When I read Zooey Deschanel named her baby girl Elsie Otter, I laughed.

I haven’t written about silly celebrity baby names in a while. I was worried about sounding like a celebrity scold, because so many celebrities have chosen names likely to call attention to their children—and the attention those names receive is not necessarily positive. But when I noticed an article on Huffington Post about the name Zooey Deschanel and hubby Jacob Pechenik selected for their baby girl (Elsie Otter), I couldn’t resist commenting.

Elsie the cow has been among the most recognizable advertising cartoon-characters in the United States and Canada since 1936, when it was first used by Borden dairy products and then used by Eagle dairy products. To give you an idea about just how bovine (and unattactive) the name Elsie is, her cartoon mate was Elmer the Bull. Their children were named Beulah and Beauregard, followed by twins, Larabee and Lobelia. Although cartooon cows are unlikely to complain about those names, kids are likely to moo when their “cow names” are called.

I usually advise parents to select a middle name that will provide a realistic option for a child stuck with a first name he or she doesn’t like. (Celebrity children with names like Dweezil or Apple have been known to spend years praying for a “normal” middle name.) But Elsie’s parents selected Otter—perhaps thinking if she didn’t want to be perceived as a dumb cow, a weasel-like critter might be appreciated. Unfortunately, the  middle name they chose is likely to remind people of Eric “Otter” Stratton, the unscrupulous rush chairman for Delta House (fraternity) in the movie “Animal House” (played unctuously by Tim Matheson) who gave otters a bad name.

If Zooey and Jacob’s objective was to call attention to their daughter, they succeeded. Unfortunately for their baby girl.

But wait! There may be some readers who like silly names like Elsie Otter. If so, you might appreciate a quick lesson in making up similar names for your stand-up comedy routine or your sit com.

  1. Start with an old-fashioned cartoon name, like Barney (Rubble) or Homer Simpson  or Ronald (MacDonald)
  2. Add a totally unrelated animal name like baboon or hound dog or rhinoceros
  3. And voila! You have a new protagonist for your comic strip or humorous children’s book: Barney Baboon; Homer Hound Dog; and Ronald Rhinoceros.