Let’s talk about names. This might take a while, I feel very strongly about names. So we shall break it down into parts. Part I: Things to consider when naming your child, Part II: How to survive with a “unique” name and Part III: How to communicate with a person who has a unique name.
Part I: When you find out you are going to have a baby, after the initial shock or excitement wears off, you start thinking about naming your new little bundle of joy. As an Obstetrician, I have heard many, many baby names and recently the trend is unique and different baby names. Now, I personally hate this trend, and that may sound hypocritical because my own name is quite unique, but that is the precise reason I tell you to think it through very carefully. I love my name. It is my father’s name as close as my mother could make it. Both my first and middle name are unique and spelled uniquely respectively. The hyphen in the name was an after -thought to help people pronounce it. Note to future parents: If you have to put some punctuation in your child’s name to aid in pronunciation: don’t name them that. Listen to me. I have lived this. I want you all to consider this carefully:
- The first day of school always sucks for a child with a unique name. Because the teacher will call out each student’s name and then he/she will come to your child and one of two things will happen: either he/she will butcher it terribly, like they won’t even use phonics, they’ll see a couple letters and just start throwing out made up words with some of those letters in it “Uh, Jonquillazeldamarie” OR they will just become immediately quiet and stare at the page until your child who has shrunk down in their chair wishing to God you had named them Ann or Jack, will raise their sweet little hand and offer up their name. And if they had the first type of teacher, they will wait til all the children in the class stop laughing and say their name correctly but it won’t matter because the other kids will call your child whatever mouth jewel their teacher just spit out. For my entire second grade year I was called Jolay. Like olay only with a J. Jolay…think about that.
- Just when your sweet little Ze’nora has gotten comfortable and the jokes have died down, she will come to school one day and there will be a substitute. And the whole thing will start all over again.
- Fast forward to the future when your boy named Sue has overcome all obstacles and succeeded in some big way or perhaps managed to graduate high school without changing his name to Ace or Bruiser or something crazy. Now, he will be recognized for his achievement. In front of a large crowd of people. Someone higher up in the school system or athletic department will be presenting the award. But they don’t know your child, and they forgot to ask how to pronounce the name prior to the ceremony. So standing there, praising your kid, they call him up to receive his award and this time the name will be butchered beyond all recognition. And your child, no longer proud, but ashamed and morbidly embarrassed will walk up to the stage to accept their award. Thanks Mom and Dad for adding to the pleasure of the day.
- This reminds me, any award, diploma, and important legal document they receive for THE REST OF THEIR LIVES will be misspelled. I swear to you this will happen. Your kid will know every contact for every document they ever receive. They will know all the in’s and out’s of sending these things back and waiting the 6-8 weeks for a new and potentially correctly spelled degree, marriage license, driver’s license, etc.
- Please also consider if the name possibly rhymes with songs or has a syllable in it that can be sung. I’ll give you two examples: 1.) Joe-la rhymes with Lola. The Kinks have a wonderful song about a transvestite named Lola. As a young and easily embarrassed adolescent it was great fun. 2.) Joe-la ends with La. So any song with La La La as in Fa la la la la, la la, la la or the here comes the bride song sung like Joe-la la la. The other fun part of all this is when people think they are so clever and sing these things to you as if you have never ever heard it before. Trust me people; anyone with a name that can be put into a song has heard it before. You have NOTHING new to offer. Don’t do this!!
- I would also like you to consider how the name you give your child may affect their personality or ego. For instance a name for a boy that I have seen recently is Myking. Pronounced My King. Come ON people. Think that through. “Yes, My King” “No, My King”. “My King, are you here?” Please. What do you think this kid will think of himself in 10 years? And the same goes for Precious and Princess and Queen and Diamond and Myangel and Prince. No. Just NO. Alternatively, I think about kids named after mundane things. Apple? Blue? Caprice? Mercedes? I’ve heard them all.
- Let’s talk about punctuation in names. I know, I know. Joe-la, right? Do you think I enjoy this? I wish my name was spelled Joela but people would screw it up worse than they already do. However, computers, scan trons, credit cards, and all things in the technology age hate punctuation and will never let you use it. You never know what to do as the child and neither does your teacher or the receptionist checking you in at the hospital or security at the airport when your ticket looks slightly different than your ID because one maybe let you use the hyphen or instead put a space and one put all of it together or maybe the second half of your name got tacked onto the first part of your last name. I have been receiving mail for someone named Joe Ladowdy for years. This isn’t fun for us, people. It’s cute for you maybe and fun when people ask your baby’s name and you tell them and then they gush over how cute the name is and how clever you are that you came up with it. But guess what, your own family will screw it up. Or forget it entirely. Great grandparents are notorious for this. Oh and when card with checks come from those relatives…have fun cashing them.
- Oh, here’s one I hate. When you want to make reservations or place a to-go order or a Starbucks order. They ask your name, don’t they? When you show up for your order or your reservation, they have butchered the spelling so that what you are saying and what they are looking for will never match up. Or they thought I said Julie, or Joann, so they won’t find it and I lost my table. Now I give my last name or my husband’s. It isn’t worth it. So if you insist on cursing your child with a unique name, tell them to always use the buddy system when ordering or making reservations.
- If you give them a unique name that is gender neutral or more commonly used for the opposite gender, other bad things can happen. Again, having to send things back because some dumb-ass looked only at the name and not the box your kid checked telling them what gender they are, and they will get a driver’s license marked with the wrong gender. Not to mention the inappropriate mail they will receive. Or the solicitor phone calls that butcher your name. Although now I feel zero guilt when someone calls and asks for Joe Dowdy and I say ‘there’s no one here by that name”. But the best Absolute BEST was when I got a letter from an all-girls college refusing to admit me to their pre-med program based only on the fact that I was a man. They seriously looked no further than my name and decided I was Joe. This has always perplexed me: Why does the name Joe-la = the name Joe? Since when is dropping ½ of a person’s name acceptable? Also, my first name is Joe-la so, much like your name, the only letter that should be capitalized it the J. the L is not starting a new name or a new word for that matter….Parents-to-be, can you hear the anger and irritation of 39 years of pent up frustration? All these “minor” annoyances build up and build up until one day you write a crazy long rant about it. Please please please don’t do this to your kid.
So, to review: Just think about it. It’s fine that we can never get anything with our name on it. We know there will never be a pen or keychain at the souvenir shop with our name. We also would rather you not special-order something with our name on it as a gift because we know that it will likely come mis-spelled of have a random capital letter in it. Or it will come correct and we’ll use it in public and have to answer 10,000 questions that we’ve answered 100,000 times before. Get over your own ego, your own need to be unique and stand out, and leave your poor child out of it. It sucks. No matter how much I love my name, my life would have been so much easier being a Julie or Jennifer. So many embarrassing moments could have been avoided. All I am asking is you consider what I am saying before choosing a name. And if you insist on being unique, save this post, print it up and when they are ready to leave for college or get married or have their own kid, tell them to read it and see if they don’t agree with me 100%. Then I want you to come find me and say “I’m sorry for not listening to you….uh what was your name again? It was something different, I remember that much…maybe had a guy’s name in it somewhere…well anyhow, you were right, I should have listened to you”