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Last week contained a lot of hullabaloo. From PETA insisting that we not trigger animals by saying mean things about them to our President failing yet again to Jedi-mind trick us into thinking the Mueller investigation has completely cleared him to the wonderful glory of watching the Patriots fail in Miami. But even among the crowded landscape of news, one story stood out to me as ridiculous above the rest (yes, even more laughable than PETA thinking anyone is going to say “feed two birds with one scone” which hilariously my spellcheck continues to try to autocorrect “scone” to “stone”).
I’m talking about the woman who caused a ruckus about her child being mocked by Southwest gate agents for seeing her unusual name: Abcde (pronounced Ab-sid-ee). Now, I think that the agents in question were definitely out of line for posting that kid’s boarding pass to Facebook, and of course, they should be reprimanded for showing less than stellar customer service. Having said that, I cannot blame them one bit for laughing at this name.
The kid shouldn’t be mocked; she didn’t get to choose her name. She also didn’t get to choose her parents, aka the morons who endowed their precious offspring with this horrible burden of a name. Because, believe me, that kid is going to get mocked for that shit for the rest of her life (or until she is able to legally change her name). The kids in her class will tease her, the teachers will guffaw about it behind closed doors, no one will ever pronounce it right on the first try (and many will ask if there was a typo on her legal documents). This is 100% on her mom, who deserves to have everyone on the planet mock her for thinking she was so clever for giving her child this “unique” or “fun” name.
Newsflash to her and to all you other would-be parents with a creative itch: take up painting, leave your kid’s name to the standard stuff. I know, you think your child is unique so you want everyone to know that little Jimothy is your one-of-a-kind, special guy. But there’s that old adage, just because your different doesn’t mean you’re useful.
I’m not unique, nor am I special. I’ve been in classes where I had to be called “Josh T” because there was a Josh R or Josh K. And you know what? It all worked out. I somehow managed to make it through my youth not losing my identity because other people were called the same thing as me.
I never get any weird looks or shit for my name, people just meet me and say “okay, you’re a Josh” and go on their way. My parents did exactly what every other parent should do for their child: they didn’t make my life harder than it had to be. So here is how you can make your child’s life not awful at the moment of birth.
Stick to Kings and Queens.
Jack Donaghy, as always, is right here. There’s never going to be a President Ashton, a CEO Dakota, or a Pope Lamont. I mean, sure, there was a President Barack, but that’s the exception to the rule and in his father’s heritage the name did have some actual significance. The point isn’t that giving your kid a solid name sets them up for success, but it just makes it less likely that they’re set up to fail.
I will make one amendment to Donaghy’s rule, and that is that you don’t need to restrict your naming choices to English kings and queens. Any sort of monarchy that has historical relevance and cultural importance to you will do. If you have French roots, a boy names Louis will do, as will Hirohito if you are of Japanese descent.
Along the same line of thinking, although they are not the names of royalty, religious names will also do. If there is a saint or holy figure in your religion with a name you like, by all means, use it. The overarching point here is that the classics never go out of style for a reason. It’s pretty hard to have people question why you named your kid William, Charles, Mary, or Victoria.
Consider their last name.
Having said that, there are certainly some names that are more adventurous than others in terms of spelling or nicknames. You can pick a base name as innocuous as “James” but they can go by Jamie, Jim, Jimmy, Jamey, Jamse, Jame, Jaime… you get the point (and yes I have met or heard of at least one person with each of those spellings). There are also plenty of exotic-named kings, queens, presidents, and popes, so you still have the potential to name your kid Benedict or Wilhelm – which I definitely would not advise.
However, giving your kid one of those more unique names can work if your surname is very common. You don’t want to add yet another Robert Smith or Sarah Davis to the mix. In such cases, feel free to branch out to a name like Donovan, Carrie, or Zack. But if your last name is something really unique where people might recognize you based off that alone, like, oh I don’t know, Duda, stick to the basics.
Shorter is always better.
If you have a longer last name, keep your kid’s first name short. This is just basic, but some parents don’t understand the burden they can put their kids under when their names are a thousand syllables. You think Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t get shit for his name taking a year to pronounce in school?
As a general rule, if your last name is more than two syllables, your kid’s name should be two or fewer (at least a name you can shorten to two or fewer). Tom Hiddleston’s parents did him a great service. Now, if your last name is very short, you can give your kid a longer first name – see Constance Wu – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to. A short name with a short last name can work great. Just look at Tom Hanks. Quick, firm, punchy, works fine.
Avoid “y” if you can.
To make their kid’s name unique without doing any actual work, a lot of parents will change a vowel of a common name to the letter y. They think it’s fun and unique, but it really looks stupid and dumb. There are plenty of Cameryns, Kyms, Lauryns, Caitlyns, and Darryns out there who wish their parents had just stuck to the same pronunciation as everyone else instead of chucking up a random “y” in there like you’re Russell Westbrook any time he touches the ball over the half-court line.
So when you think that changing your child’s name from “Brian” to “Bryan” stop to consider how often the poor kid is going to have to stop people with “actually, it’s ‘Brian’ with a ‘y’” and reconsider. The only exception to this rule is at the end of the name. Emily or Manny is definitely preferable to Emili or Mannie. That runs afoul of our next rule.
Never end their name with an “i” when it should end in a “y.”
Tiffany is a luxury clothing brand, the daughter of a President, or the name of a high-powered businesswoman. Tiffani is set up for disaster. There has never been a girl named Danni, Randi, Brittani, Jessi, or Mandi who didn’t end up in a wet t-shirt contest at a Cancun Senor Frogs at some point. You give your daughter one of these names, you have limited her career ceiling to getting paid out nicely to dissuade her from filing a sexual harassment suit when he ends their two-month-long affair.
Ending such names in “ie” instead is workable (Carrie, Jessie, etc. are fine) but still be cautious when doing so.
Finally, don’t name your kid “Candi” no matter what the spelling. Candi is getting pregnant in high school and becoming a beautician, there is no other way.
Care for the initials.
My initials, JT or JET if you include my middle name, are perfectly fine. When someone asks me to initial a document or print my full legal name, there’s no issue. However, some parents don’t consider how they can be setting their kid up for years of ridicule just by giving them bad initials.
So if you’re the Samuelson family, naming your child Alexander Sterling or Paul Ulysses is not the move. Naming your kid Daniel Isaac is fine as long as your last name isn’t Carter or Kubler. Just remember to give those initials a good once-over before sending that birth certificate off for good to make sure you didn’t accidentally curse your kid with the initials FUK or CUM. In fact, just avoid “u” middle names altogether. Probably just safer that way. .