The Name Game

April 16, 2006

This New York Times article is a list of the freakier names that celebrities have named their children, glued together with psychobabble.

Me, I’m partial to “Pilot Inspektor,” the name of Jason Lee’s son, and “Moxie Crimefighter,” the name of Penn Jillette’s daughter. Now those kids’ names will never show up on the Name Voyager. (If you have never visited that java graph, GO NOW!)

“Everyone I know with an unusual name loves it,” (Penn Jillette) wrote. “It’s only the losers named Dave that think having an unusual name is bad, and who cares what they think. They’re named Dave.”

In January, my sister had a baby. She and her partner had a heck of a time choosing a name. Nothing felt right. Weeks passed. Then months. My family was in a lather. “Honey,” my mom pleaded with my sister, “you’re hurting me by not naming the baby.”

My mom believed it was disrespectful to the child to not name it. I, too, was appalled by my sister’s reticence, but I couldn’t pinpoint why. No harm was being done. One night I met a group of co-workers at a bar and told them my sister had not yet named her 6-week-old baby. Every last one of them immediately began to crow and protest. It was outrage all around. How do you explain this unanimous reaction to delayed naming?

In Genesis, naming was an act of creation: God calls the world into being by naming it. Some Native American traditions involve waiting until a specific spirit is recognized in a person, to bestow a name. With stray pets, naming is an act of claiming; once you start calling the mutt Sparky, you know the dog is yours.