Dear Bruce: Nobody Has the Right to Pass Judgment on “Game of Thrones” Names

Dear @Mercurial Jane,

I assume you took offense after reading my recent post: “Surprise: “Game of Thrones” Fans are Naming Daughters Daenerys and Khaleesi (as Well as Arya)” In that post, I commented that Daenarys and Khaleesi are likely to be misspelled and mispronounced by most children and adults who are not familiar with Game of Thrones.  I wonder if you noticed my comment that Arya was likely to work better as a baby name than Daenarys and Khaleesi, because it looks and sounds like Aria and won’t be as hard to spell or pronounce as either Daenarys and Khaleesi.

it is likely to be frustrating and annoying for children whose parents give them names of characters from Game of Thrones (or any movie or TV show) that are likely to be mangled and likely to get them teased or bullied. (I also mentioned Katniss (a name from The Hunger Games) as another impractical baby name because it is also likely to be misspelled and mispronounced.)

I hope you’ll agree that the child who has been victimized by a name he or she doesn’t like is one person who has a legitimate “right to pass judgment.”Another person who has a right to pass judgment would be a baby-name expert whose mission is to help parents make intelligent baby naming decisions by avoiding names likely to subject their children  to embarrassment or teasing. Sorry to inform you that teasers and bullies will go right ahead and make children with strange-sounding names miserable without asking for your permission.

I hope you realize I’m not criticizing Game of Thrones. I’m simply pointing out that not every name mentioned in a TV show or movie will make a great name for children. And to pick a name that will be a pleasure for the parents and the child, parents need to distinguish between what works well in the TV show and what is likely to work well in the real world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to ebabynames.com About The Most Bizarre Name, Zzyzx

Hi Dennis,

Thanks for writing me about Zzyzx. I think the research you collected about the “most bizarre” name was interesting from the standpoint of using bizarre names to gain attention for your website. However, I seriously doubt that “real baby name experts with a passion for onomnastics” are interested in finding out whether the most bizarre name is Zzyzx, Abcde or Nimrod. I think there are a lot more interesting and important questions to investigate. By spending time and money on consumer research to find the most bizarre name you trivialize your “baby name experts” and the value of your website to parents.

I can imagine 15 clowns driving to work in a Smart Fortwo auto and piling out at your front door. They agree that Zzyzx is the most bizarre name but debate whether Abcde or Nimrod is the second most bizarre name. Good luck in finding someone who takes the work of your onomnastics experts seriously.

Bruce Lansky
Baby Names in the News

P.S. I just got back from a trip to sunny southern California. Suddenly the snow is gone from Minnesota roads and golf courses. I haven’t written a new post in about a week. I hope you don’t mind me having a little fun at your expense. If you’re serious about wanting some tips about what you should be researching and writing about instead of discovering “the most bizarre name,” here are a few ideas: What motivates a parents to give their babies bizarre names like Zzyzyx, Nimrod or Abcde? Should bizarre names like these be banned? If not, do people see them as a form of child abuse? If so, what kind of court-ordered “counseling” should the parents who gave their babies these names receive?

 

From: Dennis van Rooij Sent: Thursday, April 10, 2014 2:38 PM

Subject: Zzyzx voted the most bizarre real baby name

Hi Bruce,

My name is Dennis van Rooij and I’d like to let you know about an article we at eBabyNames have been working on. We wanted to investigate what people think is the worst baby name of the last fifteen years. There are a lot of lists about the worst celebrity baby names, but how good (or bad) are American parents themselves when it comes to picking a baby name? We compiled a list of strange names from the past 15 years and asked 1,500 people to let us know what they considered the most strange name and why. We also asked them if they know people with strange names themselves that might not have been on our list.

We were able to find the top ten strangest baby names and found that, while everyone agreed on the number one name, there was a difference between men and women and between the Western and Eastern part of the US.

You can read the full article here: http://www.ebabynames.com/zzyzx-most-bizarre-name

I hope you like the article. Maybe you could share your opinion on the article or give us some tips for future articles?

