In the early 90s I wrote for and edited several lifestyle and business publications. I learned a lot in the busy, character-filled newsrooms of the suburban weeklies, like how to tell people what to do in prose…
Naming the 21st Century Baby
“Me llamo Teodoro.”
“My name is Ted”
Of course, my name is not Ted, it’s Todd but through three successive years of high school Español I was known as Teodoro. If one of her student’s names didn’t have a direct Spanish translation, Mrs. Black (Señora Negro) slapped them with something generic like Jase, Paco, Miguel… Teodoro. After being called Teodoro for one sweaty hour a day, between gym and lunch, I started to like the name.
There were no other Teodoros in my school and I felt as if I had already outgrown Todd. Todd was too static and concrete of a label for my personality. I thought, “my name is monosyllabic while I am multidimensional!”
Needless to say, my parents never let me change my name to Teodoro. I believed this to be the highest form of hypocrisy because my father adopted a nickname to mask the fact that his real name was Tracey. Throughout his childhood, an maybe even in Spanish class, my Dad went by Kippy. Today he’s called Kipp and and turns five shades of red if you tack the Y onto his once proud nickname.
Could it be that people don’t always identify with he name they were given at birth? That they try to dump it in the throes of adolescence as a simply of rebellion? Did James Dean go by a Kippy, Teodoro, Jim or was he a rebel without a nickname? What name can we bestow upon our children that they won’t later attempt to shed like the clothing styles we chose for them?
There are no rules when naming your child but maybe there should be. Then people wouldn’t have to go through life being called Tuesday Morning, Holly Bush, Dusty Rhode or Dweezil Zappa. Or worse, Rick Click, Joel Broell or Carol Farrel. The most important unwritten rules in child naming are to avoid rhymes, difficult pronunciations, and ugly connotations. The world is tough enough without giving it more ammunition.
Kids can be cruel but, in their quest for ultimate cruelty, they’re often quite creative making up rhymes and songs about their victims.The ramification of the rhyme gave my wife and I pause before naming our son Tucker, but we looked beyond his youth. With luck, Tucker will pass through adolescence emotionally healthy and maybe even grow stronger for some teasing like Johnny Cash’s famous by named Sue.
Choosing a name for the twenty-first century
Trends in naming babies have caused regrets for more than one Elvis, Lee Harvey and Ringo. The latest popular trend in selecting a contemporary name is to find it by dipping into traditional name pools from other cultures. The incredible impact of television, which introduces us to new names everyday, is responsible of the naming of millions of children.
In Italy, for example, it has become fashionable to name a child after a character on an American television program like Melrose Place. In Germany there are actually children being named Pepsi-Cola and McDonald.
The twenty-first century will present some novel dilemmas to the practice of baby naming. As the population increases, the search for a name that doesn’t conform to the masses will also increase. Gone are the days when the happy mother-to-be selects her favorite male and female soap opera leads as name choices nine months in advance. Although the most popular names in the country are Ashley, Jessica, Michael and Christopher– common soap opera monikers– many parents are seeking more unique names for their kids.
Traditional names are making a comeback and can be as interesting as a one-of-a-kind antique. If you’d like to name your baby after a relative consider a variation from another culture to make it unique but representative. Perhaps your grandfather’s name was Robert but you find that too common for 1994. Consider the English, Rupert; Hungarian, Robi; Romanian, Robin; or the Spanish Roberto for a name with pizzazz!
The psychology of naming your baby
Our names are important to us. They are symbols of how others think of us and, laboratory research has shown, our brain activity increases when we hear our own name– even when we’re asleep. We organize our identity around our name throughout our life, and it is the one thing that rarely changes as we grow older. So, the name you choose should be a word your child can really live with and evolve into.
There are actual stereotypes attached to many names that should be considered when choosing your child’s new label. It us believed that teachers even treat children differently based solely on their names.
Fair or not, people judge by the sound, length, derivation and connotations attached to a first name. For instance, John is usually thought of as trustworthy and Mary is wholesome. Although these stereotypes might be derived from biblical interpretation, all kinds of preconceptions exist… Dou you know a Bob who isn’t shy? Are you acquainted with a thin Bertha, a sexy Edna or a frumpy Tina?
You can’t make everyone happy when you name your child. Proud grandparents would appreciate a reference to their name in their new grandchild but– unless you’re planning on having four or more children– that’s impossible. Even if you choose a neutral name, odds are that someone in the family will disapprove. The name you select for your child should be one that you’re comfortable with and one that you believe will represent the child well.
Like the Edsel that was laughed at as an automobile name, I imagine our Tucker, encircled by bullies in the schoolyard singing rhymes just because they can. But like the Tucker. an automobile ahead of its time, my sone will outlive obvious cruelty and make his name a symbol of what he is.