Gene Weingarten: Harm monikers

February 2, 2012

Two recent news events caught my eye. The first was the publication of a study in a psychology journal suggesting that having a crappy first name can make you less happy and less successful in life. The second was the publication of a state-by-state list of the names of the first babies born in 2012.

I think you know where I am going here.

I have complained before about the tendency of modern parents to be brainlessly creative in child-naming, resulting in the recent plague of inanity (“Maverick”), insipid invention (“Jayvion,” “Jazlynn”), preciousness (“Precious”), vomitaceousness (“Heaven,” “Journee”) and pointlessly subversive spellings (“Kennedi,” “Maxx,” “Alexzander”) — each of the above atrocities having been perpetrated so often of late that each is in the top thousand most popular names. Two years ago, 289 parents named their newborn little girls “Unique,” thus establishing, ipso facto, the innate stupidity of this process.

These names are awful things to hang on children. But up till now that’s just been my opinion, correct though it was. Now, it turns out, science backs me up — complete with control groups, valences and standard deviations.

A team of researchers on two continents spent months with a European online-dating database, ranking names by their desirability and then putting them to various tests. Their study concluded that persons with “unfortunate first names” wind up victims of neglect, discrimination, prejudice and even ostracism. They’re likely to achieve less, be lonelier and even less healthy, because they’re more likely to smoke.


(Eric Shansby)

Let us consider, then, the likely fate of sweet, young “Envy,” born a tick after midnight this Jan. 1 in Las Vegas. Perhaps one day, when she is down to her last bummed cig in the drainage ditch where she lives in a refrigerator box beside other social pariahs, she will meet and find true love with “Jax,” who was born in Vermont at midnight the year before and will share with Envy not just a birthday and a stupid name, but a life of unrelieved misery and irrelevance. The same might happen to New Year’s baby “Sinsear,” from South Dakota, and her future husband-pimp, “Akier,” from Pennsylvania. (Prediction: If either of these couples have babies, they will name them “John” and “Mary.”)

The New Year’s baby names are compiled every year by the Web site Namecandy.com, whose analysts suspect that modern parents are seeking Googlewhacks — names so distinctive that they return one hit only. This might explain New Year’s baby “Carmon McKynli.” It does not explain, however, why these parents want their children to be easily findable online one day by, say, police authorities investigating the latest glue-inspired convenience store robbery.

Anyway, for all parents contemplating such naming felonies, I hereby offer you an alternative. If your goal is to be truly different — genuinely unique — don’t make up a name, because some other idiots, using whatever kindergarten process you are using, will find the same one. There is no misspelling so vapid that others of equal stupidity won’t find it, too. According to the Social Security names database, two years ago 205 parents named their little boys “Juelz.”

So what you want to do, parents, is to introduce into your naming process the factor of pure chance. If you want something almost completely un-replicatable, here’s what you should do: Close your eyes, pound your hand down on your laptop keyboard, and, voila! A name!

I just did this and produced two great names, “M_Z@” and “>DE#.” They’re pronounced “Munderlinezat” and “Greaterthandypound.”

Watch for them on your local police blotters in about 20 years.

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