About eBabyNames.com

eBabyNames is a team of name experts and web designers. eBabyNames is a website built to help expectant parents find the best baby names. Unlike many websites, our database of names was created by real name experts with a great passion for onomastics, the study of names and their backgrounds. As a result, we proudly offer a selection of the finest baby names accompanied by accurate and complete background info.

Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

With kind regards,

Dennis van Rooij
eBabyNames.com

 

Pamela Redmond Satran’s Latest Post Features 62 Rarely, If Ever, Used Awful, Ridiculous Names Like Nero, Hebe and Lettice

Pamela Redmond Satran has a new trick: She starts her article about “82 Stylish names” with a list of ten girls’ names and ten boys’ names listed among Nameberry’s top 1,000 names parents have clicked on lately. I can independently confirm that a few of those names are genuinely appealing. For girls: Beatrice, Isla, Ivy, Maeve and Maisie; for boys: Beckett, Declan and Finn. (I’ve seen these names on popularity lists in the U.K., Canada and elsewhere. And Finn is on my list of Cool Names for Boys.) But, before I go on, I should probably point out a few negatives among the names Satran describes as being “atop the current style wave.”

Hazel is associated with Witch Hazel, a natural remedy for treating cuts and bruises. Unfortunately, Hazel is likely to be called Witch Hazel or teased as a “witch.” Or Hazel may be called Hazelnut or teased as a “nut,” because hazel shrubs and trees produce hazelnuts.

Jasper, in children’s literature, is an African-American boy who (stereotypically) loves to eat watermelons. It’s an unfortunate association likely to make the name uncomfortable for African-American boys. (However, in fairness, Jasper is also a type of spotted or speckled rock collected by rockhounds.)

Atticus is an ancient Latin name that means “from Attica.” As much as I love Atticus Finch, beloved protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird, non-literary types are likely to confuse Attica with a prison in New York state that was the site of a famous riot, or junk found in the attic.

After listing ten girls’ and boys’ names clicked on by visitors to her website, Satran goes right back to her “old trick” of recommending names that are the same or similar to names she has previously described as having been used by ten or less children in the U.S. (probably because they are so awful, archaic, impractical and/or ridiculous). Here’s how she describes the names she previously described as “cool and unusual” and Satran’s colleague, Aela Mass, previously described as having been found in a cemetery by her dog:

“..here’s a new style wave on the horizon, one that parents in search of more avant garde names will want to have their eyes on. This next wave takes current styles and trends to more extreme levels.” I’ve described this process as being like “alchemy,” a faux scientific process which claimed to turn “dross into gold.” (“Dross” is what the dictionary describes as “a waste product or impurity,” or as “worthless.”)

Question: how can names that parents have abandoned and don’t use any more because they are two archaic, too esoteric, too unappealing and too impractical possibly be considered “a new style wave”? The truth is: most of them are unusable because they are awful or ridiculous names.

Awful, Ridiculous, Impractical and Rarely (If Ever) Used Girls’ Names Included in the List Satran Calls “a New Style Wave on the Horizon.”

Doon: Unfortunately, this name sounds like doom, so it will need to be enunciated very clearly to avoid sounding like a horrible prediction. Literary types familiar with Lorna Doone are likely to misspell the name by adding an “e.” Ditto for cookie lovers. Doon is likely to be called either Lorna or Cookie.

Eulalie: This antique name is a name-book neighbor of Eudora which was recommended in one of Satran’s “Cool, Unusual” articles. Unfortunately Eulalie sounds like Eudora’s crazy older sister. And Lalie as a nickname is not exactly the coolest moniker in town.

Feodora: Unfortunately, this esoteric and rarely-used name sounds so much like Theodora that it is likely to be misspelled and mispronounced—which won’t be a pleasure for the poor little girls getting this name. These are practical problems a lovely meaning (“gift of God”) can’t overcome.

Freesia: What’s Freesia? A flowering plant found in eastern and southern Africa. For non-botanists, Freesia is an unfamiliar, strange name that sounds very, very cold.

Hebe: This name was previously included in Satran’s last “Cool, Unusual Names” article. I pointed out that Hebe is a pejorative slang term for Jews (like kike). How foolish of Satran to repeat this faux pas.

