The GQ Guide to Baby Naming: Magary’s 9 Dos and Don’ts

In a recent post I gave you an entertaining sample of the GQ Guide to Baby Naming and a link to make it easy for you to read the whole article. I suspect a lot of readers enjoyed the sample but didn’t click on the link. So I’m going to try again to motivate you to read Magary’s entire article. This time, I’m giving you a stripped down version of Magary’s Dos and Don’ts without Magary’s entertainingly detailed explanations and examples.

  1. Do not invent a name. Most inventions fail. Many don’t even make it past the patent stage. What makes you think a name you created out of thin air is gonna stand the test of time?
  2. Think real hard about whether or not a “cool” name is all that cool…Names that sound kinda badass…become stale and tepid with the passage of time.
  3. If you give your kid a kooky name, there’d better be a [great] story behind it.
  4. Don’t abuse the letter y. It’s not a real vowel.
  5. Go easy on the “extreme” letters. I like x, k, and z as much as any competitive Scrabble player does. But these are children you’re naming, not line extensions of Mountain Dew.
  6. Do not use double letters if you don’t have to.
  7. Do not name your child after…things [like: celebrity baby names, “Twilight” characters, etc.]
  8. Consider whether that apostrophe is really necessary. It isn’t.
  9. Think about the kid and not yourself. Are you giving this kid a one-of-a-kind name because…you
    want friends and family to be dazzled by your creativity?

Now you know Magary’s Rules, but without the entertainingly detailed explanations and examples you’re missing most of the fun, so check out the GQ Guide to Baby Naming–as I asked you to do last time.

Me: Questions?

You: Why do you keep writing about The GQ Guide to Baby Naming?

Me: Thanks for asking. I’m trying to reach: celebrities, celebrity wannabes, and parents who believe their kids will run with the popular crowd in high school if they name their daughter Blue Moon Unyt and their son Xlaxx)–before it’s too late. The GQ Guide to Baby Naming might save a few children from the curse of going through life with an awful name. I’m thrilled to be joined on this important mission by Drew Magary, whom (I’m sorry to admit) I had never heard of before I ran across his article.

You Named Me…What? The GQ Guide to Naming Your Baby

If you’re interested in reading a bare-knuckles introduction to baby naming, I strongly recommend Drew Magary’s article that ran in GQ a few months ago. If you missed it, you’re in for a treat. Jump right in, here’s the intro:

If name is destiny (Destynee?), then judging from the dumb-ass, intentionally misspelled, needlessly apostrophe’d names we Americans are giving our kids nowadays—Jaxxon, Branlee, Scot’t—we’re raising a generation of meth heads. What can be done to stop this? Presenting GQ’s rules for naming a baby in the worst baby-naming era in human history.

Congratulations, your wife/girlfriend/au pair is pregnant! A little bundle of colicky delight awaits you mere months from now. And one of the great joys of this period of anticipation is brainstorming all kinds of kick-ass names for your offspring.

But be warned: The power that comes with naming a child can be both intimidating and addictive, and we are currently in the throes of a child-naming crisis here in America. Seemingly rational people are naming their kids Baylynn, and Daxx, and Nirvana. Ethans are becoming Aythans. Marys are becoming Jazzmins. Wannabe elitist parents keep trying to one-up each other, as if a uniquely horrible name serves as some kind of guarantee against little Aston Martin growing up to be merely ordinary. Soon we’ll be staring down an army of Apples, and the entire country will collapse upon itself. Each of us will get only a few opportunities (or if you’re Antonio Cromartie, two dozen) to help in the fight against this encroaching apocalypse, so when your turn comes, please do your part by following a few simple rules.

If you want to read the rest of Drew Magary’s guide to baby naming, click on these words. It’s not on the newsstand any more, so I’m making this article available as a public service (and because I agree with Drew’s POV: baby names are becoming Dumber and Dumberer.)

Boxer Laila Ali’s Smackdown of Kim and Kanye Re: North West

After staying up late last night to write a response to Joanna Shroeder’s article “Stop Complaining About So-Called Weird Names?” I was thrilled to discover an interview, this morning, with Laila Ali (retired boxer and daughter of the legendary Muhammed Ali) about celebrity baby names like North West. Here are some of highlights from an interview by as reported by

When asked what she thought about the name North West, she replied: “I don’t like crazy names!”

