April 16, 2006

"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." Says Penn Jillette, if you challenge him about the fact that he named his daughter Moxie CrimeFighter.
But while middle-class parents increasingly trade in standard names like Karen and Joseph for fancier ones like Madison and Caleb, movie stars seem compelled to push the baby naming further. The names may be merely distinctive (say, Maddox, Angelina Jolie's Cambodian-born adopted son) or bizarre, like Makena'lei Gordon, Helen Hunt's daughter, inspired by a place name in Hawaii. Celebrities may not so subtly be saying that for them ordinary rules need not apply.

If celebrities are the new American aristocracy, the exotic baby name can sometimes function as the equivalent of a royal title, a way for a privileged caste to bestow the power of its legacy on future generations.

"There's a sense of 'I'm special, I'm different, and therefore my child is special and different,' " said Jenn Berman, a clinical psychologist in Beverly Hills, who has worked with actors. "It's unconscious, but they think, 'We're a creative family, you have the potential to be creative, so here, I bestow you with the name 'Joaquin,' " Dr. Berman said.
Which celebrity started it? Frank Zappa?
Just as Frank Zappa proved himself the classic hippie prankster by naming his children Moon Unit and Dweezil in the 1960's....
Frank Zappa was a hippie? I guess the past looks fuzzy from such a great distance!
Think I'll just DROP OUT
I'll go to Frisco
Buy a wig & sleep
On Owsley's floor...
I'm completely stoned
I'm hippy & I'm trippy
I'm a gypsy on my own...
I'm really just a phony
But forgive me
'Cause I'm stoned...
Frank Zappa was a hippie?

Sorry, I got sidetracked. Anyway, you middle-class losers with kids named Dave, how about showing a little imagination? And, to get to the really important question, what do you think Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will name the little pittster they're cooking up for the endless amusement of the world?


Jennifer said...

Such an interesting topic! As a Michael and Jennifer, we did NOT want to bestow ultra common names on our kids. But, at the same time, we didn't want a wacko made up name or something like Apple.

My son's name pleased everybody. But, my side of the family was not happy with my daughter's name. My husband's side - where there are more French speakers - knows that Amelie is a very common name, just not here.

On the same note Makenalei wouldn't be bizarre at all in Hawaii. I knew a girl named Ha'ina - which was fine and recognizable in Hawaii. But I always pictured her going off to college and people saying "Your name is Hyena?"

AllenS said...

Why not name the child sPitt. Notice the imaginative spelling with the first letter lower case.

Word verification: zmfipooq

Name name that Angelina wanted.

AllenS said...

No, no, not Name name, but The name ...

Ann Althouse said...

Jennifer said..."Such an interesting topic! As a Michael and Jennifer, we did NOT want to bestow ultra common names on our kids. But, at the same time, we didn't want a wacko made up name or something like Apple."

Yes, but then everyone does that thing of trying to pick a name that's a recognizable name but not to common and then they all pick the same name. Like right now: Olivia and Madison -- destined to become old-lady names in a 5 decades, just like Barbara and Linda now.

Joseph Hovsep said...

An unusual name can be valuable in this increasingly global and cyber world. It'll be easier to google Helen Hunt's baby, which may seem irrelevant now but could be useful when she is an adult. Its very hard to find me through google because millions out there have my name. A generation ago, I'd be a lot less likely to run into more than a few people with the same name and surname combination as me.

I'd also say the trend wasn't necessarily started by hippies, though they popularized it. African-Americans have also been pioneers in creating new names. A while ago, Eugene Volokh looked over names in the last census and came across some interesting ones, including "Latrina."

Jennifer said...

Yes, but then everyone does that thing of trying to pick a name that's a recognizable name but not to common and then they all pick the same name.

Yes, you're exactly right! We wanted Isabella (after my husband's grandma) but everyone else did too. And if we meet one more Madison, my son's head will explode.

