Saturday, December 13, 2008

More Baby Obamas

Parents worldwide inspired to name kids for Obama


BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — By his own admission, Barack Obama was "a skinny kid with a funny name," but that isn't stopping proud parents from Romania to Indonesia from naming their newborns after the U.S. president-elect.

Romania's downtrodden Gypsies — once enslaved, like African-Americans, yet still struggling to overcome deep-seated prejudice — seem particularly inspired.

"When I saw Obama on TV, my heart swelled with joy. I thought he was one of us Gypsies because of his skin color," said Maria Savu, whose infant grandson — Obama Sorin Ilie Scoica — was born in the central Romania village of Rusciori.

Little Obama is the third child of a poor family that barely gets by on 200 lei ($66) a month in welfare benefits.

He came into the world on Nov. 4, the day Americans voted in their new multiracial president-elect, and Savu, 43, told the Evenimentul Zilei newspaper she hopes his name will bring him luck.

Obama's victory also moved Sugiarto, a 36-year-old security guard in Jakarta, Indonesia, and his wife, Sularsih, to name their new son after him.

Indonesia, an overwhelmingly Muslim nation made up of more than 18,000 islands, is unabashedly Obama-crazy — in part because Obama spent four years there as a child.

"He's great, isn't it?" said Sularsih, 34, rubbing the cheek of their sleeping 1-month-old, Husein Obama. "I think it's a beautiful name for him. And who knows? Maybe one day he'll be president of Indonesia."

Underscoring Obama's popularity across the sprawling archipelago: Many political parties have made up new banners that feature photos of the U.S. leader, and some have even co-opted his "Yes we can" and "change" themes.

Americans also have been naming children for Obama. Patrick and Sasha Hall Fisher of Hollywood, Florida, are credited as being the first: Sanjae Obama Fisher was born a few hours before news outlets declared Obama to be the new president-elect.

In the Dutch city of Leiden, officials proudly announced last week that Obama's roots can be traced to the Pilgrims who eventually settled America after fleeing England in 1609. The Pilgrims spent 11 years in Leiden on their way to the new world.

Obama is a descendant of Thomas Blossom, local alderman Jan-Jaap Haan said, citing research by the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston.

"Leiden is proud that our historic city is linked via this family tree to the already special background of the new president of America," Haan said.

But Obama's victory has had a special resonance in corners of the world where the poor and underprivileged see him as an example of the change they crave in their own societies.

Atta Mills, an opposition candidate campaigning on a platform of change in this month's presidential elections in Ghana, put up posters of himself standing next to a life-size photo cutout of Obama to help make his point to voters.

And in Brazil, at least eight black candidates took advantage of a quirk in electoral laws and opted to have their names appear as "Barack Obama" in October elections.

In Romania, Banel Nicolita, a member of Romania's national soccer team, is a Gypsy who comes from a family of eight who once lived in a house made of mud. His accomplishments, against all odds, have earned him the nickname "the Obama of Romanian football."

Romania officially is home to 500,000 Gypsies, or Roma, although it's widely believed that there are really at least twice as many. Many people of Roma extraction don't declare their ethnicity due to widespread prejudice, and many live in poverty.

The European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency says Gypsies also suffer routine discrimination in education, employment, health services and housing — just a few of the reasons so many identify with the struggles of American blacks.

"Obama's victory is a motivation for us," said Gruia Bumbu, chairman of the National Agency for the Roma.

Like African-Americans, Gypsies were slaves until roughly the same time in the 19th century. But the Roma never launched a broad civil rights movement, and today, Bumbu said, "we are 20 to 30 years behind."

"When you see that an African-American becomes president, it shows you that the dreams can turn into reality," he said. "It's like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel — the fight for equal opportunities can have a happy ending."

Kole reported from Vienna, Austria. AP writers Irwan Firdaus in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this story.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Baby Name Generators

Here are a couple of name generators I've found out there:

Emo baby Name Generator

Celebrity Baby Name Generator

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Baby-name experts grade `Bronx Mowgli'


The name Brooklyn has been done before, so Ashlee Simpson-Wentz and Pete Wentz turned to another New York City borough in naming their newborn son: The Bronx.

She hails from Texas, he grew up near Chicago, and the pop-rock power couple haven't said whether the Yankees' territory (and arguably the toughest real estate in New York City) inspired their unusual choice: Bronx Mowgli Wentz.

That ranks right up there with Zuma Nesta Rock — Gwen Stefani's baby boy — in the category of quirkiest baby names.

The Associated Press consulted its panel of baby-name gurus to weigh in on the scrappy-sounding moniker.


EXPERT: Whitney Walker, co-author with Eric Reyes of "The Perfect Baby Name" and consultant through

SPECIALTY: Phonetics and rhythm — how names sound and flow together.

IMPRESSIONS: "I actually like the name Bronx. ... It is kind of a poser move to name your kid after this particular neighborhood that's seen as being a tough New York neighborhood. But if they have some connection to it, then that's nice."

"That `x' ending and the short `o' sound — those are things that are going to be appealing to people, so it's not surprising that Bronx is a choice. ... It sound tough, and hopefully the kid will be a little bit tough, and he probably will with Pete Wentz as a father, because Pete Wentz comes across certainly as a prankster. ... Bronx isn't the name for some nerdy, shy kid, you know?"

"Mowgli is a character (from the Rudyard Kipling stories and the Disney film `The Jungle Book') who's got a lot of independence, and he's brave and he saves the day, and I think there's a great tradition of naming your kids after a fictional character ... that represents an ideal that you want to impart to your kid."

"The reason that I'm giving it a minus is because Bronx ends with an `s' sound and Wentz ends with an `s' sound, and to have two one-syllable names in a row like that (both) ending with the same sound? It's almost like it's rhyming. It's a little bit too repetitive."



EXPERT: Maryanna Korwitts, author of "Name Power 101" and founder of

SPECIALTY: The holistic approach, from sounds and meanings to the impact of names, possible nicknames — even initials — on personality traits.

IMPRESSIONS: "With Bronx, it's got some positives: It's short, not a name that's going to be shortened with a crazy nickname, so it is what it is. It does have a very masculine sound. There's a lot of appeal to x's and z's in names for some reason for people, and so that's another positive in the way that the name looks. It's got a nice, hard sound in the beginning — and easy to spell."

"Subliminally, it's a name that's gonna encourage this child to be very independent, very headstrong. ... He's going to have a stubborn streak and really want to do things his way, which will help him growing up in a celebrity family."

"This is a child that's going to grow up using his physical traits and talents, so he would be the kind that you talk to him the wrong way, he might throw a punch. Or he might turn his sights to sports."

"One of the things that I always caution my clients on is to choose a middle name that a child is not going to be embarrassed by later on, and this is one that could definitely be one of those that's hidden. `What's your middle name?' `Oh, I don't have one.' ... That's kind of a downer, and I think when choose a name like that, they're picking it more on the basis of their own likes and dislikes and not really thinking about the child going forward."

"Bronx Wentz? Little problem in the flow there in saying the name. ... We've got some problems in that Bronx and Wentz are both one syllable, and it's a very herky-jerky type of thing when you're saying it."