Hero: Another foolish repeat from Satran’s last “Cool, Unusual Names” article. I pointed out that Hero refers not only to a brave fictional protagonist, but also to a big, thick fattening sandwich often filled with “junk meat” (bologna and salami) and a dollop of mayo. In addition to this junk-food reference, Hero is also a “pompous title” like Princess or Queen or Messiah which places a psychological burden on the unlucky child who is given one of these unrealistic names.

Kassiani: This esoteric and rarely (if ever) used name is unlisted in every name book I checked and is unlikely to ever be spelled properly by anyone but Satran (assuming she has spelled it correctly).

Lettice: This name is ridiculous for two reasons: It sounds like Lettuce (a ridiculous name for a child) but it is also likely to be misspelled by everyone but Satran. I was recently reading a book by Alexander McCall Smith which introduced a pompous character named Professor Lettuce. Smith was able to come up with three or four jokes at the expense of Professor Lettuce’s unfortunate name during a single conversation over lunch (which included salad).

Malou: Malu (with an accent over the u) is Spanish name that’s a compound of Maria + Luisa. As if that name wasn’t esoteric enough Satran recommends an even more esoteric name she probably just made up. People would recognize Marilou, but not many (if any) will recognize or “get” Malou.

Turia: This is not a new breed of dog related to terriers. Nor is it a reference tarriers (Irish workers hired to drill holes in rock where sticks of dynamite could be inserted to clear the way for American railroads–who are celebrated in a folk song called “Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill.” This name is probably a variation on an esoteric Catalan name. It will come across as unfamiliar to one and all and will undoubtedly be misspelled by most.

Sybella: This is little-used English form of Sybil, was probably included in Satran’s list because the name Sybil was given to more than ten children.

Awful, Ridiculous, Impractical and Rarely (If Ever) Used Boys Names Included in the List Satran Calls “the New Style Wave on the Horizon.”

Acacius: Acacia is a spiny tree or shrub related to the pea family. And Acacius is a name hardly anyone but Satran will be able to either recognize, spell or pronounce properly.

Cassion: Like Acacia, Cassia are trees or shrubs related to the pea family. And Cassion is another name hardly anyone but Satran will be able to either recognize, spell or pronounce properly–particularly because it rhymes with passion, which is what most people will think the little boy named Cassion said his name was. (To Satran’s credit, she must have used great restraint in not adding Passion to this list of supposedly “stylish” names. Passion is a great name for a perfume–but not for a child.)

Enoch: It should be enough to state that Enoch sounds like eunuch, a term which describes a boy or man who has been castrated. What makes the name even worse is that famous namesake, Enoch Powell, a conservative British Politician famously opposed a law which would have prohibited racial discrimination in his infamous “River of Blood” speech.

Florin: This strange name is actually the name for several different kinds of money: a Dutch guilder, a British coin worth two shillings, and a gold coin used in Florence. It’s like calling someone Dollar, or Dime—which is why hardly anyone has or will use it as a name.

Gower: John Gower was a poet and friend of Geoffrery Chaucer. Unfortunately he’s not nearly as well-known as Chaucer, so his last name is quite unknown as a given name. That’s why Gower appears on this list of rarely, if ever, used names. (Satran passed over Geoffrey and, instead, picked the surname of Chaucer’s little-known buddy.)

Nero: I can’t claim Nero is unknown as a name; it was the name of perhaps the most cruel and inhuman emperor of Rome. Nero persecuted Christians (burning them as a source of light), executed his mother, famously “fiddled while Rome burned” and committed suicide to avoid assassination. I have no idea who would want to name their child after such a manic. Nor can I think of anyone else who would recommend the name Nero. Calling Nero a  “stylish name” is even more irresponsible and absurd.

Oberon: Oberon was the “king of the fairies” in medieval literature and in Shakepeare’s “Midsummer Nights Dream.” High school kids study Shakespeare, which is when a boy named Oberon would start to be teased, harassed and bullied. This is another example of a name that demonstrates Satran’s absolute cluelessness about the practical consequences of using the “stylish” names she so enthusiastically recommends and promotes.

Smith: Maybe Satran doesn’t know that Smith (along with Jones) are the two most common surnames in the U.S. For that reason Smith Johnson or Smith Thompson or Smith Jones will sound like hyphenated last names rather than “given names” followed by a surname. This is another practical issue that should have been obvious to Satran–if she gave it a moment’s thought.