Hopefully Amelie is sufficiently undesirable. :) Interestingly enough, in Hawaii nobody had a problem pronouncing the name. Here in the South, people garble it constantly - even if you tell them say Emily but make it Ah-mily.

Dave said...

Count me as a Dave who thinks Penn's name (to say nothing of his daughter's) is idiotic.

To be a loser in this idiots estimation is an honor.

knoxgirl said...

I remember Gwyneth's consternation at people thinking "Apple" was a dumb name. Cluelessness.

We wanted sort of an "old man" name, and so named our son Hank.

Ann Althouse said...

About Madison: I don't think the name is too popular in my city. Maybe we should be naming our kids Seattle or Miami.

Amelie: Well, there's that movie...

On unusual African-American names: these names seem to be more about putting syllables together based on sound, not picking some strange word for its meaning like Apple or Moon Unit. The hippie naming style seems to operate on a different logic.

Dave said...

Upon reading my comment above it occurs to me that someone is going to take me seriously, so let me add the disclaimer: I really could care less what Penn or Pencil or Moon Unit or Apple, or Microsoft, or Zappa name their kids.

Jennifer said...

Amelie: Well, there's that movie...

Yes. I refuse to watch it because what if I don't like Amelie?

I really liked the name Aurelie and the movie almost pushed me in that direction. But, seriously, everyone would stumble over that one.

I've *met* a Miami! And a Paradise.

Gahrie said...

RE google:

There are about 10 people out there with my exact name who are apparently more famous than I, including an Irish rugby player, and author, and an engineer. So I decided that my online persona would have a unique spelling of my first name. Gahrie (Gary)

John R Henry said...

How about the legal aspects? Are there any?

"Moxie" is a made up name for a soft drink in the same way that Pepsi is. It is trademarked.

Yes, I know that nobody outside of Vermont and Chicago have ever heard of the drink and think it is a Yiddish word for guts.

So if I named my kid Pepsi, would that be legally permissible? Will the Moxie company charge royalties for the use of the name?

John Henry

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Grandparents and Saints. That's what we used for our kids.

When dating, my husband wanted Zeke, Zack and Zeb. He liked the hard consonant sounds and Bible names.

My son Robert Ezekiel [Zeke] is constantly called Zack. Good thing we had two girls after him. It also throws people off that our children go by their middle names. It's very common in the South.

MadisonMan said...

There's always the President or Supreme Court Justice test. Put 'Supreme Court Justice' in front of the name -- does it work? Supreme Court Justice Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette. I don't think so. Perhaps Penn Jillette hasn't high aspirations for his daughter.

We picked family names. The daughter has her grandmother's name. The son has a name that is liberally sprinkled through the family.

I live near a cemetery, and it's an interesting place to walk through, to see all the unusual names on headstones.

How about Jolie Pitt for a girl? Or Stahp Pitt? Arum Pitt?

Timothy K. Morris said...

Moxie lost its unique status as a trademark some time ago. Like aspirin, nylon, cellophane, and heroin, it has passed into generic usage.

tiggeril said...

It's a pain in the ass to have an unusual or "ethnic" name. My name, for example, is Anjali- a not uncommon name in India.

I once had a list of all the different pronunciations and plain wrong names I'd been called. I was up to thirty, if I recall correctly.

misterfed said...

"(say, Maddox, Angelina Jolie's Cambodian-born adopted son)"

Golly, couldn't the author have packed another qualifier or two in there? That's fairly cautious, but there's still a danger that someone might mistake the kid for her real child, and as the media constantly suggests to us, that would be terrible.

Ann Althouse said...

Cherry Pitt.

Tiggeril: I'll bet a lot of people have also said Anjali is a pretty name. It's very close to Angela, so it's like Amelie and Emily: it sounds like a name to Americans. Unlike Moon Unit and Apple. Actually, Moxie sounds like a name, and I think Moxie Crimefighter Penn would be a great name for a judge, but for the appearance of bias toward the prosecution. But middle names usually drop out or become initials. Moxie C. Penn -- sounds like a name a novelist might use for a judge.