EXPERT: Jennifer Moss, author of "The One-in-a-Million Baby Name Book" and founder of

SPECIALTY: Practicality. Moss focuses on the research process, looking for influences such as family history and life experiences.

IMPRESSIONS: "The sound of it — Bronx Wentz — is really a harsh sound. And the name Bronx itself sounds like a honk, you know? ... It associates with a certain place — not that there's anything wrong with the Bronx, but it's, like, why? ... I mean, I don't know, it's just like naming somebody Detroit."






_ Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline, twins of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt: Knox Leon: C, Vivienne Marcheline: B-plus.

_ Zuma Nesta Rock, son of Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani: C-

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Barack a hot name for new babies

From the International Herald Tribune
By Jennifer 8. Lee
Published: November 10, 2008

Decontee Williams was so excited by Barack Obama's victory on Tuesday night that she started jumping up and down — and went into labor. Twelve hours later, Barack Jeilah was born at Phoenix Baptist Hospital to Williams and Prince Jeilah. The baby was 8 pounds 9 ounces and had a full head of hair.

"I love Barack Obama, and I love the name," said Williams, 31, who came to the United States as a refugee from Liberia in 2003. "In Africa, we call it a blessing. That is a good name."

In the last week, Barack, Obama, Michelle, Malia and Sasha have become inspirations for first and middle names across the United States, according to news reports. But the Obama baby boom has been even more pronounced in Kenya, particularly in Kisumu, an area in the western part of the country where relatives of Obama live.

From Election Day through Saturday afternoon, 43 children born at the Nyanza Provincial Hospital in Kisumu were named after the Obamas, with 23 boys given the first and middle name Barack Obama and 20 girls named Michelle Obama.

Pamela Odhiambo, who gave birth to a girl during Obama's victory speech in Chicago, named her Michelle Obama. "It's a new start, a new beginning," said Odhiambo, 18.

There have been other presidential naming trends in the past century, according to Social Security Administration data. Franklin jumped to No. 33 in 1933, up from No. 147 in 1931. Dwight surged in the 1950s and Lyndon in the 1960s. Theodore hit its peak in the first decade of the 20th century.

"Honoring new presidents with baby namesakes used to be an American tradition," said Laura Wattenberg, author of "The Baby Name Wizard." But she pointed out that the custom faded around the time of Watergate, in part because people became more cynical about the presidency.

Wattenberg said Barack and Obama might break that trend for a number of reasons. Blacks, particularly moved by Obama's victory, tend to be more open to new names and to naming children after public figures. Also, Obama drew strong support from people of child-bearing age, and his name sounds fresh.

Obama has said that Barack has the same etymological roots as the Hebrew name Baruch, "one who is blessed."

A shift away from traditional names has meant a decline in the prevalence of John, George, William and James, the popularity (or unpopularity) of presidents notwithstanding.

There is perhaps more hope for presidential surnames, as parents look for untraditional monikers with a classic flavor. Lincoln (for boys) and Kennedy and Reagan (for girls) jumped in popularity in the 1990s. But none of those can compare with the surge by Madison, which broke into the top 10 for girls in 1998 and peaked at No. 2. (Though that may have more to do with a mermaid in the movie "Splash" than a framer of the Constitution.)

And the names can also track the rise and fall of the public's perception of presidents. Hoover came out of nowhere to land at No. 367 for boys' names in 1928, the year Herbert Hoover was elected the 31st president. Then the Great Depression started, and it dropped to No. 945 in 1931. And Clinton, a top 200 baby name for boys in the 1970s and 1980s, still ranked No. 211 in 1992. By 1999, the year after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, it had sunk to No. 664.

Even the most tainted presidencies have left a nomenclature mark. The Watergate president inspired some parents, at least overseas. In Venezuela, Nixon Moreno was one of the leaders behind student protests two years ago.

Then again, his co-organizer was Stalin González.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sarah Palin's Kids' Names Deconstructed

What's in the Palin children's names? Fish, for one


Sunday, August 31st 2008, 12:36 AM

Bristol. Piper. Track. Willow. Trig.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has bestowed unusual names on her five children - but they're full of personal meaning.

A dedicated runner, she named her older son Track because he was born during that sport's season 18 years ago.

Her youngest is 4-month-old Trig Paxson, whose first name is Norse for "true" or "strength" and whose middle name comes from one of his mother's favorite spots in Alaska.

Her three daughters are Bristol, 17, Willow, 14, and Piper, 7.

Palin said the eldest girl was named after Bristol Bay, where the family fishes.

She hasn't explained the other girls' names, but there's a town in Alaska called Willow and Piper brings to mind the Piper Super Cub, a bush plane popular in her state.

Experts said the offbeat names suggest Palin is an outside-the-box thinker who desperately wants to give her kids an edge.

"A lot of times when parents choose unusual names they're looking to make their children stand out above the crowd," said Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and author of the book "The Baby Name Report Card."

Mehrabian said the selection of Track and Trig shows that Palin wants her boys to grow up to be full of machismo.

"Short names like these are given by people who want their kids to be masculine," Mehrabian said. "She's athletic, she's coached kids, so maybe that's part of her value system."

Willow is an earthy, feminine name, while Piper is more adventurous, the experts said. Bristol is in line with a modern tradition of naming people after places.

Together, the five names stunned one maven.

"In my 20 years in the field and after writing nine baby-name books, I gotta say [she] stumped the master," said Pamela Satran, co-author of the book "The Baby Name Bible.

"I've never heard of those."

Friday, August 01, 2008

Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii And other names so weird that judges forbade them.

By Eugene Volokh
Posted Wednesday, July 30, 2008, at 7:13 AM ET
What's in a name? Child abuse?

Everyone needs a hobby. Mine is Fun Name Change Cases. I first got hooked 15 years ago, when I read about Michael Herbert Dengler, who wanted to change his name to 1069. "The only way [my] identity can be expressed is 1069," he insisted. Twice. To state supreme courts. With an elaborate theory for each digit: For instance, "The third character, 6, is equal to the relationship I have with the universe in my understanding of space of my spatial occupancy through this life." Now this was a field of law to watch, I knew.

Then came the news last week about Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii, a 9-year-old New Zealand girl. A New Zealand Family Court judge apparently viewed this name as a form of child abuse—the girl had complained that "[s]he fears being mocked and teased" about it—and asserted legal custody over the child so as "to ensure that a proper name was found for her."

Now that this has been validated as a matter of global legal significance, I present the following brief work of legal scholarship. Would-be 1069s and Talulas Do the Hulas, here are the precedents:

1. 1069. No dice. The North Dakota Supreme Court (1976) and Minnesota Supreme Court (1979) both say: Names can't be numbers. [Petition of Dengler, 246 N.W.2d 758 (N.D. 1976); Application of Dengler, 287 N.W.2d 637 (Minn. 1979).]

2. III, to be pronounced "Three." Nope, on the same grounds, said the California Court of Appeal in 1984 to Thomas Boyd Ritchie III. A concurring judge asserted that the problem was that III was a symbol, rather than just that it was a number. Such subtle distinctions are what law is all about. [In re Ritchie, 159 Cal. App. 3d 1070 (1984).]

