In a previous post, I wrote about names that could give bullies and teasers ammunition to use against your child. But there are other naming categories to avoid, those that can create negative impressions or call to mind unflattering associations—for children or adults.
Let’s consider cartoon names, which often feature characters you wouldn’t want associated with your child–like Homer (Simpson), which calls to mind a pathetic (but lovable) bumbling loser; Elmer (Fudd), who was no match for a wascally wabbitt; and Donald (Duck), a short-tempered, bad-humored, halfwit.
Most ethnic groups have stereotypical characters often featured in jokes. While this category of humor is most often not meant to be mean-spirited, the characters are not exactly imagined as Rhodes scholars. Examples include Ole and Lena, an amusing but dimwitted Norwegian couple, and Homer and Jethro, two less-than-bright country bumpkins. Names associated with this type of humor are not likely to be taken seriously by college admissions officers and high-tech headhunters.
Sexy names (pseudonyms associated with strippers and prostitutes) like Candy, Cherry and Lola tend not to be deemed acceptable in “polite company” or church. And they can create the impression of women with “easy virtue.” I suppose they also could drive women into hardcore prudery to create a chaste impression. But prudish names like Chastity and Madonna demonstrate how easily a name can backfire. During adolescence, girls rebel just like boys.
Nerdy names like Dexter, Egbert and Waldo encourage teasing. (Hey, where’s Waldo?) Wimpy-sounding names like Archibald, Percival or Rupert may invite bullying as well. (I wonder how Rupert Murdoch became such a tough old bird? Perhaps he got more than his fair share of teasing as a kid.)
Finally, it doesn’t take a genius to know it’s not a good idea to give your child a name associated with an “evil” historical character like Adolf (Hitler), Saddam (Hussein) or Ivan (The Terrible). Several years ago I found a story in the newspaper about an American Nazi who named his child Adolf. As I recall, things didn’t go well either for the child or the father. (You can find this story in the Unusual Names in the News section of this blog.)
Here’s a list of names to be very skeptical about—if you consider them at all.
1. Cartoon names: (Fat) Albert, Alvin (and the Chipmunks), Boris (Badenov), Donald (Duck), Elmer (Fudd), Fred (Flintstone), Hagar (the Horrible), Homer (Simpson), Mickey (Mouse)
2. Ethnic humor names: Ole and Lena (Swedish); Homer and Jethro (Appalachian); Amos and Andy, (Aunt) Jemima (African-American)
3. Sexy names: Bambi, Candy, Cherry, Kitty, Lola, Madonna
4. Nerdy names: Clarence, Dexter, Egbert, Mortimer, Waldo
5. Wimpy names: Archibald, Cecil, Horton, Percival, Rupert
6. Prudish names: Chastity, Madonna
7. Evil famous namesake names: Adolph (Hitler), Ivan (the terrible), Saddam (Hussein)
Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that I have listed Madonna as “sexy” and “prudish.” It’s one of those names that could go either way. Initially a minister might name a daughter Madonna to provide a “pure” role model. But the name could boomerang and produce a rebellious reaction—in the opposite direction, if you get my drift. (Think of Madonna performing “Like a Virgin.” Like a virgin, but not exactly.)
This is fun. I’ll keep thinking about more names to avoid and write another post about it.
© 2013 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.