Democratic Naming Conventions

Natalie’s mother called and told her she had a baby name.  Wait, come back here… put the cell phone down.  There is no baby, repeat: there is no baby.  Natalie’s mother is doing what I assume all future Mother-In-Law’s do which is they have a cart and then put the horse somewhere in front of it… let’s say Cleveland.

The baby name (for a girl) was Nima.  Natalie politely declined explaining we had a name, and no offense, her mother already had three shots at girl names, if she didn’t get what she wanted by now, that ship had sailed.

Apparently the name came from a Tyler Perry movie and while not a fan of Tyler Perry, I’m not above naming kids after movies.  Our Phantom Daughter is jokingly/seriously referred to as Ripley, after the Sigourney Weaver character is the Alien series (and before anybody writes me to tell me Ripley is the character’s last name and her first name is Ellen, I know that; this is not my first double feature).

The name gets used in conversation like, “I can’t wait to go on a vacation a few years from now with you me and Ripley,” or “you’re going to need a bigger car because Ripley’s kid seat is going to be tight in a Hyundai Accent.”  Then there is, “are you going to be mad at me if I show Ripley ‘Frankenstein’ when she’s five?”  If you couldn’t tell, that last one is mine which is followed by a lecture of age appropriateness and my argument that by the time you get past five, 1931 horror films will just be cheesy and unwatchable.

Attorney Mother versus Movie Nerd Father.  Irresistible Force, have you met Immovable Object?

I have rules for baby names.  I get a lot of shit for this because naming your kids, which I think is probably one of the most important things you do in your life and is a factor in their self-esteem and outward acceptance and perception, is usually done with an “if it feels good, do it” mentality.  If anybody knows me, you also know that’s not how I operate and none of this is surprising.

So this weekend we were at the home of a couple who, for the sake of their privacy, will be referred to as Nom and Ticole.  When the infamous Jim’s Baby Name Rules were brought up, Ticole asked what they were and because there are several, I decided it would be a blog.  So here they are.

1.  Never name a kid anything you don’t plan on calling them (or a nickname version of it).  People that are named Daniel but you call them Tyrell.  I know a woman who named her daughter Rebecca Reece  but called her Reece because that’s what she wanted to call her, but thought it didn’t sound professional enough so she threw the Rebecca in there.  If you want to call your kid Reece, then name your kid Reece.  This leads to:

2.  Give your kid the Supreme Court Justice name.  This is a name that sounds good with the words ‘Supreme Court Justice’ in front of it.  Brenda Saul’s son is named Dusty… not Dustin… Dusty.  Now say it with me, “Ladies and gentlemen and the Class of two thousand thirty six, Supreme Court Justice Dusty Sauls.”  It just hangs there in the throat, doesn’t it?  Jennifer Wiggington in her nineteen year-old naiveté wanted to name her daughter Diamond.  Great.  I’ll make sure for her eighteenth birthday I get her some shoes that won’t stuff the tabletops when she’s dancing.

3.  You can misspell a name.  A co-worker had taken a test and on her completion certificate they spelled her name ‘Bonnie’ and I heard her comment it was misspelled (hers was ‘Bonny’) and my immediate thought was “maybe you’re misspelling it.  As an experiment I Googled ‘Bonny’ and got eight million hits.  I Googled ‘Bonnie’ and got fifty one million.  I think that settles which is the more acceptable spelling.  Yvonne Turner has told me people constantly misspell and mispronounce Yvonne which I find odd since that name is about six hundred years old although I did see a Target cashier who spelled it Evon and she’s a troublemaker.  There is an illusion of individuality that because you spell ‘Angela’ with two ‘L’s it somehow makes it unique when in reality it probably just makes her  have to spell her name out for everybody.  Seriously, there are over six-billion people on the planet and odds are there is someone within sixty miles of where you’re sitting with the exact same name.  There are probably ten people with that name within ten square miles of Manhattan.  I knew another girl who named her daughter Ondraya (On DRAY ah) which I suppose is better than ‘Andrea’s insisting their names be pronounced that way.  This brings us to:

4.  Weird Syllable Emphasis.  In high school Carrie Guarcello insisted it be pronounced ‘KA ree’.  My sister-in-law Danielle’s sister is ‘Lo REN’ and not Lauren.  If I started asking people to pronounce ‘James’ as ‘Ja MES’ I’d be an idiot.