3. Mary R. No, decided the Pennsylvania Superior Court in 2000, dealing with a petition by Mary Ravitch, who no longer wanted to use her ex-husband's last name and who didn't want to return to her maiden name (Gon). "Appellant's desired surname is so bizarre that it would likely be met with repeated suspicion and distrust in both business and social settings." [In re Ravitch, 754 A.2d 1287 (Pa. Super. 2000).]

4. Misteri Nigger, second "i" silent. No, said the California Court of Appeal in 1992, because it constitutes "fighting words": "[I]f a man asks appellant his name and he answers 'Mister Nigger,' the man might think appellant was calling him 'Mister Nigger.' Moreover, third persons, including children hearing the epithet, may be embarrassed, shocked or offended by simply hearing the word. This example illustrates how use of the name may be 'confusing' with the potential for violence." Definitely does sound like asking for trouble; "Russell Lawrence Lee" is much safer. [Lee v. Superior Court, 9 Cal. App. 4th 510 (1992).]

5. Santa Claus. A split among the courts: An Ohio judge in 2000 rejected Robert William Handley's attempt to become Santa Robert Clause, because:

The petitioner is seeking more than a name change, he is seeking the identity of an individual that this culture has recognized throughout the world, for well over one hundred years. Thus, the public has a proprietary interest, a proprietary right in the identity of Santa Claus, both in the name and the persona. Santa Claus is really an icon of our culture; he exists in the minds of millions of children as well as adults.

The history of Santa Claus—the North Pole, the elves, Mrs. Claus, reindeer—is a treasure that society passes on from generation to generation, and the petitioner seeks to take not only the name of Santa Claus, but also to take on the identity of Santa Claus. Although thousands of people every year do take on the identity of Santa Claus around Christmas, the court believes it would be very misleading to the children in the community, particularly the children in the area that the petitioner lives, to approve the applicant's name change petition.

But the Utah Supreme Court in 2001 let David Lynn Porter become just plain Santa Claus, and never mind the children: "Porter's proposed name may be thought by some to be unwise, and it may very well be more difficult for him to conduct his business and his normal everyday affairs as a result." (D'ya think?) "However, Porter has the right to select the name by which he is known, within very broad limits." [In re Handley, 736 N.E.2d 125 (Ohio Prob. Ct. 2000); In re Porter, 31 P.3d 519 (Utah 2001).]

6. Koriander, with no last name, apparently chosen because of Rosa Linda Ferner's "attraction to a name that sounds appropriate for her work as an artisan." Just fine, a New Jersey judge ruled in 1996. [In re Application of Rosa Linda Ferner to Assume the Name Koriander, 685 A.2d 78 (N.J. Super. L. 1996).]

7. They, again with no last name. OK, said a Missouri judge to a petition by the inventor formerly known as Andrew Wilson. They (not they, They) explained the rationale: "'They do this,' or 'They're to blame for that.' Who is this 'they' everyone talks about? 'They' accomplish such great things. Somebody had to take responsibility."

8. Darren QX [pronounced 'Lloyd'] Bean!. No problem!, holds our friend the California Court of Appeal in 2006. [Darren Lloyd Bean v. Superior Court, 2006 WL [pronounced 'Westlaw'] 3425000 (Cal. App.).] Bean!, who recently sat for the Oregon State Bar, reported that, "Many of his close friends greet him as 'Bean!' When saying his name, friends raise the pitch and the volume of their voices above their usual spoken tone." The court didn't opine further on this, because "this information is not contained in the appellate record." Still, the court reasoned, if O'Rourke is fine, so is Bean!. What's more, the court reported,

At least three people have changed their names to the names of websites with a ".com" in the name. Virginia animal rights activist Karin Robertson legally changed her name to in 2003 to bring attention to a website of her employer, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Other activists also changed their personal names to websites with ".com" in the names, including "Kentucky fried" and "Ringling beats" We do not find a legal distinction between a period inside a word, a hyphen between words, an apostrophe in a word, and an exclamation point at the end of a word.

Speakers of !Xóõ and similar click languages must be happy about that.

9. Boys changing their names from, or to, Sue. No known cases.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Friday July 25,2008
By Stephanie Burns for

Nine-year-old Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii has won the right to a name-change.

A judge in Wellington, New Zealand has made the girl a ward of the court so her "embarrassing" name can be altered.

Family Court Judge Rob Murfitt expressed dismay about a New Zealand trend of giving children bizarre names and in a ruling made public on Thursday, cited a list of unfortunate names that he said were embarrassing for children.

Names blocked by registration officials included: Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Stallion, Twisty Poi, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit.

Surprisingly, names such as Number 16 Bus Shelter, Midnight Chardonnay and even Violence were allowed.

Colleen MacLeod, lawyer for the nine-year-old said: “She never told her close friends her real name for fear of being mocked and teased. She told people her name was ‘K’.”

Brian Clarke, registrar general of Births, Deaths and Marriages said New Zealand law does not allow names that would cause offence to a reasonable person, that are 100 characters or more long, that include titles or military rank or that include punctuation marks or numerals.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Celebrity baby Name Mania

Lots of famous people have been reproducing lately, and as is the trend for their peer group, they've been using some interesting names.

Nicole Kidman & Keith Urban have a daughter named Sunday Rose Kidman Urban

Everyone's favorite super couple, Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt had twins: Knox Leon and Vivienne Marceline. Marceline is Angelina's mother's name, but Knox? I guess there are a limited number of boys' names ending in X (like her other two, Maddox & Pax) out there! Who's next? Felix and Phoenix?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

RIP George Carlin

Here's some of his thoughts on names:

While we're discussing dead people and names, here's a shirt every good name nerd must wear!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wanky Baby Names

The Australian baby naming police make arrests!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Mary Was a Grand Old Name

Mary was the most popular name from about 1880 (when the Social Security Administration began) through the early 1960s. It began a slow decline in the early 60s and picked up declining speed until this year, when Mary finally dropped out of the top 100. For at least 120 years (and most likely more, even though there aren't the records to verify it), Mary has reigned supreme, but last year it fell to 109, just slightly more popular than Aniya, Reagan and Kennedy and slightly less popular than Autumn, Paige and Molly (itself an older pet form of Mary).

Not forgotten, though, other forms of Mary, such as Maria and Mariah are still hanging on at 74 and 88 respectively.

Besides the ones above, the top 700 also has these other forms of Mary: Marissa (#128), Mariana (#164), Marisol (#151), Mariam (#169), Miriam (#271), Marilyn (#407), Maren (#410), Maritza (#413), Marie (#425), Mayra (#494), Mara (#517), Mariela (#531), Maribel (#588), and Maryjane (#592). Plus, according to my non-scientific Middle Name Survey, Marie has been the most popular middle name for girls for at least 50 years and remains so today.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

2007 Name Popularity is in!

The Social Security Administration released its annual Baby Name Popularity list! I've grouped the names by spelling to give you a more accurate picture of where names fall in popularity. My method is by no means infallible (check the FAQ).

