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The Wife’s Life: Name Calling

by Elizabeth Beller

To name a child, you must use language, and using language means you must think and reason consciously (or semi-consciously if you already have another child who is under 2 years of age). Only humans use language to ascribe meaning beyond the practical elements of life. Well, except for apes. Koko the gorilla had the wherewithal to name her tail-less Manx kitten All Ball, and her foul-tempered parrot Devil Tooth (the beak looked like a tooth to her). Koko had it going on. We all know that we’re not that far removed from our primate cousins, and lately humans actually look bad in comparison. So let’s just say that taking great care in naming something we love is a primal rite, hearkening back to the origins of our existence.

No one knows this as much as a new parent deliberating over the endless possibilities for their child’s moniker. Since the beginning of time, couples have fought over whether to call their baby Rob or Bobby. Writer Duana Taha is composing a post-nuptial contract with her husband, replete with dictums and concordance on prospective names for their future bundle. Smart move. Families have been brought down over middle initials. Parents inevitably put some of themselves, but especially projections for what they want their little one to be, into their name. They hope all their taste and discrimination, creativity and identity go into it. They hope that neuroses and aberrancy stay out of it. Well, at least some do.  Yeah, Penn Jillette , I’m talking to you. Moxie Crimefighter is cruel.

The Romans said nomen est omen — “name is destiny.” Notwithstanding the fact that their empire fell to pieces, they offered prescient aphorisms. Names shape identity as much as identity shapes names. Psychologists call it “implicit egoism.” Carl Jung cited it in himself and his colleagues. Freud, whose name means “joy” in German, championed the pleasure principle. Adler, German for “eagle,” advanced the will to power. Jung, whose name means “young,” advocated the idea of rebirth. This is fitting, because the process of naming children can put many people on the analytical couch.

Destiny and a lifetime of self-expression. These are very high stakes.

I’ve complied a list of recent names in the public arena, trying to glean where the parents were coming from, and where the kids are likely to go. My list, like my name and especially myself, is flawed and non-comprehensive. Please add or correct in comments. Go!

