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June 27, 2007

From Moon Unit Zappa to 4real

The Associated Press ran a story this weekend about a New Zealand judge who refused to allow a couple to name their newborn son "4real." The judge said numerals are not allowed.

The parents, Pat and Sheena Wheaton, said they decided to name their infant "4real" after an ultrasound image made clear that there, was, for real, a baby in there.

New Zealand's baby-naming rules, in addition to forbidding numbers, are intended to prevent parents from giving names "likely to cause offense to a reasonable person"--such as Satan or Adolf Hitler.

"For most of us, when we try to figure out what our names mean, we have to look it up in a babies book and...there's no direct link between the meaning and the name," "4real's" mother said.  "With this name, everyone knows what it means."

In reality, until the baby is old enough to change his name, what everyone will know is that "4real's" parents are flakes. As one blogger put it, "The parents of '4real' shold have changed their names to 'Jack@ss#1' and 'Jack@ss#2.'"

Strange trends are evident in baby naming these days. Helping parents choose the perfect name for their little rug rat has become a cottage industry. As Matthew Fishbane notes in Salon, "Self-described 'nameologists,' numerologists, sociologists, astrologers, consultants, writers and webmasters are all cashing in on parents' urge to give newborns a leg up any way they can, including agonizing over the most auspicious moniker."

Some parents want "global-ready" names that travel well, according to the Baby Name Wizard: Parents want "name sounds and styles that play well to speakers of many languages," Ms. Wizard said.

Other parents-to-be name their kids after pop stars like Britney Spears, just as an earlier generation named their daughters after Shirley Temple.

This all seems a little sad, reflecting, as it does, a loss of any sense of connection to something deeper, richer, and more meaningful than the parents' impulsive personal preferences. Previous generations of parents looked back--to family names, to the Bible, and to names that reflected the family's ethnic ties.  Parents also named kids after famous people whose characters they admired, such as George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Parents who gave their daughters names like Constance or Faith hoped their children would in time emulate these qualities.

Today, in contrast, many parents appear to be searching for the perfect brand names for their kids in order to help them get ahead--in effect, to compete more effectively against other kids, much the way companies try to find the perfect name for their product--one that makes consumers want to purchase their sleeping pills or detergent over a competing company's product.

In the Bible, a person's name often reflected what God intended to do with his or her life. Religious parents down through the ages have echoed that idea, giving their children names of Biblical characters they hope their children will eventually emulate. Today, parents are paying consultants to help them find names for their kids that will help them achieve career success and make it easier for people in, say, Japan, to pronounce their names.

Some parents, oppressed by our mass-produced culture, may be attempting to achieve some relief with an original name rather than giving their child the same moniker every third kindergartener will have.  But I suspect something else is going on with the kind of parents who name their kids "4real" or "ESPN." These parents are so self-centured that they're willing to sacrifice their children's happiness to their own egos. (Have you ever met a child who didn't want a common, easy-to-spell name over a bizarre one like Apple, to pick on Gwyneth Paltrow?) Or, they view themselves as having little power in the world; having the opportunity to choose someone else's name is a powerful thing, and these parents take full advantage of it by giving their baby the most "original" name they can think of--even if it makes their child feel like a freak.

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Steve (or... Stephen)

Besides generally agreeing with the 'what were they thinking' line, I'll go out on a limb and say the main issue is probably the government computers can't parse a name starting with a digit. Easier to 'enforce the rules' then spend millions to adjust their system. :)

And I don't know if I agree that every child wants a common name... at least, by the time they grow up. :) Looking at myself, I have to spell at least parts of all 3 of my names. "no, that's PH, not V", "EN at the end" etc. In a sense, it gives me a sense of pride that my names are 'difficult' (because, someone 'needs help' to spell it). Does it give me a feeling of 'power' and 'intelligence'? Sadly (and Shallow-ly)... I think yes. On the other hand, I remember definitely taking to heart both the literal meaning and example in the Bible of my 'namesakes'.
On the other hand, (is this Fiddler on the Roof?), when I see people needing help with my names, it could just be schadenfreude.

Gina Dalfonzo

That's what I call looking on the bright side, Steve. Instead of enjoying it, I get sick and tired of explaining to people that it's not Gena, Jina, or Jenna, and not Dalfonso, D'Alfonso, Delfonso, or Dalfry. Or something even weirder. (The telemarketer on the phone the other night asked for "Mr. Dolphin-nose." I'm not kidding.)


That's funny.

(If telemarketers even minutely mispronounce our last name, we say there's no one here by that name and hang up).

Kim Moreland

I still have to spell K.I.M. No, it is not Kym or Kimberly, it's is just Kim, and yes, my initals spell my name. (Clever mother, my maiden name was McCarthy.)

Now I emphasize both parts of my last name "More-land" and add "as in lots of property," which I wish I owned.

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