Here is the top 25 for each sex (the most popular spelling is first, followed by the second etc.):

UUCN top boys' names:

  1. Aiden, Aidan, Aden, Adan, Adin, Aedan, Aidyn, Ayden, Aydan, Aydin
  2. Jayden, Jaden, Jaiden, Jadon, Jaydon, Jadyn, Jaydin, Jaidyn, Jaydan, Jaeden
  3. Jacob, Jakob
  4. Michael, Micheal
  5. Christopher, Cristopher, Cristofer, Kristopher
  6. Ethan, Ethen
  7. Joshua
  8. Daniel
  9. Anthony, Antony
  10. Matthew, Mathew
  11. William
  12. Nicholas, Nicolas, Nickolas, Nikolas
  13. Alexander, Alexzander
  14. Andrew
  15. Caden, Caiden, Cayden, Kaden, Kayden, Kaiden, Kadin, Kaeden, Kadyn
  16. Christian, Cristian, Kristian
  17. David
  18. Jonathan, Johnathan, Jonathon, Johnathon
  19. Noah
  20. Ryan, Rayan
  21. James
  22. Logan
  23. John, Jon
  24. Caleb, Kaleb

UUCN top girls' names:

  1. Sophia, Sofia
  2. Emily, Emely, Emilee, Emilie, Emmalee
  3. Isabella, Izabella, Isabela
  4. Madison, Madyson, Maddison, Madisyn
  5. Olivia, Alivia, Alyvia
  6. Emma
  7. Ava
  8. Hailey, Haley, Haylee, Hayley, Haylie, Hailee, Haleigh, Hailie, Hayleigh
  9. Abigail, Abbigail, Abigayle, Abagail, Abigale
  10. Kaitlyn, Katelyn, Caitlyn, Caitlin, Katelynn, Kaitlin, Kaitlynn, Katlyn
  11. Brianna, Briana, Breanna, Bryanna, Breana
  12. Addison, Addyson, Addisyn, Adyson, Adison
  13. Hannah, Hanna, Hana
  14. Sarah, Sara
  15. Elizabeth, Elisabeth
  16. Alyssa, Alissa, Elisa, Alisa, Allyssa
  17. Ashley, Ashlee, Ashleigh, Ashly
  18. Natalie, Nataly, Nathalie, Natalee, Nathaly
  19. Jasmine, Jasmin, Jazmin, Jazmine, Jazmyn, Jasmyn
  20. Madeline, Madelyn, Madeleine, Madalyn, Madilyn, Madelynn, Madalynn, Madilynn
  21. Samantha
  22. Mia, Miah, Miya
  23. Kaylee, Kailey, Kayleigh, Kaylie, Kaleigh, Kailee, Kaley, Kayley
  24. Chloe, Khloe, Cloe
  25. Lily, Lilly, Lillie

CONGRATULATIONS, SOPHIA! Sophia has bumped Emily out of the top spot for the first time in about 13 years!

Sunday, May 04, 2008


I've found 54 ways to spell /zha NAY/-- real, true spellings used by parents in 1995 alone:


Monday, April 21, 2008

Poor Mandy...

I found the following name:

Amanda Lynn Blowe

This poor girl not only has the annoying combination of Amanda Lynn (like a mandolin), but Amanda Blowe? Were her parents really that clueless? Or did they just have a sick, sick sense of humor?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Random pointless name factoid!

There were 108 males and one female in Texas given the name Gareth between 1907 and 1997. 82 males and 0 females received Gareth as a middle name in that same time period.

You can look up all sorts of useless statistics like this (as well as useful statistics) at!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Boy Named Sue, and a Theory of Names

New York Times, By J. MARION TIERNEY
Published: March 11, 2008

During his 1969 concert at San Quentin prison, Johnny Cash proposed a paradigm shift in the field of developmental psychology. He used “A Boy Named Sue” to present two hypotheses:

1. A child with an awful name might grow up to be a relatively normal adult.

2. The parent who inflicted the name does not deserve to be executed.

I immediately welcomed the Boy Named Sue paradigm, although I realized that I might be biased by my middle name (Marion). Cash and his ambiguously named male collaborator, the lyricist Shel Silverstein, could offer only anecdotal evidence against decades of research suggesting that children with weird names were destined for places like San Quentin.

Studies showed that children with odd names got worse grades and were less popular than other classmates in elementary school. In college they were more likely to flunk out or become “psychoneurotic.” Prospective bosses spurned their résumés. They were overrepresented among emotionally disturbed children and psychiatric patients.

Some of these mental problems might have been genetic — what kind of parent picks a name like Golden Rule or Mary Mee? — but it was still bad news.

Today, though, the case for Mr. Cash’s theory looks much stronger, and I say this even after learning about Emma Royd and Post Office in a new book, “Bad Baby Names,” by Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback.

By scouring census records from 1790 to 1930, Mr. Sherrod and Mr. Rayback discovered Garage Empty, Hysteria Johnson, King Arthur, Infinity Hubbard, Please Cope, Major Slaughter, Helen Troy, several Satans and a host of colleagues to the famed Ima Hogg (including Ima Pigg, Ima Muskrat, Ima Nut and Ima Hooker).

The authors also interviewed adults today who had survived names like Candy Stohr, Cash Guy, Mary Christmas, River Jordan and Rasp Berry. All of them, even Happy Day, seemed untraumatized.

“They were very proud of their names, almost overly proud,” Mr. Sherrod said. “We asked if that was a reaction to getting pummeled when they were little, but they said they didn’t get that much ribbing. They did get a little tired of hearing the same jokes, but they liked having an unusual name because it made them stand out.”

Not too much ribbing? That surprised me, because I had vivid memories of playground serenades to my middle name: “Marion . . . Madam Librarian!” (My tormentors didn’t care that the “Music Man” librarian spelled her name with an “a.”) But after I looked at experiments in the post-Sue era by revisionists like Kenneth Steele and Wayne Hensley, it seemed names weren’t so important after all.

When people were asked to rate the physical attractiveness and character of someone in a photograph, it didn’t matter much if that someone was assigned an “undesirable” name. Once people could see a face, they rated an Oswald, Myron, Harriet or Hazel about the same as a face with a “desirable” name like David, Gregory, Jennifer or Christine.

Other researchers found that children with unusual names were more likely to have poorer and less educated parents, handicaps that explained their problems in school. Martin Ford and other psychologists reported, after controlling for race and ethnicity, that children with unusual names did as well as others in school. The economists Roland Fryer and Steven Levitt reached a similar conclusion after controlling for socioeconomic variables in a study of black children with distinctive names.

“Names only have a significant influence when that is the only thing you know about the person,” said Dr. Ford, a developmental psychologist at George Mason University. “Add a picture, and the impact of the name recedes. Add information about personality, motivation and ability, and the impact of the name shrinks to minimal significance.”

But even if a bad name doesn’t doom a child, why would any parent christen an infant Ogre? Mr. Sherrod found several of them, along with children named Ghoul, Gorgon, Medusa, Hades, Lucifer and every deadly sin except Gluttony (his favorite was Wrath Gordon).

You can sort of understand parents’ affection for the sound of Chimera Griffin, but Monster Moor and Goblin Fester? Or Cheese Ceaser and Leper Priest? What provokes current celebrities to name their children Sage Moonblood Stallone and Speck Wildhorse Mellencamp?