**Photo credits: Dreamstime**

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  • Liam, Nigel, Ian, Jon, Jimmy, Jagger, Slash, Elvis, Nico or Sid 1 of 17
    Liam, Nigel, Ian, Jon, Jimmy, Jagger, Slash, Elvis, Nico or Sid
    Your own parents were too strict. You longed for a walk on the wild side, wanted to be rocker, but never had the guts to rebel. You want your child to be as fearless as you wished you had been. They will become an accountant or economics professor.
  • Augustus, Leopold, Cesear, Atticus, Hadrian, Constantin 2 of 17
    Augustus, Leopold, Cesear, Atticus, Hadrian, Constantin
    You have somewhere within you an oligarch with a power complex. You want him to rule and/or cause the bloodshed of millions. Your kid will be nicknamed Augie, Leo or Haddy and be an affable history buff who uses his jetski to save people stranded on their rooftop during hurricane-fueled floods.
  • Jane, Mary, John, Joe, Robert, James 3 of 17
    Jane, Mary, John, Joe, Robert, James
    You are grounded and stable, traits that kids deplore. But you are also the kind of supportive parent everyone hopes for and ultimately appreciates. You want your child to have the best chances of self actuality rather than a become a mere mirror of your own ego. They develop their own personality without restraint. Although, since research shows easily pronounced names build self-confidence and therefore beget high achievers, they will have an inflated sense of self and possibly become the James Franco-ish Master of All They Survey brand of smug. Thus alienating themselves into exactly the ostracism you were trying to avoid.
  • Aurora, Evangeline, Florence, Daisy, Savannah, Octavia or Clementine 4 of 17
    Aurora, Evangeline, Florence, Daisy, Savannah, Octavia or Clementine
    You probably have a staid name yourself, and are therefore rather traditional but wish you weren't. You're too timid too go for something very unique, so you wax nostalgic on a turn of the century, florid moniker in hope of a serene, ladylike girl who will be bastion of honesty, honor, fairness and virtue. What you're likely to end up with is a raucous provocateur who isn't simply unafraid to voice opinions but feels vehemently obligated to enlighten the ignoramus public around her. She can turn a Tuesday afternoon playdate into Burning Man Junior. I can attest to this because I am an Elizabeth who named my daughter Evangeline. She is the light of life itself, but daily negotiations with our firecracker are rapidly putting wrinkles on my body in places that have no business wrinkling, and when she starts dating she will rake inches off my husband's hairline.
  • Jackie, Ethel, Joan, Rose, Carolyn, Caroline 5 of 17
    Jackie, Ethel, Joan, Rose, Carolyn, Caroline
    You are JFK fans and idealize Camelot. I don't know how the names will shape your girls, but they should avoid hard-drinking Irish men and Chappaquiddick. Make that Massachusetts in general.
  • Pilot Inspektor, Bronx Mowgli, Blue Ivy, Blanket, Rocky, Moxie Crimefighter 6 of 17
    Pilot Inspektor, Bronx Mowgli, Blue Ivy, Blanket, Rocky, Moxie Crimefighter
    You're too famous or delusional to have perspective. You are obsessed with your own specialness and entitlement, and want your child to reflect this. Who can live up to this? They will strain for normality. You'll get a reclusive librarian or the Unabomber.
  • Henry, Edward, Oliver, Alexander, William, Charles or George 7 of 17
    Henry, Edward, Oliver, Alexander, William, Charles or George
    You just want things to run smoothly, and want a stand-up guy to see that through. Secretly you'd hoped to give birth to a practicing corporate lawyer. You will get this. Or a banker.
  • Tiffani, Amber, Cookie, Roxy, Brittany, Britney, or Britteny (But not Honey Boo Boo. She stands alone) 8 of 17
    Tiffani, Amber, Cookie, Roxy, Brittany, Britney, or Britteny (But not Honey Boo Boo. She stands alone)
    The parents are shy, and feel they missed out on life because of this supposed flaw. In order to save their offspring this kind of regret they name their child what to them epitomizes a dynamic singer, dancer, actor, pageant winner, or cheerleader. Something that screams ‘performer".They will get a performer. Just maybe not the type formerly listed. And now I will duck and roll.
  • Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence, better known to family and friends as Luna 9 of 17
    Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence, better known to family and friends as Luna
    I don't mean just one of these names, I mean using all 5 of them. You either have aspirations to royalty, are a throwback Catholic, or are Uma Thurman being profligate. Your child will not be able to chose an identity from this barrage of names and develop Multiple Personality Disorder to rival Sybil.
  • Lion, Tiger, Bear Blue, Crow, or Wolf 10 of 17
    Lion, Tiger, Bear Blue, Crow, or Wolf
    You are a sensualist, and want to pass on a love of the basics of life: food, sensation, the earth and especially physical activity. Your child will appreciate these sentiments, and you will have a lifelong companion in enjoying these pursuits once they stop biting their friends.
  • Allegra, Merce, Gelsey, Ailey, Twyla, or Mischa 11 of 17
    Allegra, Merce, Gelsey, Ailey, Twyla, or Mischa
    You always wanted to be a ballerina. Maybe you were. You want your baby's name to denote classical beauty of form and movement. Your kid will take an unusual interest in monster truck racing or become a back-up dancer who grabs Madonna's crotch when she's gyrating around her walker in 2035.
  • Isabella, Jacob, Cullen, Olivia, Emma, Ava, or Sophia 12 of 17
    Isabella, Jacob, Cullen, Olivia, Emma, Ava, or Sophia
    You are trendy. You were the first to don punk in high school, a pashmina in the late 90s, a poncho in the early aughts, a platform stiletto in 2010. You are also the first to throw them out once everyone else caught on. You kid will either also love fashion, dress just like you and live for trips to Bergdorfs, or they're going to favor coveralls and become a diaper wearing astronaut driving across the county consumed by jealous rage.
  • Strawberry, Cerise, Berry, Melony, or Peaches 13 of 17
    Apple, Strawberry, Cerise, Berry, Melony, or Peaches

    You are an idealist. You believe expecting good things for your baby will be a child-fulfilling prophecy and this name will produce a sweet, fresh and pure child . They will be all of these things, but have a proclivity for processed food. Although you will remain close when they're grown, they will also quietly resent you for giving them the name of a fruit and conveniently forget to call on your birthday or low holidays.

  • Brooklyn, Bronx, Egypt, Madrid, Roma, Paris 14 of 17
    Brooklyn, Bronx, Egypt, Madrid, Roma, Paris
    You love your children more than life itself, but don't want to lose your identity as a couple either. You therefore want to commemorate their place of conception via their name. Your children will love you back, and respect that you're a human being as well as a parent. But given that no one wants to think of their parents even hugging much less getting it on, your child will avoid the city of their namesake like the plague.
  • Toby 15 of 17
    Toby
    That's a dog's name.
  • Chloe 16 of 17
    Chloe
    That's a cat's name.
  • Chone, Choan, Khone, or Khoann 17 of 17
    Chone, Choan, Khone, or Khoann
    I really don't know where you're coming from or what will become of your poor child. Just stop it.

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Thomas Beller’s Books and Projects

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