Paladin: I remember Paladin as the name of a TV gunman played by Richard Boone in a TV show called “Have Gun Will Travel.” Historically, paladins were fierce warriors from the court of King Charlemagne. They first appeared in “The Song of Roland” whose job it was to kill the Saracen (aka Muslim) hordes. At a time when gun violence is completely out control and a huge political problem for parents who want to protect the safety of their children against untreated, mentally disturbed people who are able to buy guns in the U.S., I wouldn’t recommend a name that calls to mind the slaughter of Muslims, in the name of Christianity, and a TV show called “Have Gun Will Travel.” Would you? But by now we all know that the woman who recommends Nero also recommends the name of the TV character whose motto is “have gun, will travel.”

If you didn’t believe me when I wrote that Satran’s list of 100 “Cool, Unusual Names” “should have come with a warning,” I hope you believe me now. I find Satran’s complete disregard for practical and moral issues related to baby-naming hard to justify. I’ve praised several of her most recent  articles to demonstrate I don’t dislike Satran personally. Unfortunately, more often than hot, I find her recommendations to be irresponsible and potentially harmful to the children who will bear them. I will continue to praise her good work and condemn her irresponsible work–until she gets the message. As it happens my condemnations of her irresponsible behavior are among my most popular posts. Apparently, many readers find the names Satran (and her sidekick Aela Mass) recommend and promote both egregiously awful and laughable.

 

Gun-Related Baby Names Like Colt and Remington Are Growing in Popularity

I recommend you read a provocative Daily Beast article about the rise in gun-related names in the U.S. and what it might mean. Abby Haglage contacted baby name expert, Laura Wattenberg to get the facts and her perspective.  I found the subject of the article to be of great interest, but some of Wattenberg’s comments raised more questions than they answered.

First the facts; between 2002 and 2012, the popularity of gun-related names have risen explosively:

Names:         2002    2012   %Increase

Colt                194       955    +492%

Remington    185      666    +360%

Ruger              23       118     +513%

Wattenberg’s comment:

“This name [Ruger] is more evidence of parents’ increasing interest in naming children after firearms. Colt, Remington, and Gauge have all soared, and Gunner is much more common than the traditional name Gunnar… I think of names as a fossil record of our culture. You can look back over generations and get a sense of what people were talking about.”

Haglage gave Wattenberg a chance to comment about names in the context of a recent news item that Sonora, a state in Northwestern Mexico, recently banned 61 names including Terminator, Virgin, Burger King, Twitter and Hitler. Wattenberg’s comment:

“Whatever the inspiration for a baby’s name, parents shouldn’t be excessively worried about names contributing to bullying. Today’s kids have no sense of what a normal name is.”

Wattenberg is a statistician, not a sociologist. I’d like to see some data to back her claims that:

“Today’s kids have no sense of what a normal name is.”

Compare the 955 boys who were named Remington in 2012 with the 22158 boys who were named Jacob. Which do you think is more normal? Do you know the difference between “normal names” and “weird names”? Do you think children don’t know the difference between “normal names” and weird names”? If that’s true, then why do kids with weird names complain about them like this: “I hate my weird name. I wish I had a normal name.”

“… parents shouldn’t be excessively worried about names contributing to bullying.”

You  probably noticed that in an article full of data, Wattenberg provided no data to support that statement. We know that bullying is a huge problem in schools from coast to coast. A recent ABC study reported these major findings:

-30% of all students identified themselves as either bullies or victims of bullying.

-Every day 160,000 students stay home from school due to a fear of being bullied.

And, a study in Britain found that half the suicides among young people are related bullying.

Recent high-profile cases of bullying, cyber-bullying and sexting explain how verbal abuse accompanies physical abuse to cause teen-age suicides. In an article about bullying, Dr. Michele Borba writes, “Most bullying starts verbally THEN escalates to a more intense level.”

In a school environment where teasing and bullying are everyday events for hundreds of thousands of children, I’d love to see Wattenberg’s evidence to support her claim that kids aren’t teased about their names.