“Today it’s all about individuality,” Mr. Sherrod said. “In the past, there was more of a sense of humor, probably because fathers had more say in the names.” He said the waning influence of fathers might explain why there are no longer so many names like Nice Deal, Butcher Baker, Lotta Beers and Good Bye, although some dads still try.

“I can’t tell you,” Mr. Sherrod said, “how often I’ve heard guys who wanted their kid to be able to say truthfully, ‘Danger is my middle name.’ But their wives absolutely refused.”

Is it possible — I’m trying to be kind to these humor-challenged fathers — that they think Danger would be a character-building experience? Could there be anything to the paternal rationale offered in Johnny Cash’s song, the one that stopped Sue from killing his father: “I knew you’d have to get tough or die, and it’s the name that helped to make you strong”?

I sought an answer from Cleveland Kent Evans — not because he might have gotten into fights defending Cleveland, but because he’s a psychologist and past president of the American Names Society. Dr. Evans, a professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska, said there is evidence for the character-building theory from psychologists like Richard Zweigenhaft, but it doesn’t work exactly as Sue’s father imagined it.

“Researchers have studied men with cross-gender names like Leslie,” Dr. Evans explained. “They haven’t found anything negative — no psychological or social problems — or any correlations with either masculinity or effeminacy. But they have found one major positive factor: a better sense of self-control. It’s not that you fight more, but that you learn how to let stuff roll off your back.”

After hearing that, I began to reconsider my own name. Although I’d never shared Sue’s Oedipal impulse — I realized my father couldn’t have anticipated “Music Man” — I’d never appreciated those playground serenades, either. But maybe they served some purpose after all. So today, to celebrate the Boy Named Sue paradigm shift, I’m using my middle name in my byline for the first time.

Also for the last time. As Sue realized when it came time to name his own son, you can take a theory only so far.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Keeping Up With the Joneses: Boys

Here are some of the interesting names I found among babies born in California in 1995 with the last name Jones...

Boys' names are more conservative than girls' names usually. Boys tend to be named after their fathers or grandfathers, thus keeping the pool of boys names around longer. Thus said...

Different Spellings:
Alax, Aren; Ahrin, Bobie, Bow, Mycheal; Mykell, Briyn, Camrin, Cyle; Kiel, Shon, Alawishes, Coraey, Dametreous, Daunne, Dezmin, Kirt, Graigoree, Heith, Joshuwa, Jahshua Izayah, Jeremiha, Eligah, Jessi, Emmanule, Donavaughn, Juelian, Ugene, Jhon, Lundyn, Nyegel; Nijal, Banjamin, Myals, Phoenyx, Phyllip, Sederick, Stephvon, Toney, Trentyne, Aleq, Tyylr, Cindney, Wolter, Nickalous

New words/places as names:
Summet, Brae, Bishop, Quest, Britton, Brue, Cairo, Rucksac, Coy, Cutter, Pleas, Dreamius, Dynamite, Glendale, Travel, Blue, Iron, Ivy (boy), Jewell (boy), Kohl, Magic, Major, Moon, Nail, Reyn, Roche, Talon, Chicago, Mericle, Wren

Interesting combos:
Avie Hugh
Avondre Davalillo
Belafanti Desean
Bijon Christen
Bodhi Sage
Breeze Loyd
Grath Junior
Kelly Junior
Bronden Trinidad
Jehonathan Jesiah
Burk Tryon
Caesar Adolph
Malcolm Sadat
Carr Esquire
Charunn Chadonye
Cheapell Leesy
Dolan Obanion
Edker Ree
August Mandela
Jack Strongheart
Jaz E
Johnnie Danny
Kenneth Leviathan
Kerry Rhyanwy Stjohn Lars
Joseph Alexander Eaglebear
Justin Tyme
Kheywan Darnyeh
Kreol Deluch
Leif Lynn
Lucky Larrise
Love Ray
Master K
Royal Gene
Ruff Sidney
Sam Lucky
Sky Blue
StJoseph Love
Theopolis Q
Tito Tomito
Toussaint Louverture
Trinity Saint
Trinydad Azwad
Withfield Edison
Zonkiss Ailliot

interesting names:
Dwyan, Dimmak, Mecail, Quista, Gekill, Cacess, Ireno, Wyld, Benczesh, Boliver, Caitland, Aramis, Carzie, Cass, Celtin, Jonluc, Cisco, Claudie, Claster, Miro, Alaric, Cotrino, Jehoiakim, Dracy, Elza, Vlee, Ivyrage, MacAi, Dixo, Ney, Sil, Sio, Lonzie, Marquezze, Nethario, Phylester, Quayd, Shonga, Tavish, Tennyson, Yonex

Famous People:
Carlos Ponce Jones
Christian Dior Jones
Ralph Waldo Jones
Franklin Dwayne Roosevelt Jones
Zachary Taylor Jones
Frederick Douglas Jones
Germaine Quincy Jones
James Quincy Jones
Hans Christian Jones
Rickie Lee Jones (boy)
Indiana Jacob Harrison Jones
Milan Indiana Jones
Rusty Allen Jones
Jaime Lee Curtis Jones (boy)
James Earl Jones
James Taylor Jones
Jesse James Jones
Lynard Jodeci Jones
Aron Elvis Jones
Ptolemy Lee Jones
Ramses, Marsalis, Nero, Shaquille, Imhotep, Olajuwon

Super Welsh boys:
Dylan Emlyn, Bryn Gareth, Gareth Owen, Llewellyn, Scott Taliesin, Trevor Dylan

Say what?
Cheaquis, Cjance, Msonrerome, Jahkesce, Kamj, Ldewaynelee

Monday, April 14, 2008

Keeping Up With The Joneses: Girls

I found a list of all the babies born in california in 1995 with the last name Jones. I don't know if it's having such a common name that inspires people to come up with interesting first and middle names, or whether people in California are just creative in general... here are some of the best ones. I've divided them up into categories:

Different spellings:
Aeriane, Moniq, Aijha, Airrika, Aarika, Jazzmn, Alehxa, Elizabith, Rynae; Ranae; Reanee; Ranai, Leea, Nikcole, Joszalynn, Channel, Justean, Jurnee, Athyna, Joiece, Bryttnie, Kayluh; K'la, Keilii, K'lin; K'Lynn , Cameil; Kimille , Celest, Maigen; Magen, Cymone; Cmone, Ileah, Destynee, Kireston, Dihaana; Dhyonna, Leaanna; Leeuana, Emylie, Errieyona, Launa, Elease, Dilynn, Jacci, Kurstie, Kyanha, Kyndahl, Lacrezha; Lecricia, Onnamerie, Lizzett, Llyandra, MacAela, Anet, Mechell, Khrystyne, Melonye, Natacheau, Aprol, Paje, Ulexis, Preshess, Raechel, Leesza, Veola, Sarha, Kelle, Daziree, Shylo, Taelar, Shunnice