Frank Borger said...

Of course the Lears (of Lear Jet fame,) named their daughter Shanda, (but not as the urban legend describes, Crystal Shanda.)

A man who invented the Auto Radio, radio compass, autopilot, 8-track, personal jet, had to be a bit crazy.

Decklin Foster said...

The other day I was complimented on the "sexual ambiguity" of my name. I hadn't gotten that before.

Anjali, I like your name too. If I were in Ireland, Declan would be pretty common...

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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Jennifer said...

I think Anjali is a very pretty name. And I would have traded my Jennifer for your Anjali in a heartbeat. But then proceeded to hate it, too, I'm sure.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I think we may be overstating the real-life effect of birthname.

And I would have traded my Jennifer for your Anjali in a heartbeat. But then proceeded to hate it, too, I'm sure.

I think how much you like your name in most cases doesn't necessarily have that much to do with your actual name. You don't like extra attention, so you hate your unsual name. You consider yourself a wild and free spirit so you hate you common name. You have low self-esteem so you don't like whatever your name is. When you're 20, it turns out a child murderer has your name too. Things that parents can't know ahead of time.

It seems too easy to beat up on celebrities for giving their kids outlandish names. If their kids are messed up later in life or won't be nominated for that judgeship, I bet the choice of birthname is about the ninty-ninth reason why. I've heard some people say Barak Obama has a name that could never win a presidential election in this country. I just don't buy that kind of argument. When push comes to shove, people know that Barak Obama and Moon Unit Zappa didn't choose their names, so they will judge them on parts of their personalities that they have actively shaped.

I actually think its kind of sweet for a parent to give their kid a very unique name. Its sweet to name your kid after your aunt or your dad too. Either way shows that the parent put some thought into the choice.

knoxgirl said...

Jennifer said: "I've *met* a Miami! And a Paradise."

There's a "Precious Miracle" in these parts. Goes by "Precious."

joe said: "When you're 20, it turns out a child murderer has your name too."

I went to high school with a Gary Ridgeway! I felt real bad for him when they finally nailed the Green River Killer.

cbi said...

There is something very comforting about a family name...a connection that seems to stay w/ you.

My mom's name is Klaska (just like a Alaska but with a K). She was named her mother who was named after her Aunt Klaaska from the old country. I've always thought it was pretty.

Of course, she gave her girls very plain, old fashioned, non ethnic names (Carrie and Katie). I've always been a little jealous

cbi said...

And I forgot to add that I used to go to school with a 'Princess.' On top of that, I worked with a woman who's granddaugther named her baby 'Destiny Love.' The grandmother thought it sounded like a stripper name, so she called the baby Elvis. I'm not sure which is worse.

Wasteland Fan said...

Remembre these scenes from the Seinfeld episode "The Seven"?


(George and Susan are having dinner with Ken and Carrie. Carrie is heavily pregnant. George is eating spaghetti with his usual decorum.)

SUSAN: A little baby girl?

KEN: Doctor says it could be any day now.

GEORGE: (through mouthful of food) So, Carrie, you and Susan are cousins. So your baby daughter is gonna be Susan's second cousin, right? So what does that make me?

CARRIE: Doesn't make you anything.

GEORGE: (jokingly) Well, so, legally, I could marry your daughter.

(George laughs and shovels another load of pasta into his mouth. Ken and Carrie look perturbed.)

SUSAN: So, have you picked out a name yet?

CARRIE: Well, we've narrowed it down to a few. We like Kimberley.


GEORGE: (negative) Hu-ho, boy.

KEN: You don't like Kimberley?

GEORGE: Ech. What else you got?

KEN: How about Joan?

GEORGE: Aw c'mon, I'm eating here.

SUSAN: (warning) George!

CARRIE: Pamela?

GEORGE: Pamela?! Awright, I tell you what. You look like nice people, I'm gonna help you out. You want a beautiful name? Soda.

KEN: What?

