There is a time when every parent is called upon to make a decision that will affect someone’s life forever, and many don’t do well in the choice made. It is sad to say, but it does seem that it is happening at a much higher frequency than ever.

In an article on MSN today, I read that the most popular names for the year 2009 are from the movie Twilight, being Jacob and Isabella. Not that bad, but since there are so many being saddled with those names, how many first grade classes in four years will have three people named Jacob, and two named Isabella?

I still am of that age where I think a name should reflect something about the person, and though I don’t think that a certain name should be put on a child due to heritage, I do think that we might not want to put a name associated with a certain nationality onto someone of another nationality (i.e. All Jewish boys should not have to be named Hiram or Jacob, but no Japanese boy should have those names ).

I also get a bit perturbed when I see a name that is a bit too precious, or the parent has gone the extra mile to be different (Apple and Bronx Mowgli are two winners in this bonanza.)

As I read in the New York Times, it looks as though there are more than a few that share my sensibilities –

I saw a birth announcement the other day and groaned. In recent years, I’d learned to accept the flood of trendy tots named Madison, but this was my first Madicyn. If you care about spelling, my advice is to pour yourself a stiff drink before untying that pink or blue ribbon and reading news of the blessed event.

In a similar vein, leafing through the newspaper these days is like crawling through a minefield of makeshift names. An article will catch my eye — say, something about a tornado that just missed ripping through a preschool beauty pageant — and I dread what’s coming next. They’re going to interview the pint-size witnesses, and I’m about to meet little Brittney, Brittny, Brittneigh, Brit’nee, Brittani and Bryttney. If you absolutely have to name your child after a rugged French peninsula, then get out a dictionary and look it up. It’s Brittany.

I have a major gripe with the trend of misspelling baby names. On purpose. The parents’ logic runs something like this: “My child is special and unique. Thus, my child deserves a special, uniquely spelled name.” The upshot is that Chloe becomes Kloey, and Jacqueline metastasizes into something ghastly, like Jaq’leen.

It would be easy to blame this on celebrities, since there appears to be an unspoken contest among them to saddle children with awful names. Gwyneth Paltrow set the bar high when she named her daughter Apple, but not high enough. Reign Beau, daughter of Ving Rhames, and Vanilla Ice’s Dusti Rain and Keelee Breeze are way up there. For boys, could any name be worse than Bronx Mowgli, son of Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz? Perhaps Jermajesty Jackson?

Not that this is just a Hollywood problem. All across America, parents are mangling names in a misguided mission to trumpet their kid’s individuality. Take the wildly popular name Chase, which is actually not a name at all, but something a dog does to its tail. It was annoying to begin with, but now it gets worse as it slowly mutates from Chase to Chace, and on to Chayce.

If there were any truth to the idea that a particular name can guarantee a particular character trait for the child — or vice versa — most people would be named Vaguely Dissatisfied. Or Kinda Bitter. In my case, my parents could’ve just named me Unemployed and saved everybody a lot of trouble.

Misspelling a child’s name won’t make Junior special, creative or unique. Y’s and I’s are not interchangeable, and apostrophes are not some sort of newfangled confetti to be sprinkled liberally throughout groups of letters. Parents shouldn’t impose cryptic, incoherent or foolish spellings on their own children, nor on society as a whole. And they shouldn’t condemn their children to a lifetime of bleakly repeating that, no, the name in question is spelled “Shaiyahne,” not “Cheyenne.” (And while I’m at it, don’t name your child Cheyenne, either.)

The liberty to name one’s child is not always absolute, certainly not outside the United States. In France, for example, the district attorney has a short window of time after a child is born to block names contrary to the interest of the child, including those that are pejorative or rude or would cause ridicule. I’m not suggesting we commission a similar corps of name police in the United States. But I am saying that a little humility and some common sense would go a long way.

Just as comedian Steven Wright has said it is a short distance between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot, there is a fine line between a name that is different, and distinctive, and one that is simply comical, though most people will be far too polite to let out the full guffaw that some of these names deserve.

Though committees get blamed for many things, there are times when a committee would force a correctness of thought that would serve the greater good. Naming children is one of those times. For each name not found to be somewhat common, meaning that at least 15 people in 100 have heard of it, a naming committee should be empanelled.

Imagine the problems that the child named by this method would escape, and also the ridicule, perhaps not spoken, but felt, that the parents of that child would be spared.


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There’s so much pollution in the air now that if it weren’t for our lungs there’d be no place to put it all.Robert Orben

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