Interesting changes to "standard" names:
Adriani, Chelony, Cheyennenicole, Cloverise, Dajonnaise, Dyniele, Erinique, Aerolyn, Amenda, Jaddie, Jasmanique, Jastine, Jesslin, Karci, Chasidi, Chastitty (oh lord, like Chastity needs "titty" in it!), Brigzette, Marymarie, Chellle (3 LL's?), Naycole, Deslie, Centhia, Kathaleen, Kathleena, Kimberlina, Kirtrina, Lawreca, Annettia, Michelae, Ashlina, Emmia, Kymber, Lynnta, Sharlie, Sienne, Skaylin, Taylia, Tellyn, Tessandra, Theesha, Titiyana, Winnerfrid, Anntionette

New words and places as names:
Arrabia, Capri, Caprice, Chariot, Arteria, Clariyon, Cleopatra, Cypress, Milan, Artesia Tierra, Divine, Diva, Evian, Fashionee, Lovella, Neon, Porsche, Queen, Radiance, Atlanta, Holland, Honesty, Kamio, Kamry, Avylon, Ikeia, Brazille, Minyon, Britania, Queenesther, Myangel, Reign, Sahara, Yugonda, Mafia, Magenta, Ontaria, Milaysia, Mohogany, Mystique, Nigeria, Normandie, Paradise, Passion, Parish, Peris, Persia, Espree, Saucie, Samoan, Infinity, Scoutt, September, Shalamaur, Shardinae, Shasta, Provincetta, Sheraton, Silken, Silver, Special, Suede, Sylk, Tanganyika, Tawnie, Teale, Tequila, Terrany, Tommorrow, Tribecca, Tuzday, Wednesday, Zyaire, Divenity, Coy

These combinations are just unusual and really cool/interesting sounding:
Valexia Xariah
Akita (like the dog?)
Alexandria Indiana Jones
Amekco Darsha
Angelon Bridjae
Typanga Leamber
Avion Gznell
Breeanna Brene
Clarencia Doll
Crysheena Precious
Venus Shalon Judy
Curtiss Lovejanice
Elmallah Ai
Taylor Dane
Taylor Omega
Gessie Orrie
Heavenly Day
Ironnisha Zanneka
Jazzreeal Letease
Yonta Cheramia
Shimerea Breez
Jetaime Noir (Je t'aime noir - I love black in French?)
Kashshay Benzanae
Zena Petrice
Krystalline Dawn
Laolen Bee
London Summer
Nevada Skye
Sommer Porche
Moonlight Redcloud
Stormi Sunshine
Precious Uniquejewels
Reverdia Shellique
Tranea Rhontich
Trasalia Rhunette
Sable Diamond
Stormiweather Lee
Whisper Nikowah

More interesting names: Lajodeci, Kotey, Laporscha, Tudie, Jazzy, McCall, Mauthee, Michivan, Lark, Remington, Mookie, Scharnell, Starsetta, Sabri, Tazz, T'pring (yes, like on star Trek), Zuzu, Zebora

There are no "standard" ways to spell a few names that have become popular: one that's like /day-zhaun-ay/ (kind of like the French déjuner) and just /zha NAY/

Here are a bunch of ways it's been spelled:

Daishenae, Daijonae, Daijanee, Daeshonaye, Dashanae, Daejione, Dajohnia, Dashanae, Dazhane, Deozjane, Deajuane, Deshanai, Deshaunay, Deshonna(?), Dezjona, Dezohnaye, Dezsanee, Dijone (?), Deshanee, Dejanae, Dashanay, Daeshaney

J'nae, Janay, Janae, Jinae, Janee, Jenee, Jenae, Jenay, Genee, Jonnay, Zanae (?), Janaay, Zhane, Jene, Chanae, Jhanay, Johnnai, Johnnae, Jonae, Jonay, Jynae, Shanae, Jaunae, Jenea, Jeanae, Shanay, Shanaye, Shanea, Shenaye, Jonaye, Shaneye, Shenai, Jahnae, Jeneh, Chaney, Zchonae

Feminine forms of masculine names (or just usually masculine names on girls):
Calvinisha, Alvinisha, Willisha, Clarencia, Dylana (x2), Edwanesha, Haroldnesha Glennae, Paulnisha, Tommielee, Anthoniece, Jeffrie, Jimmia, Jimmie, Johnna, Johnnia, Johnetta, Joshlyn, Justann, Johnniece, Ericee, Leroyia, Pierra, Marcel, Dimitri, Richandra, Rickia, Israela

I've been studying names for decades, and I am stumped as to how to pronounce these:
Mlyn, Kginia, Myqui, Ksa, Cynkerenee, Neae, Ahynee, Macyk, Niekiha, Ryclynn, Qawiyelaine, Dijieshon, Synyahnadell, Victishalynd, Xjhunneh, Tychaniquean Latayzatelen

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Welsh Names Saga

I've been working on a site for Welsh names. In my research, I decided to look through newspapers and such to find names of *real* Welsh people, since all my books do is list names and meanings. I know many of these names are from mythology and aren't really used for people these days. Thus my search began.

I found this site of Female Mathematicians from the University of Wales and, always on the lookout for new and interesting names, found these listed among them:

Arvonia Decima Jones (graduated 1911)
Sylvie Tryphena Chapple (1924)
Dilys Eluned Francis (1925) - her parents weren't kidding around with Welsh names! Everyone else with Welsh names had the middle name of Mary, Margaret or Elizabeth.

From the rest of the site:
Lesbia Laurence Merron Boyd (Edinburgh University, 1929)
Beatrice Mabel Cave-Browne-Cave
Frances Evelyn Cave-Browne-Cave - both grads of Cambridge University (Girton College) in 1898)--- Three last names? Yikes!
Zona Cone (London University, 1933)
Gladys Diaper (London University, 1923)(this just made my inner 10-year-old giggle)
Alphonsine Josephine Elizabeth Deckers (Cambridge University, 1890)
Hettie Hardy (Cambridge University, 1930)-- that name's just fun to say!
Myma Kay Heathcote (Oxford, 1939) At first I thought it was "myrna", but it's MYMA.
Ismay Caer Levy (Cambridge, 1939)
Rosamond Moncrieff Leitch (Cambridge, 1902) -- this is a serious, serious name.
Blodwen Myfanwy Leeson (Reading, 1939)-- there goes my Welsh middle name theory!
Jemima Arulman Manuel (London University, 1940)
Ethelberta Mary Morris (Cambridge, 1928) - I'm glad my name isn't Ethelberta.
Gwneth Nesta Lilian Ruthven Murray (Cambridge, 1903) - interesting spelling
Ione Dorothy Vivienne Naish (Sheffield, 1924)
Shakuntala Paranjpye (Cambridge, 1929)-- this is the only non-British name I've come upon so far!
Dulcie Vivien Reynolds (London University, 1940)-- I love the names Dulcie & Vivien
Magdalen Harriet Ricardo (Cambridge, 1898)
Mary Shakespeare Richards (Cambridge, 1887)-- it's kind of awesome that someone with the middle name Shakespeare went on to study mathematics.
Nannie Savage (Belfast, 1933) --this sounds like a Horror Movie title.
Ottilie Shaw (Cambridge 1903)
Cecil Stokes (Cambridge, 1914) -- Cecil for a girl?
Vendla Harriett Matilda Thane (Cambridge, 1909)
Ethelberga Margaret Terry (Cambridge, 1938)
Olive Malvina Toogood (London Univ., 1924)-- that name is just 'too good' to pass over.
Eunice Oenone Wolstenholme (Cambridge, 1933)

Back to Welsh Names:
In skimming through newspapers, it looks like about 25% Welsh people have Welsh first names, with guys twice as likely to have one as girls. This is interesting, because when I lived in Ireland, my non-scientific survey told me that more girls than boys tend to have Irish names.

