How much damage do unusual names do?
By Mike Adamick | July 9, 2010
According to this analysis of the 2009 Social Security report, when it comes to what new parents are calling their just-arriveds, celebrity names, Obama’s girl names, and names taken from Twilight are apparently the new “It” thing.
But is it always so good to be on the cutting edge? One online commenter I read recently, an employer who frequently hires young people, opened Pandora’s Box by arguing that kids with weird or oddly spelled names might be cutesy on the playground or in kindergarten, but may be less cute later in life, when they attempt to become professionals.
“And like it or not, names are part of first impressions. If I see two resum’s and one job applicant has a respectable, solid name (say, Anna or Jacob) while the other has an “original” or alternately spelled name (say, Brylee or Dacoda) I am going to assume, rightly or not, that the latter was brought up in a household where the parents didn’t care about education (i.e., spelling) and had low aspirations for their children. Conversely, I will assume (again, rightly or wrongly) that the person with the more traditional or “normal” name was brought up with traditional or normal values. Of course this shouldn’t reflect on the kids, but really – who would you want doing your emergency C-section – a Thomas or a Crayten? An Elizabeth or a MaKayli?”
We had a similar debate in our household when trying to come up with a name for our daughter, settling on what we thought was an old fashioned name with cute kid potential but also something she could put on a business card: Star Galaxy Unicorn Bliss.
What the heck are Dweezil and Moon Unit up to nowadays? I understand that it might be a generational thing, but I have yet to encounter a wave of professionals with cutesy or too-cool-for-school names, despite having heard plenty around the playground. And thinking about that comment above and some of the names I’ve heard in San Francisco – Cougar, Jaguar, Treasure and Coyote (what is up with this cat trend anyway?) – it now occurs to me that I just might have second thoughts about letting someone perform a serious operation on me or a loved one if they handed me a card with my all-time-favorite overheard kid name: Soup. Second opinion please.
That said, my wife, though also not so down with these names, argues that by the time this hipster trend hits the professional world, cutesy names will be the norm and we won’t even notice a Treasure or a Coyote – just like no one’s going to really care about gay marriage (hope, hope). I see her point, but wasn’t there a whole decade of hippies naming their kids Star and Moonbeam? Where did they end up? (Take a quick check of Stanford graduating classes 1994-2000 and let me know if you see any Moonbeams:) And what the heck are Dweezil and Moon Unit up to nowadays?
I know, I know; I’m raining on the parade – sorry, Babs. Isn’t the world nicer when everyone is more creative? We don’t all want grey-colored houses, so we wouldn’t want all the boys named John either (or, as they seem to be today, Jack). And spelling hasn’t always been that important – in the Middle Ages, Chaucer would sometimes spell the same word two different ways in the same poem.
But there are biases, and parents should probably take these into account. From the sounds of the commenter above – someone who actually does have your kid’s job fate in her hands – cutesy, hip, borderline atrocious names actually can make it difficult for your child. Why put them through that simply because you think Thundercat is cool: this year?
As to us, we ultimately settled on Emmeline, which we thought was old-fashioned and quaint. Turns out it was the name of Brooke Shields’ character in the Blue Lagoon; we are not hip enough to think that’s cool.