In a fascinating article on BET.com, Laila Ali apologized for calling people who pick names like North (West) “stupid.”
Here’s how Ali explained the incident to radio personality, Egypt Sherrod, who contacted Ali to give her a chance to explain how she wound up in the middle of a kerfuffle with Kim and Kanye.
“Speaking very candidly and honestly as I always do… knowing how cruel the world is and the bullying, and you know, kids have to grow up and get a job one day, I did say that I think some of these name choices are stupid.”
Notice this sentence: “Some of these name choices are stupid.” In other words, she’s not saying that North was a stupid name. Only “some” of these names are stupid. But, If North wasn’t the name she was referring to, which name was she referring to?
I’ll quote from Ali’s apology:
“I do realize that it was a poor choice of words… and it wasn’t to single out Kim or Kanye. I actually mentioned a bunch of names, not just the name North. It was a general opinion to a question that I was asked.”
In that case, let’s take close look at the “bunch of names” she mentioned:
“North and South, and Leaf, and Water Drop, and all these names… C’mon now.”
Although North is a fixture in celebrity gossip columns and late-night TV show monologs, I can’t recall a prominent celebrity baby named South or Leaf or Water Drop. I got the impression Ali was referring to the kind of non-traditional, creative, fanciful, over-the-top, names someone might be tempted to pick for their child (if they’d taken temporary leave of their senses). “C’mon now” is a lot like “give me a break.” It’s the kind of thing stand-up comics say at the end of a comic riff so the audience will know when it’s time to laugh.
Curious about Leaf, Water Drop and South, I decided to Google those names. I got nothing for Leaf and Water Drop. But when I Googled South I hit the jackpot: lots of lame jokes (not worth repeating) all of which reference the name North (West), what seemed to be a news item reporting that 85 percent of those surveyed preferred the name North to South, 100 to 1 odds being offered by a bookmaker that Kim and Kanye would pick the name South for their next baby–all of which indicates Ali’s reference to the name South was an attempt at humor.
So it appears that the only real name in the “bunch of names” Ali mentioned was “North.” Which is why Ali’s comments come across as a kind stand-up comedy routine about the crazy names that celebrities are giving their kids these days. And it happens that Kim and Kanye’s choice of North (West) is the celebrity baby name that’s been in the news almost continuously for the last four months. So it’s clear that Ali perceived North as a prototype for silly, ridiculous, crazy names.
Ali’s mistake was describing the kind of parents that picked names like North as “stupid.” She did that when she said (while referring to the current practice of attention-seeking celebrities giving their children “bizarre” names):
“I don’t care who you are, that is just stupid, period.”
Notice the word “you.” It’s as though she was directly addressing Kim, Kanye and the fictional parents of Leaf, Water Drop and South. Ali was no longer joking. This is the comment that seems to step over the line and turn Ali’s understandable concern about the ego-tripping celebrities who saddle their children with embarrassing names into a statement that could be interpreted as insulting.
And it’s easy to understand where Ali is coming from, emotionally. She knows what it’s like to have a parent with an over-inflated ego. Her father, Muhammed Ali, famously called himself “the Greatest.”
So, although I admire Ali both for her candor and courage in ridiculing names like North, South, Leaf and Water Drop, I also admire her for having the good sense to apologize to Kim and Kanye for using the st-word, while sticking to her basic position about silly names, which can be summed up in five words:
“I don’t like crazy names.”
This quote pretty much describes the American public’s attitude towards North (West), Blue Ivy, Pilot Inspektor, Bronx Mowgli, Zuma Nesta Rock, Daisy Boo, Moon Unit, Diva Think Muffin Pigeen and and the rest of the outrageous names I listed in my “10 Mistakes That Have Caused the Biggest and Baddest Baby-Naming Blunders” article. Yes, North (West) is one of those blunders.