GEORGE: Soda. S-O-D-A. Soda.

CARRIE: I don't know, it sounds a little strange.

GEORGE: All names sound strange the first time you hear 'em. What, you telling me people loved the name Blanche the first time they heard it?

KEN: Yeah, but uh... Soda?

GEORGE: Yeah, that's right. It's working.

CARRIE: We'll put it on the list.

GEORGE: I solve problems. That's just what I do.

A few scenes later . . . .

[George's Car]

(George and Susan, heading home from the restaurant. George is happy, smiling and whistling.)

GEORGE: I think they really went for that Soda.

SUSAN: What, are you crazy? They hated it. They were just humouring you.

GEORGE: Ah, alright. Believe me, that kid's gonna be called Soda.

SUSAN: I can tell you, I would never name my child Soda.

GEORGE: Oh, no no no. Course not. I got a great name for our kids. A real original. You wanna hear what it is? Huh, you ready?

SUSAN: Yeah.

(George uses his finger to draw a number 7 in the air, accompanying the strokes of his digit with a two-tone whistle.)

SUSAN: What is that? Sign language?

GEORGE: No, Seven.

SUSAN: Seven Costanza? You're serious?

GEORGE: Yeah. It's a beautiful name for a boy or a girl...

(Susan scoffs.)

GEORGE: ...especially a girl. Or a boy.

SUSAN: I don't think so.

GEORGE: What, you don't like the name?

SUSAN: It's not a name. It's a number.

GEORGE: I know. It's Mickey Mantle's number. So not only is it an all around beautiful name, it is also a living tribute.

SUSAN: It's awful. I hate it!

GEORGE: (angry) Well, that's the name!

SUSAN: (also angry) Oh no it is not! No child of mine is ever going to be named Seven!

GEORGE: (yelling) Awright, let's just stay calm here! Don't get all crazy on me!

P.S. I went to elementary school with Jewel Ruby Diamond. No joke.

lindsey said...

Yeah, like that actress who named her son Audio Science. Such a sweet name. Once the name gets too weird as in "Moxie Crimefighter" or "Audio Science" you're skirting child abuse. Oddly enough, Moxie without the Crimefighter would strike me as a fine name. It's just the addition of Crimefighter that's wrong.

To be honest, when I meet someone who's given his or her kid a weird name, it automatically makes me think they're white trash. It's just imo a good indication of how intelligent that person is. This has been my experience. I thought it was hilarious when Gwyneth named her kid Apple because she's spent years blabbing about being wealthy and going to Spence, and then she turns around and gives her kid such a white trash name. Hysterical. I don't react negatively when the name comes from a different language or culture. It's when the name is made up and obviously so. Like how someone listed Latrina earlier. You either have to be ignorant of what the word Latrine means or you have to hate your kid.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Moxie is cool but Crimefighter is dumb. No real crime-fighter would be named Crimefighter. Moxie Jillette - that sounds like a crime-fighter. Jillette could have had a real crime-fighter daughter, but he went for the joke instead. Fool!

downtownlad said...

Linda and Barbara are indeed old ladies names.

So you should name your kids that. Because in 20 years, by the time they grow up, those names will be cool again.

And nobody names their kids that anymore, so that's way more unique than Apple if you ask me.

Johnny Nucleo said...

Speaking of crime-fighter names, you know what are two perfect real-life cop names? Tom Lange and Phil Van Adder. You hear those names and you think "cop". I wonder if they became cops because of their names. Or maybe they changed their names when they became cops.

Bruce Hayden said...

Last time this topic came up here, I pointed out the section in Freakonomics about the monetary impact of last names, and that to some extent, you can tell the socio-economic status of someone by how common a name they are given. Those that were popular with richer people 10-20 years ago have worked their way down in this generation.