5.  Legacy names.  This is usually male ego at work here.  The only thing worse is having a super common name and naming your kid Peter Smith III which then relegates both you to Big Pete and Little Pete.  There and few things are sadder than fifty year old man being called Little Pete.  You have the opportunity to name a person and give them their own identity and you do this by giving them your name?  They’re already have your last name, they need your first name too?  What are you, Donald Trump?  You made a baby… do you have to sign it, too?  My good friend was born Emmett Louis Rhodes III and was immediately called Dusty.  I don’t know if this was an intentional reference to the wrestler or not.  Decades later he and his wife were buying a house and found he had a charged off credit card from Sears.  He told them he’d never had a Sears card, it must have been his fathers and they assured him it was his and were adamant about collecting the several thousand dollars they claimed he owed.  Eventually he asked when the card was issued and they told him, “1975.”  He asked what his birthdate was and they said, “1973.”  Oh you can get around it but then you violate Rule Number One where your kid’s named Pete but we call him Scooter.  And this leads to:

6.  Grown men with kids names.  This is a little off point but I have to bring this up.  The aforementioned Dusty hated the name Emmett growing up but the older he got, he just leaned in and took it (and for anyone who’s interested, his son’s name is Logan and thus a bullet dodged).  But once you get a business card or a career of prominence, dump the nicknames.  Scooter Libby?  Tommy Thompson (who’s parent’s actually named him Tommy violating Rule Two).  Was Bush putting together a cabinet or the He-Man Woman Haters Club?  There used to be a School Superintendent here named Skip Archibald and I kept thinking how far can this thing go?  Mayor Skip?  Governor Skip?  Would you really have faith in a President named Skip?

7.  Boys names should be masculine.  I’m probably going to have Natalie’s friends rain hell down on me for this double standard but I’m sticking by it.  I find often women name boys, not men.  Cutesy, warm names that are fine when you’re four, but not when you’re forty.  The top ten male baby names in America right now according to are Aiden, Braden, Kaden, Ethan, Kaleb, Noah, Jaden, Connor, Landon and Jacob.  All male names should be able to be followed by the words, “is pissed and coming down here to kick your ass,” and suddenly, you want to be somewhere else.  Watch how this works: “Dude, you’re still here?  Bruce is pissed and he’s coming down here to kick your ass.”  Bruce sounds like a man who could beat me bloody.  Counterwise, “Dude, you’re still here?  Keyston is pissed and he’s coming down here to kick your ass.”  My response would be, “tell that fucker I’ll be here until seven because Ice Road Truckers is on at eight and I got shit to do.”  The good news is if you name your son Dawson he’ll probably never have a weight problem since he’ll never have any lunch money and will probably train himself to run very very fast.  In a fight, I’ll have Tony, Yuri and Joe watch my back before Landon, Kaden and Jaden.  Joe is the guy who fixes my car.  Tony is the guy who installed my cabinets.  I don’t want Tucker fixing my pluming… that’s what Carl does.  It is possible to go too far in the wrong direction.  Madonna’s son is named Rocco which is great if he wants to be a mob hitman or a bouncer at The Viper Room.  Sucks ass if he’s my accountant at H&R Block.  It’s rare but you can go wrong with too masculine girls names.  Brenda Sauls has a niece who I thought was named Raleigh which I assumed was like the city and thus cool and later realized it was ‘Rolly’ (ROL LEE).  Ewww.  She just went from hip girl with a city name to Lamont’s friend on SANFORD AND SON.

8.  Girls are no longer to have the middle names Ann, Katherine, Marie or Lynn.  People will tell you it goes with everything and that’s just lazy babynaming.  If you want flamboyance, here’s the place to do it.  You want your son to have your name, throw it in here.  Dusty probably would have had that credit scare had he been David Emmett Rhodes.  I knew a girl named Merrimmee, yeah, you read that right.  It’s pronounced “Mer REAM” but it sure as shit looked like “Marry Me.”  If her mom wanted to go wacky, the middle name is the place to do it.  Matt Damon‘s middle name is Paige and you didn’t know that until I told you.  I wanted my daughter’s middle name to be Moneypenny and needless to say, Natalie shot that down fast, real fast.  The good part about a middle name is a serves as a great backup name if you decide you don’t like being Skylar, your parents already picked out something else for you.  Unless your Matt Damon.

9.  You should never name your kids after things unless you actually like the name.  Dusty had a harpie of a girlfriend named Milmary but we all called her Vickie.  We probably could have called her Pitstain and it would have been an improvement.  Apparently she had an aunt Milmary but I’ll bet a paycheck had that aunt not existed, that name never would have gotten to the table.  I saw a guy who named his kids Darth and Anakin.  Really?  That guy must be such a STAR WARS nerd I’m surprised anyone had sex with him… unless she’s the rare but elusive STAR WARS girl nerd in which case that is inbreeding and shouldn’t be allowed.  Not to say if Natalie had twins I wouldn’t be tempted by Luke and Leia but I am pretty sure I’d have enough sense not to do it.  I would, however, push for the SamNEric.