When asked about the meaning of names like North West she said: “I think it doesn’t make any sense…You have to think about the child and as they get older what they have to deal with…. But North and South, and Leaf, and Water Drop, and all these names… C’mon now.”

When asked about the current practice of giving babies bizarre names: “A lot of people do things because it is a fad and they want to get some attention.”

When asked about celebrities who defended the bizarre names they had picked, Ali looked directly into the camera as if she was talking to Kim and Kanye and the other baby-naming celebrities directly, and said : “I don’t care who you are that is just stupid, period.”

Celebrity news media usually present celebrity birth announcements as though they are quoting God. Pundits, like me, try to discuss the names objectively. Truth is, we don’t actually know the celebrities we are writing about—so we can’t speak from first-hand knowledge about them. We can only guess what their true motives really are.

That’s why Laila Ali’s smack-down of Kim and Kanye (in particular) and others of their kind is so rare and powerful. She knows the game that Kim and Kanye are playing. And she’s willing to call them on it. What it boils down to is: Kim and Kanye can run from Laila Ali—but they can’t the hide.

10 Mistakes That Have Caused Celebrity Baby-Naming Blunders

1. Avoid names that sound like names of objects or places or creatures other than people.
Examples: Moon Unit, North, Yamma, Dweezil, Bronx, Fifi Trixibelle, Little Pixie Frou-Frou, Diezel, Ocean

2. Avoid names unlikely to be taken seriously–and likely to promote teasing or bullying.
Examples: Jermajesty, Audio Science, Pilot “Standard” Inspektor, Zeppelin, Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, Moxie CrimeFighter

3. Avoid names that most people would find difficult to recognize or identify as to national or ethnic origin.
Examples: Ahmet Emuukha Rodan Zappa, Zuma Nesta Rock Rossdale,

4. Avoid names whose first, middle and family names don’t go well together.
Examples: Bronx Mowgli Wentz, Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson, Kal-El Coppola Cage, Daisy-Boo Pamela Oliver, Yamma Noyola Brown

5. Avoid names likely to promote an inflated ego or the impression of an inflated ego.
Examples: Prince Michael, Jermajesty, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince

6. Avoid names that create a sleazy sexual impression.
Example: Alabama Gypsy Rose Jenkins

7. Avoid names that create a criminal or evil impression.
Example: Pirate Howsmon Davis

8. Avoid names that are difficult to pronounce or remember.
Examples: Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa

9. Avoid names that are difficult to spell or remember.
Examples: Ahmet Emuukha Rodan Zappa, Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson, Diezel

10. Avoid names that aren’t versatile enough to work well for both formal and informal occasions.
For example: Daisy-boo, Fifi Trixibelle, Little Pixie Frou-Frou, Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ocean

Discussion: I provided examples for each of the “mistakes to avoid,” to demonstrate the nature and scale of the mistake. For example It’s not a “mistake” to use a “gender-neutral name” like Jordan or Riley. But it’s impossible to tell what kind of creature or thing Moon Unit, Dweezil and Ocean are. I have chosen egregious examples of each type of mistake to demonstrate how difficult or disturbing it would be to be go through life with names that present the child in such a demeaning and unfavorable way.

Consider that the Social Service Administration lists Major, Messiah and King as three of the top-seven fastest rising boys’ names in 2012. The name Major might suggest you come from a military family and the name might be a family tradition (e.g., to honor a grandfather whose military rank was Major.) But George Alexander Louis Windsor won’t be King George for many years if ever–he’s third in line for the crown. So King is a big mistake. (It might encourage your son to demand that his “subject” bow down and kiss his feet every morning, before she pours cereal and milk into his royal cereal bowl). And Messiah? How nice to have a messiah in the family–until you get the psychotherapy bills. These are the kind of big, bad blunders we’re trying to avoid here. (They’re the kind of mistakes you can read about in celebrity gossip columns or watch on TV talk shows almost every day.)

P.S. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that this list of mistakes is part of the training for all recruits to the Baby Name Police. We test candidates for their ability to distinguish  clever, creative names from “joke names” likely to backfire on the child and the parents (who will be stuck with the psychotherapy bills).


37 Outrageous Celebrity Baby Names That Illustrate What Not to Do When Naming Your Baby

Kim and Kanye’s choice of North West for their baby girl’s name has caused pundits to blog about other outrageous celebrity baby names. Curious to discover whether there was a consensus among pundits as to which names were the most, well, awful, I Googled tags like “strange,” “weird,” “funny,” “ridiculous,” “crazy,” and “unique” celebrity baby names.