I like family names, esp. surnames used as first names. My daughter has a "Hayden" in her class (no relation). I was almost named "Judson", my mother's maiden name, and actually would have preferred it to what I got. We wanted to use my mother's mother's maiden name, "Meridith", but that was too common 10 years before and we already had one of those in the family. So, we ended up with four surnames for her, alternating between us. It turns out that she has a lot of neat stuff here named after her, including a 14k peak, a street, etc., mostly named after a famous 19th century very distant relative.

Being middle class, with professsional aspirations for her, (her father and grandfather are/were attorneys) I at least was looking for something that spoke of her establishment roots. And I think we did well. She doesn't have to share her name with anyone, not like the three Emilys, three Katherines, two Elizebeths, etc. in her class. And the boys were no better, with three Daniels, two Davids, etc.

But then, thankfully, I am not a celebrity. The kids with those ridiculous names are stuck with them for the rest of their lives.

J said...

"On unusual African-American names: these names seem to be more about putting syllables together based on sound, not picking some strange word for its meaning like Apple or Moon Unit"

I always regarded this as the black version of giving your kid a waspy surname as their first name. And a southern thing - I can't recall ever running into people named Preston or Madison or Rashonda until I moved to the south (which was a long time ago. I know that sort of thing is more widespread now). Sometimes that's not the reason though - my daughter had a preschool classmate named Presley, and I jokingly asked her mother if she was named after The King, only to find out that she was indeed.

tiggeril said...

Ann:I'll bet a lot of people have also said Anjali is a pretty name. It's very close to Angela, so it's like Amelie and Emily: it sounds like a name to Americans.

This is true. I still can't help but be amused when I get Angela or Angie or Angel or Angelo (wha?), and in one memorable instance, Andre (???).

JohnF said...

At the time my first son was born, I was very taken with the Wall Street Journal's columnist, Vermont Royster, who I learned had been named after the state. His siblings had been named after states too. This thematic approach to naming children was appealing.

I suggested to my wife that we name our children after swamps. Great Dismal Friedman sounded good--some day on a door would be lettered "G. Dismal Friedman." A girl could be Okefenokee.

This theme was vetoed by my wife, though she was not 100% opposed to thematic naming.

I tried again--how about famous trains (her father was a train fanatic). 20th Centruy Limited Friedman! Super Chief!

Vetoed. The thought emerged that this was a sport for me but had little to do with the kids.

The result was our first son, David, and his younger brother, Michael.

For all this, though, I still think it's unfortunate we don't see much in the way of thematic naming of children any more. The last set of theme names I remember was Eddie Murphy's skits on SNL having kids named after appliance makers.

As for Penn Jilette, his choice was for him, not his kid. It's a shame that the first thing he did with his kid was centered on himself.

Bee said...

When I was pregnant, my husband floated the idea of naming our children after computer languages: Perl or Pascal--the dog would be called Fortran. (Pretty bad, but not as bad as his friend who wanted to name his daughter Shai-hulud).

In the end we named her Isabella because it matched my husband's Italian last name best. I now see that it's a fairly trendy name, but that was not our reason for choosing it. Not that it matters or anyone actually cares. I see the trends in children's name as nothing more than an expression of a larger trend in society: that of customization. Being generic=dull.

Anyway, it's useless to get worked up about what people name their children. In the end, you'll never please anyone so you may as well please yourselves. Whatever name you pick, someone will object to it in some fashion. Just have your own kid and name it whatever you want!

And if the child hates the name, they can do whatever they want with their name when they're of age and have the inclination. Much to my surprise, I kept my last name when I got married, saddling our daughter with an arduous, multi-ethnic, multi-syllabic hyphenated last name. One girlfriend said, shocked, "but what will she do when she marries someone else with a hyphenated name?" I don't care, whatever the hell she wants. If she's mature enough to get married, I trust she's mature enough to make that decision.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

You cannot imagine how many positive comments we got from the social workers and staff in the NICU about the "nice" names we gave to Annie and Mary Jo. Seems that the NICU is a haven for peculiar names and the NICU folks were genuinely relieved to be able to spell and pronounce our girls' names. The only question is "is that Anne with an 'e'?"

