

    Of course, I’m a Virginian, where this is considered normal.

    The only exception is my older sister, whose first name is my Dad’s high school sweetheart, who Dear John’ed him when he was called up for Korea. (When my mother found out, she was a tad annoyed. My sister was sufficiently annoyed with people getting it wrong in spelling and pronunciation, that in high school, she started using a nickname that sounds like she should be running a saloon and whoerehouse in Old Texas. In her 40’s and STILL uses it over her given name. . . )

  27. Eric Hammer says:

    A college buddy of mine from Pittsburgh went to school with a girl named (spelling phonetically, I never met her) Krista Chandra Lear.
    Other than that, our school’s student directory was deliciously searchable, turning up students named “Shithead” etc.

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