Name Calling

"You're right, Mr. Shakespeare, this abscess does smell as sweet."

"You're right, Mr. Shakespeare, this abscess does smell as sweet."

In one of his most popular dramas, playwright William Shakespeare had a character named Juliet muse rhetorically, “What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose would smell as sweet.”  It was her way of rationalizing that she and a kid named Romeo should turn their backs on their feuding families, fall passionately in love, and (spoiler alert!) wind up dead by the end of the play.  The name Romeo, of course, has since come to characterize any guy who’s a lady-killer:  “Watch out for him, Cindy.  From what I hear he’s a real Romeo.”

Makes you wonder if Mr. And Mrs. Montague could have avoided a lot of heartache if they hadn’t called their baby Romeo.  What to name the baby has been important to parents forever, and over time, tastes have changed quite a bit in that department.  Old favorites from the Bible, such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah, were standards for quite a while; then Anglo-Saxon names like Edward and Jane and Elizabeth had their heyday. Old standbys William and Susan and John began to fade in popularity during the 1970s when names like Lake, Stream, River and Tributary started showing up on birth certificates.

When naming a child after a terrain feature or a mythical beast began to seem passé, a few parents took the step of abandoning existing nouns; they would simply string some random vowels and consonants together, as in “Cryrsthmik”.  Then they would frostily inform you that it’s Welsh, and it’s pronounced Brendan.

The latest trend in baby naming has surfaced in the Dominican Republic, where a judge has submitted a proposal that would establish limits on odd names.  What set off Judge Aquinas (first name José) was the deplorable tendency among some Dominicans to give their children monikers that are trademarked brands, or even body parts.  The country’s civil register yielded the following examples of names the judge would like to have banned:  Mazda Altagracia, Toshiba Fidelina, Querida Piña (Dear Pineapple), Tonton (Dummy) Ruiz, and Seno (Breast) Jimenez.  I have to agree with the judge:  naming a child Breast is inviting a lifetime of unwanted comments.

The proposal probably has no chance of becoming law, but in calling attention to the problem, Judge Aquinas gave me an idea:  why not sell naming rights for children, just as cities do for ballparks?

What would be so wrong with calling your daughter AT&T or PETCO, if the corporation came through with a hefty donation to her scholarship fund?  If a major fruit-drink producer can afford to pay Houston $170 million to have its name on the stadium, I’ll bet they’d cough up a few grand to call your little guy Minute Maid, don’t you think?  OK, let’s get this rolling — I’ll give you ten bucks to name your kid Tom Reeder’s Blog.  And you can even keep your last name!

3 responses to “Name Calling

  1. Your idea has hazards. A commercial brand might become obsolete or the name bemirched by fraud. Suppose we’d named Sally “Enron” or “Oldsmobile” and put her through college on the proceeds. The best she could do would be “Eny,” which sounds indefinite, or “Oldy,” which wouldn’t do at all. Thanks for the fun.

  2. Love this!

    About the time I grew into appreciating having an unusual name, it became very popular back in the ’70s. At least, everyone can spell “Heather” easily. There should be a law against parents trying to be clever by altering a sensible spelling for a name, so Megan becomes Meaghgean, Katie becomes Khaydee, and Tom, Thom. The kid is doomed to a lifetime of clarifying the spelling of his/her name! Crazy!

  3. When our little boy is delivered in a month, Heidi and I have decided to go safe and solid with “Lucas”, though we plan to spell it using a single Chinese character. My keyboard is not equipped to show you what it looks like, but I’m getting a neck tattoo of it this week which should be hard to miss.

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