I soon noticed that several sets of parents (Frank and Adelaide Gail Zappa, Jonathan and Deven Davis, Bob Geldof and Paula Yates, Jamie Oliver and Juliette Norton, Soleil Moon Frye and Marc Silverstein) had more than one name on many of the lists. I only included one of Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellan’s boys names, but mentioned the other three. It’s clear that coming up with notorious names is something all these parents were trying to do (rather than trying to avoid).

By contrast, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West still don’t understand why their fans, the media and the public at large aren’t thrilled by North West. Kim, Kanye, their friends and their relatives have been releasing statements (to the media) claiming that North is an “inspirational” name because it means “the highest power,” “the highest point” or was chosen because their lives are “guided by” the North Star. They are misguided if they think anyone other than friends and relatives will be impressed by this “logic.”

Most people know that north is a point on the compass located midway between east and west—and the farther north you go, the colder it gets. If Kim and Kanye were sailing around the world on a raft and had lost their compass, I would be more likely to believe that the North Star “guides” their lives.

If you want to find out which of the most commonly criticized celebrity baby names are the biggest baby-naming blunders, just count the number of mistakes the celebrity parents made in the process of coming up with each name, using the 10 common baby-naming mistakes listed below:

Ten Common Baby-Naming Mistakes
-It doesn’t sound like a name.
-It doesn’t make a positive impression for the child.
-The first, middle and family names don’t fit well together.
-It doesn’t work particularly well for formal or informal occasions (or both).
-It is a joke which is ultimately at the expense of the baby.
-It is nonsensical.
-It is unclear as to gender.
-It is difficult to pronounce.
-It is difficult to spell.
-It is likely to provoke or invite teasing.

Although any one of the mistakes listed above could be a source of discomfort or annoyance for a child, any name that reflects three or more of these mistakes is going to cause major problems for the child. But don’t be surprised to discover that most of the celebrity baby names listed below exemplify more than half of the ten mistakes!

Boy’s Names

Ahmet Emuukha Rodan Zappa
Parents: Frank and Adelaide Gail Zappa
My first impression: What country did he come from? What language will he speak?

Audio Science Clayton
Parents: Shannyn Sossamon and Dallas Clayton
My first impression: He’ll be instantly stereotyped as a science geek.

Bear Blu Jarecki
Parents: Alicia Silverstone and Christopher Jarecki
My first impression: A depressed plush toy.

Bodhi Ransom Green
Parents: Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green
My first impression: An enlightened hijacker.

Bronx Mowgli Wentz
Parents: Ashlee Simpson and Peter Wentz
My first impression: Apparently, an urban-jungle dweller.

Diezel Ky Braxton-Lewis
Parents: Toni Braxton and Keri Lewis
My first impression: Conceived in a truck-stop parking lot.

Dweezil Zappa
Parents: Frank and Adela Adelaide Gail Zappa
My first impression: What’s a dweezil? What planet did it fall from?

Jermajesty Jackson
Parents: Jermaine Jackson and Alejandra Genevieve Oaziaza
My first impression: Jermajesty’s first words to his parents: “Bow down and kiss my feet!

Kal-El Coppola Cage
Parents: Nicolas Cage and Alice Kim
My first impression: What a combination: Superman’s father and a brilliant movie director. It boggles the mind.

Kid Duchovny
Parents: David Duchovny and Tea Leoni
My first impression: An unwanted child his parents were too busy to name.

Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa
Parents: Lisa Bonet and Jason Momoa
My first impression: He won’t be able to remember, pronounce or spell his entire name until he’s 13.

Pilot “Standard” Inspektor Lee
Parents: Jason Lee and Beth Riesgraf
My first impression: They found the name in an un-proofed edition of a vintage comic book.

Pirate Howsmon Davis
Parents: Jonathan and Deven Davis
My first impression: A Rastafarian pirate, mon!

Prince Michael “Blanket” II
Parent: Michael Jackson and surrogate mother
My first impression: Which is worse: the ego-tripping royal title or the awful nickname?”

Rogue Joaquin Rodriguez
Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avellan
My first impression: Of all the names they gave their boys (Rebel, Racer, Rocket and Rogue) this one is the worst.

