Monday, November 15, 2010

Every Tom, Dick and Harry ...

That is, every Thomas, Richard and Harry, got their name for some reason initially (and sometimes forever) known only to their parents.  These days of course the search is on for unique names, as if a unique name will make a child - or more (un)likely its parents - special.  That's okay, as long as the chosen moniker doesn't make the kid's life a living hell or the parents look silly.  There seems to be no end to name weirdness though.  From a mother I know who named her daughter "Oshun" (ocean?) to Frank Zappa's child "Moon Unit 2", they run the gamut from sublime to ridiculous.  Even relatively plebian names get bastardized in their spelling (eg. "Lizzeee") in the search for uniqueness.  Of course, celebrity names have always been popular; I grew up with lots of Marilyns (as in Monroe), and there now are a plethora of new Brads and Angelinas out here.  The author of Freakonomics famously analyzed children's names and found that celebrity names are anything but unique by the time Junior is an adolescent, so he could end up "Brad #5" or even "Brad #15" in his gym class.  Family names can also be problematic if you don't use a little common sense.  My father was given a Danish name by his Danish mother and was teased mercilessly (he was born and raised in Canada) - resulting in very English names for his younger brother (James) and sister (Kay) when they came along.  Ah, the name game - too bad we can't just ask the child in the first place.  Of course, there is Lady GaGa ...