10.  Naming your kids things that aren’t names.  This one is vague and you really have to feel it out.  City names sometimes work like Trenton, Cheyenne, Austin, Paris or Brooklyn.  I don’t think Hoboken, Pittsburg or Sacramento would bode as well.  It’s mostly aimed at celebrities who have their own special definition of crazy when they have babies.  Apple?  Really, Gwyneth?  I expect that from Steve Jobs but not from you.  Jason Lee‘s crazy ass named his baby Pilot Inspektor Riesgraf Lee because he blindly pointed into a dictionary twice and those were the words he landed on.  That’s nice.  You can do that same trick with a Baby Name book, ass-snack.  And on top of that he spelled Inspector wrong.  Jeanna Turner named her son Talon and Angela Harold named her daughter Nestle like the cocoa company and now she can spend the rest of her life pronouncing “Nes LEE” for people who think she wants to cuddle.  Pox, Maddox, Shiloh, Knox and Zaharra are the names of that Benetton ad Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have been making.  Great, your kid is named Pox… like the disease.  As batshit crazy as Tom Cruise is thought to be, he named his kid Suri and I could get behind that.

11.  Avoid trendy names.  Anything you saw in a movie or a pop culture event two years prior to your kid’s birth should immediately be void.  I like GOOD WILL HUNTING as much as the next guy but the only thing the world needs less than more girls named Skylar are boys named Skylar.  My good friends Joelle and Charlotte’s son is Tristan as so many other boys circa LEGENDS OF THE FALL.  It’s not that you can’t name your kids after stuff like that.  My girls names (both of which have given a motion denied) were Marnie and Sloan after the Hitchcock film and Mia Sara’s character in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF.  Quick!  Name someone you know name Marnie or Sloan?  Exactly!  Easily spelled.  Easily pronounced.  Both named after movies that are over twenty years old.  Becky Wilson’s son is named Nico and I immediately said, “Like (Steven Segal’s character) Nico Toscane in ABOVE THE LAW.”  She was shocked I knew this but I am Jim and that movie is twenty years old.

12.  Natalie likes the name Olivia and she’ll tell you it’s from THE COLOR PURPLE but I know damn well it’s from Mariska Hargitay’s character on LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT.  I told her it was too popular and we had to go to where it is number eight and has been in the top ten since 1999 and the debut of LAW & ORDER: SVU… the defense rests.

13.  Making up names.  This is mostly for my brothers and sisters of color.  When the miniseries ROOTS aired in the late seventies there was this historical consciousness awakened among black people.  That’s all well and good.  What isn’t is it manifested itself by people wanting to give their children African names but they didn’t do this by researching African names but instead making up names that sound African and now we’re three decades into Rau’shee, Deontay, Taraje and Bershawns.  If you were interested where I got those from, they were all on the United States Olympic teams.  And white people do stupid thing all the time, fine, but as my father used to tell me, they aren’t my responsibility, I’m talking to you.  You can’t just throw ‘La’ and ‘De’ on the front of a name and ‘isha’ and ‘iqua’ on the end and expect it to work.  And that combining the parents name is ridiculous.  I met a girl named Cedricka once.  I hurt for days afterwards.  And so we’re clear, apostrophes have a purpose.  The Irish have last names like O’Connell and O’Malley because it was originally Jerry of the Connells and eventually he became Jerry O’Connell.  There is no difference between Rau’shee and Raushee or KeyShawn and Keyshawn.  Stop this.  If you want name kids with African sounding names, go to the library and find a book of African names.  Oh, a black girls names Ebony are totally unnecessary.  I’d pay good money to see a white girl named Ivory (although I seriously did meet a white girl named Lucretia at Spring Break).

14.  Hyphenated last names on children are stupid.  I am all for women keeping their last names, it’s a part of who you are.  You want to hyphen, that’s your business.  But when you have a kid, somebody needs to start making choices.  A kid with a moniker like Ashley Schmidt-Johnson looks like she’s been married twice and she’s six.  This is worse with boys because hyphenated names are generally used by married women and now their sons have this.  Herds of boys with married and maiden names.  Don’t ask me what they’re names should be.  I don’t know.  Flip a coin.  Armwrestle.  Rock, paper, scissor you way to an answer.  I don’t care.  Just don’t let it happen again.

And there you have it.  Jim Ford’s Fourteen Rules for Naming Children.  There are exceptions if the name is foreign, etc.  If I have insulted you because your named your child Tiberius or Kale, sorry.  I probably wouldn’t marry your wife or have bought the car you drive, either…

Unless you’re Jerry O’Connell in which case my wife would be Rebecca Romijn-Ford and I am pretty much betting he drives a better car than my 1998 Isuzu Rodeo that doesn’t start unless it’s in neutral.

less you’re Jerry O’Connell in which case my wife would be Rebecca Romijn-Ford and I am pretty much betting he drives a better car than my 1998 Isuzu Rodeo that doesn’t start unless it’s in neutral.


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