Why is this? Someone give me a grant to study it!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Harry Pitts?


The worst, most humiliating baby shares the silliest, craziest and downright cruelest names of all time

What would compel a parent to bestow a newborn with a name like “Tiny Hooker” or “Fanny Large”? Or an amusing choice like “Wanna Towell"? It’s not just Hollywood’s elite opting for unique, embarrassing names—throughout history, normal people separated their offspring from the masses with truly terrible names.

In “Bad Baby Names,” Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback, of the genealogy Web site, share thousands of shocking names given to real people, as recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau. Discover the funny names based around common themes, like diseases (Fever Bender, Cholera Peace), food (Bread White, Pomegranate Purple), pets (Good Dog), and if you thought Wednesday Addams was unfortunate—wait till you meet Monday Monday.

You'd have to be really sick to infect your offspring with virulent names like these:

Fever Bender (born 1856)
Leper Priest (born 1929)
Cholera Priest (born 1830 during the second cholera pandemic)
Rubella Graves (born 1814)
Typhus Black (born 1897)
Hysteria Johnson (born 1881)
Emma Royd (born 1850)
Kathryn E. Coli (born 1894)
Mumps Sykes (born 1891)

With names like "Mayor Bland," it seems like some parents had high, ambitious hopes for their children's future. Cook Cook
Governor Bush
Lawyer Low
Doctor Love
Teacher Blackbear
Judge Savage
Editor Honeycutt
Mayor Bland
Sales O. Justice
Gamble Moore

The authors found 149 records for people named Lust, 70 for Greed, 12 for Sloth, and 830 for Pride. Which of the 7 deadlly sins was missing? Only gluttony.

Lust Garten
Greed Sister Mancini
Avarice Sullivan
Sloth Washton
Wrath Gordon
Envy Burger
Pride Saint
Greed McGrew
Pride Saint
Lust T. Castle

Irish luck
Plenty of parents must have thought that naming their child Lucky would translate into a bright future. In 1930 alone, there are 463 Luckys.

Some lucky favorites:
Lucky Green
Lucky Jewell
Lucky O’Brien
Lucky Pleasant
Luck Fortune
Shamrock Hardeman of Illinois
Shamrock Dates of Mississippi
Shamrock Holland of Texas

The religious types:
Saint Patrick Blan
Saint Patrick Forrest
Saint Patrick

The patriotic:
Ireland England
Ireland Green
Irish Sea
Ireland Brew

Rainbow Green
Emerald Jewel
Clover Field
Clover B. Green

A St. Patrick’s Day feast:
Beef Cooper
Guinness Dack
Cabbage Haywood

Some parents loved eating so much, they named their kids after favorite meals, snacks—and even condiments:Lunch Magee
Dinner Ware
Bread White
Hero Brat
Mayo Head
Mustard M. Mustard
Pickle Parker
Plum Sellers
Banana Bowdy
Cherry Grant

Forget Suri or Shiloh – celebrities have given their children far stranger names! Discover the stars' oddest, most bizarre baby names:

Apple (Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow)
Moxie CrimeFighter (Magician Penn Jillette)
Hopper (Sean Penn and Robin Wright)
Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf)
Sosie (Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick)
Destry (Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw)
Aurelius Cy (Elle Macpherson)
Kal-El Coppola (Nicolas Cage)
Bluebell Madonna (Spice Girl Geri Halliwell)
Audio Science (Actress Shannyn Sossamon)
Sage Moonblood (Sylvester Stallone)
Tallulah (Bruce Willis and Demi Moore)
Kyd (David Duchovny and Tea Leoni)

Bart Simpson pranks
Bart Simpson's prank calls to Moe's Tavern are nearly legendary, but the sad fact is that some people actually go through life with those goofy names. The following Bart creations all exist within the databases:Al Caholic
Oliver Clothesoff
I.P. Freely
Seymour Butz
Mike Rotch
Hugh Jass
Amanda Hugginkiss
Ivana Tinkle
Anita Bath
Maya Buttreeks

TODAY hosts
Just how popular are the TODAY hosts' last names? Discover the funny names found on historical documents at

Matt Lauer
Lauer Froelick
Lauer Mann
Lauer Witt
Lauer Bucktels
Lauer Guiliani
Lauer Klump
Lauer Funk

Meredith Veira
Vieira Jack
Vieira Wesley
Vieira Boyd

Ann Curry
Curry Bee Massey
Curry Curry
Curry Duck
Curry Mayo
Curry McCain
Curry Murray
Curry Rice
Curry Worthy

Al Roker
Roker Duane
Roker Ono
Roker Richards
Prince Roker

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Athol, MA tired of being the butt of jokes

March 6, 2008 - 11:40pm

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

English Words as African Names

From the NY Times October 1, 2007

In a Land of Homemade Names, Tiffany Doesn’t Cut It

BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe — Thirty-two years ago in western Zimbabwe, a baby boy named Tlapi was born so sick that his parents feared he would die. They took him to sangomas, or traditional healers, and to Western-style doctors, but nothing worked. It seemed that God, not man, would decide his fate

Smile, a truck driver in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, shows a facial expression fitting of his name.

So when he was 1 year old, Tlapi’s parents changed his name to reflect that. “Some people think I’m lying when I tell them my name,” said Godknows Nare, who survived to become a freelance photographer. “They think I am teasing them. But I’m not.”

Not at all. In Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, another Godknows was a waiter at a popular outdoor cafe. So was a man named Enough, about whom more will be said later. Across southern Africa, in fact, one can find any number of Lovemores, Tellmores, Trymores and Learnmores, along with lots of people named Justice, Honour, Trust, Gift, Energy, Knowledge and even a Zambian athlete named Jupiter.

Some Westerners chuckle. Perhaps they are oblivious — Oblivious is another Zimbabwean name, actually — to the fact that they once idolized a cowboy star named Hopalong or that many baby girls are given the name of a jewelry store to carry through life.

Indeed, Godknows, Enough and company are a continuation of an African tradition arguably more logical than the one that churns out Justins and Tiffanys in America. In southern Africa, a child’s name is chosen to convey a specific meaning, and not, as is common in the West, the latest fashion.

Increasingly, however, those traditional names are bestowed not in Ndebele, Sotho or some other local language, but in English, the world’s lingua franca. English names arrived with colonial rule, were further imposed by missionaries and, for some, became fashionable with the spread of Western culture.

But for Godknows, Enough and others, the result can be confusion — and sometimes, hilarity — even among fellow Africans.

“Quite a few people tell me I am cursed,” said Hatred Zenenga, an editor at Zimbabwe’s government-controlled newspaper, The Herald. “They say my name is un-Christian. They tell me that I should change it to Lovewell, or some other Christian name. And others are just surprised — ‘How did you get that name?’”

