Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Most Ridiculous Baby Name Book Ever: Part I

Let's talk about names. Specifically, let's talk about stupid names, and the crazy people who like them.

I think most people are aware that baby names are Serious Bizness. A literal one, actually, if you care to google "baby name consultant." It's also well-established at this point that celebrities are crazy (everyone decided we don't like Blue Ivy's name, right? We're all in agreement here?), and that parents seem to increasingly want unique names--or unique spellings of names--to make their baby stand out.

This isn't about that. Not really. It's not really about sticking 'Y' into random spots it doesn't belong ("Magnyfye Beard," anyone?), and it's not about using real words for names even when it sounds stupid ("If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barebone"), because that's been going on forever: you can thank the Puritans for these lovely examples (although think of the nickname potential of the second!).

No, this is about the names that are so far out there that the only way you could come up with them is if you were drunk. Or insane. And then you gathered them all in a book of lists to to help 1) other crazy people like yourself or 2) easily-fooled people who will believe you when you say that yes, Blaze (or Ophelia, or Fluffy) is an "over-the-top girl name to avoid", why not use Olga (or Queen, or Treece) from the "names for future architects" list?

If you are, indeed, looking for that crazy, you have found it in 40,001 Best Baby Names.
I own quite a few name books, ostensibly because I wanted to have them on hand when I was in creative writing classes, mostly because I took naming my Pokemon team seriously. Most books follow a similar format. They give you names, tell you what country/language it came from, and usually include any relevant history, like that Jezebel might not have the best connotations, or that Gwyneth Paltrow used Apple as her daughter's name. Sometimes they even have lists on the side, collections of virtue names or  mythological name.

This has that. Kinda. It also has sheer ridiculousness and is apparently based on the author's opinions, which is how you end up with a list for each sex of "names that give you a leg up in life" without any explanation. Why, does everyone automatically love a Celeste? Have Merits been statistically shown to be high earners? Does a Gus get better gas mileage than Ambrose (from the "burdensome boy names" list)?

I don't know. There are 75 lists, and while some are what you'd expect (the "top XX of [decade] is required, by law, to be in every name book ever),  many are just there on the page, BAM, waiting to take you by surprise.

"Why," you might ask upon reading it, "why is Adelaide on the 'scary/creepy' list? Why can't a teacher be expected to pronounce Aisha, Seth, Camilla, or Artemus? Exactly how will naming my son Britt, Gus, or London make him popular?

"Why is Gavin or Justine a 'comfy name', and how do you know that my child will 'like having' it? Will giving her the name Liberty, Harmony, or Rain really make my daughter 'feel weird'? How will I know far enough in advance if my child will be an 'eccentric' to name her/him Galatea, Echo, LaRue, or Webb? If I don't name him Shiloh or Jan-Erik does that mean I don't think my son is 'handsome'?"

And at that point, you will stop asking questions either because your brain broke or because you turned it into a game and decided to spam your friends' Facebook pages ("Hey Aileen, congrats, you share your name with a death-row inmate!").

(I think it's fairly obvious what I did. And yes, there are two lists for "bad-to-the-bone death-row names," because combing the sexes into a single list just wouldn't be enough.)

It's so ridiculous that you have to wonder what was going through the author's mind when she wrote it. She never gives you any clue as to what her criteria for a "powerful" name is, so good luck figuring out why Elizabeth, Greta, Pace, Pilar, and Wiley (or Angus, Jon, Lamar, Nash, and Quentin) are sharing the spotlight.

Part II, The Lists Get Weirder: Afrodytee is Much Easier to Pronounce than Aphrodite
Part III, We Finally Reach the Name Listings: Meashley, Yu-crazy

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