Seven Sirius Benjamin
Parents: Erykah Badu and Andree Benjamin
My First Impression: A channel on Sirius XM satellite radio.

Speck Wildhorse
Parents: John Mellencamp and Elaine Irwin
My first impression: What’s the connection between Speck and Wildhorse?

Zeppelin Howsmon Davis
Parents: Jonathan and Deven Davis
My first impression: Conceived after visiting the Air and Space Museum.

Zuma Nesta Rock Rossdale
Parents: Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale
My first impression: Imagine finding a baby caveman—in Hollywood. (Great concept for a movie!)

Girl’s Names

Alabama Gypsy Rose Jennings
Parents: Drea de Matteo and Shooter Jennings
My first impression: Sounds like a southern stripper.

Daisy Boo Pamela Oliver
Parents: Jamie Oliver and Juliette Norton
My first impression: She won’t be using baby talk in a few years, but her parents still will.

Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen Zappa
Parents: Frank and Adelaide Gail Zappa
My first impression: When she figures out what her parents did to her (with that name) she’s gonna get even.

Fifi Trixibelle Geldof
Parents: Bob Geldof and Paula Yates
My first impression: The birth announcement didn’t mention she’s a baby girl poodle.

Jagger Joseph Blue Goldberg
Parents: Soleil Moon Frye and Jason Goldberg
My first impression: A swaggering, depressed religious boy with issues.

Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence
Parents: Michael Hutchence and Paula Yates
My first impression: In adolescence, she’ll want to fly away to Neverland to hang out with Peter Pan.

Little Pixie Frou-Frou Geldof
Parents: Bob Geldof and Paula Yates
First impression: The birth announcement didn’t mention she’s a baby girl poodle.

Lyric Sonny Roads Goldberg
Parents: Soleil Moon Frye and Jason Goldberg
My first impression: The parents are picturing a Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan folksinger.

Mirabella Bunny Adams
Parents: Bryan Adams and Alicia Grimaldi:
My first impression: A plush toy purchased in a beauty salon.

Moon Unit Zappa
Parents: Frank Zappa and Adelaide Gail Zappa
My first impression: R2-D2’s girlfriend.

Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette
Parents: Penn Jillette and Emily Zolten
My first impression: Sounds like a vintage comic-strip character.

North West
Parents: Kanye West and Kim Kardashian
My first impressions: Either a point on the compass or an airline that was acquired by Delta.

Petal Blossom Rainbow Oliver
Parents: Jamie Oliver and Juliette Norton
My first impression: Her parents named her while tripping out in the flower garden.

Poet Sienna Rose Goldberg
Parents: Soleil Moon Frye and Jason Goldberg
My first impression: A pretentious name to appeal to the admissions director of a prestigious private school.

Poppy Honey Rose Oliver
Parents: Jamie Oliver and Juliette Norton
My first impression: Her parents named her while tripping out in the flower garden.

Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson
Parents: Uma Thurman and Arpad Busson
My first impression: Sounds like they opened up a baby-name book and picked five names at random—hoping to find one the child would like.
(Believe it or not, six months after giving her five names, Uma Thurman announced she was going to call her daughter Luna.)

Tu Simone Ayer Morrow
Parents: Rob Morrow and Debbon Ayer
My first impression: Which is worse: Tu Morrow or her mother’s name, Debbon Ayer?

Yamma Noyola Brown
Parents: James Brown and Deidre Jenkins
My first impression: They came up with the name while attending a church service where worshippers speak in tongues.

What to Do When Naming Your Baby
Once you understand just how uncomfortable (and annoying) these baby-naming mistakes can be for a child to live with, Go down the list of mistakes and see how many mistakes each name makes. That will give you a quick way to eliminate names likely to be a burden for your child.

However, sometimes playing it safe can produce a dull name (like Bob or Mary). Make one or two “mistakes” and you could wind up with a more remarkable or memorable name (like Wiley or Rio, both of which are unclear as to gender). But if you make more than one or two mistakes you’re likely to produce a baby-naming disaster (like Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa or Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen Zappa) that are a recognized form of child abuse. (Ultimately, these kind of “jokes” are on the child and on you.)

P.S. This post has recently been added to the Baby Name Police training manual. All recruits are tested on their ability to name all the mistakes embodied in each baby naming blunder listed above. As a result of superior training and vigilance, I’m hoping we’ll be better able to call baby name abuse to the attention of the parents and the general public in the future.