Hatred got his name the way millions of other children here have — as a means of recording an event, a circumstance or even the weather conditions that accompanied their births.

“For instance, if it was windy, the name may be Wind. If it was rainy, it may be Rain,” said Matole Motshekga, the founder of the Kara Heritage Institute, based in Pretoria. “If there are problems in the family, they will use the appropriate name. So you cannot just name someone out of the blue. It has to relate to something.”

Thus a Zimbabwean baby born to parents who had spent years trying to start a family might be named Tendai, which expresses thankfulness, and a child born in a time of troubles may be named Tambudzai, which literally means no rest.

Or, just as likely these days, a baby will be named Givethanks or Norest. If a Sotho-speaking girl becomes pregnant before marriage, her unhappy parents may name the baby Question or Answer — an answer to the question of why their daughter was behaving so strangely before the pregnancy became known.

Hatred has its own story. Mr. Zenenga is one of seven children born to hard-working parents who were determined to educate their brood. The family’s rising status made the father’s illiterate brothers jealous. So except for the first child, who died as an infant, all the children were named to address the jealousy and other emotions that raged among the adults: Norest, Hatred, Praise, Confess, Raised-on and Abide.

For Mr. Zenenga’s parents, the names were an inside joke, a fillip in the continuing family feud. “My father’s relatives didn’t speak English,” he said. “So he said, ‘We’re going to name our children in English so they won’t understand what we are saying to them.’”

Some scholars, including Dr. Motshekga, frown on the trend toward Anglicized names. “It’s an entrenchment of a loss of identity,” he said, “a joke. You say ‘I’m Wind,’ and they really make fun of the person.”

The Financial Gazette in Harare loosed an assault on the trend toward English names in a 2004 essay. “Oh, please! Why burden our children so unnecessarily just for the sake of feeding our misguided ego?” a columnist complained. “Quite frankly, these names amount to a form of child abuse.”

In some cases, maybe. Have-a-Look Dube is a well-known Zimbabwean soccer player. There are Zimbabwean children named Wedding, Funeral, Everloving, Passion and Anywhere, among others. A spirit medium who recently duped Zimbabwean officials into believing he had found diesel fuel flowing from a rock has the unfortunate name of Nomatter Tagarira. A Bulawayo truck driver is named Smile, and true to form, he is never without a broad smile on his face.

That said, none of the monikers were plucked from “1,001 Baby Names” or chosen to imitate a pop star. Consider Enough, the Harare cafe waiter. Asked how he got his name, he said simply: “My mother had 13 children. And I was the last one.”

Then there is the fellow from Dopotha, a village west of Bulawayo, who was born while his father was in Congo, fighting in that nation’s civil wars. When the father returned, the father concluded that the newborn almost certainly was not his, and he decided to make that clear.

The son’s name? Never Trust a Woman.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Baby-name remorse -- what do you do?

By Anna Jane Grossman


(LifeWire) -- Pauline and Jeffrey Eadie, of Cleveland, had gathered the family together to watch home movies of their two older children as babies. In one movie, Jack, now 5, was looking skeptically at his then-newborn sister, now 3. "In the video, I was saying, 'Jack, go to the baby, go hug her,'" says Pauline. "And then at some point I said, 'Go kiss Emma.'"

Unaware that her name had been changed when she was a newborn, Pauline Eadie's daughter, Caroline, looked at her and asked 'Who's Emma?'"

The Eadies are among a surprising number of parents who, following the birth of their child, suffer namer's remorse. In a recent poll of 1,219 mothers conducted by, 10 percent considered changing their baby's name. The reasons they gave ranged from being inspired by another name to having a relative disagree with the choice.

Regret is common after any big decision, and few prenatal decisions these days are as open to debate as picking a child's name. Rare are the parents who haven't invested in a small library of baby-name books or trolled the Internet for a name unique enough to be usefully Googled, but not so weird as to cause ridicule.

"Today, there's this perception that naming a child is almost like naming a product -- there's this huge national drive now to not be like anyone else," says Laura Wattenberg, author of "The Baby Name Wizard" and founder of the blog

That may be one reason some parents have second thoughts when they realize they've picked the present-day equivalent of Jennifer or Justin.

In her first few years, 6-year-old Sophie Sauber's parents, Rob Sauber and Suzanne Ramljak, of Connecticut, were overwhelmed by the number of Sophies they encountered daily. Four out of 13 kids in their daughter's preschool class were named Sophie, and other parents were constantly yelling it at the mall. When Sophie was almost 4, they asked how she'd feel about being called Isadora, a name they'd considered before she was born.

"She understood our reasoning and liked the name. We weren't going to force her," says Ramljak. One day, after a trial period of a couple of months, she introduced herself as Isadora. "It was like, 'That's her name now!'"

Noting that by 12 months children already recognize the sound of their names, Dr. Karla Umpierre, a Miami psychologist and family counselor, encourages parents to get the child's input and approval if they decide to change the name after age 2. "It's best to change the name before then, because by 2 or 3 they have a sense of identity, and it could send mixed messages. The child might ask himself, 'Do you want to change me?'"

"Stability is very important for children," says Dr. Umpierre. "And changing a name could create a lot of insecurity."

For most parents, the urge comes long before the baby can say his or her own name. Wavering is not uncommon for those who figure they'll pick a name once they see the baby. "But that's a tall order to put on a newborn," says Wattenberg. "It's hard to look at this 7-pound thing and say, 'Oh! She's an Abigail!'" So they choose something quickly and then spend weeks second-guessing themselves.

That was the case for the Eadies. When their daughter was born, the nursery was full and the nurses were rushing them to sign the birth certificate and leave the hospital. "Emma seemed pretty," Pauline Eadie says. They sent out birth announcements, "but it just felt strange coming out of my mouth." They decided they preferred a family name, Caroline.

Adrienne and Matt Grayson, of Charleston, South Carolina, settled on the name Luke early in her pregnancy. "I also loved the name Beckett, but it felt a little weird, like Apple," says Adrienne Grayson, referring to the name actress Gwyneth Paltrow gave her daughter. When the baby was born, they named him Luke Beckett Grayson. What followed was a sea of engraved picture frames, monogrammed pillows, "Welcome Luke" signs drawn by the Grayson's older children -- and a wave of regret.

"I couldn't shut up about how we should call him Beckett instead of Luke, and I also started mourning my maiden name, Shaw," Adrienne Grayson says. "I thought I should've made that his middle name because we weren't going to have more kids."

The more she reflected, the more she wanted to change Luke's name to Beckett Shaw Grayson. The process involved hours on the phone with the Social Security office and the county clerk. She found that although it's legal to change a minor's name (as long as both parents consent), states don't always have a well-oiled system in place for regretful parents.

When her son's new Social Security card arrived, it read, erroneously, "Shaw Luke Grayson."

The Eadies, too, were bounced from one government agency to another. Eventually they filed the paperwork with a probate-court judge to change "Emma" to "Caroline."

Since learning of the name she had for the first eight weeks of her life, Caroline has taken to renaming her dolls.

She also has announced that she prefers the name Emma.