XWL said...

Frank Zappa a Hippie?

Nope, sorry, no way, not in a million years.

Frank Zappa was never a hippie, if anything he epitomizes anti-hippieness (while still maintaining a somewhat 'freaky' appearance and artistic sensibility).

Zappa never did drugs, he never advocated any sort of mushy communal or free love type crap, and he never apologized for making money while making music.

That sure doesn't sound like a hippie to me.

Some folks (specifically NYT reporters) focus so much on superficial indicators that they ignore the truth.

Anyway who cares about messed up names, being born in '69 and growing up in Santa Monica, I knew plenty of kids with messed up names, yet the one's most likely to lead to schoolyard taunting (like Michael Hunt (and yes I knew a Michael Hunt, but for some reason many called him Mike and always included his last name when shouting out his name) could be the most normal sounding names.

Marghlar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Marghlar said...

There's always the President or Supreme Court Justice test. Put 'Supreme Court Justice' in front of the name -- does it work? Supreme Court Justice Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette. I don't think so. Perhaps Penn Jillette hasn't high aspirations for his daughter.

I'm not sure Felix Frankfurter would have passed your test, but he got the tap anyway. On the other hand, you could be on to something here, given Billings Learned Hand's failure to move on upward.

I personally am a fan of using old or obscure names (whether Biblical or otherwise), but the use of apparently random nouns (Apple? Pilot Inspektor???) just drives me up the wall.

And Shai-Hulud??? That's just asking for a fictional deity to slap you down for insolence. Any name that could lead to one being sacrificed to a giant sandworm is clearly to be avoided.

I resented my parents for naming me Marghlar, but eventually got over it. Now it has turned out well, as the term has entered the popular lexicon from a different source (although sadly misspelled).

Marghlar said...

Ack--apparently I can't post properly today. Well, the first paragraph above was meant to be italicized...

AJ Lynch said...

A kid on my nephew's little league team was saddled with the name "Montana Bound" (his first and last names). I did not know his parents but his name was sufficent evidence (to me) to know they were idiots.

Bob Mitze said...

A while back I saw this namevoyager based on Social Security's list of US names.

Maxine Weiss said...

It's coming full circle: A lot of new parents are choosing the 50s names: "Peggy" and "Fabian". The 1950s spiritual names: "Faith", "Hope", "Charity"----can't believe that was 1950s---sounds like a stripper! "April" "May" and "June", never July. Augustus---yes!

My personal favorite is the ancient Greek. I like "Thadeus", "Eurydice".

Remember the Preppy Handbook? If you were a "Prep" you had to have names like "Muffy" and "Bif".

Peace, Maxine

Marghlar said...

Maxine, you can't name a kid Eurydice! That's horrible -- talk about your ill-omened names. I generally think a name that is forever associated with death and Hades should be off-limits. It's just excessively morbid.

There are a lot of beautiful Greek names that are off-limits for this reason. E.g., Cassandra. Beautiful name, but what a trip to lay on a kid.

Challenge to all: any ideas for a classical Greek girl's name that both sounds nice, and has nice connotations? God's names are off-limits as too grandiose.

Greek names are challenging to do well. I'd love to name a kid Hector, but it now has a hispanic connotation. Achilles is just too grandiose. And I can't do Ajax -- I get too irritated by the misspelling (it should be Aias, but then everybody is like, what the hell kind of name is that).

Joseph Hovsep said...

Challenge to all: any ideas for a classical Greek girl's name that both sounds nice, and has nice connotations?

I think Zoe is beautiful.

Bruce Hayden said...


Muffy and Bif were, I believe, nicknames for people with awfully long and complex names. Maybe Bif was really Alexander Harrington Potter III (though I think that "Potty" would probably have stuck better there). Muffy was probably a Margaret, or maybe one of the ubiquitous Marys that you used to find at Catholic schools. You could usually detect a Catholic Mary because she invariably also used her middle name, given all the other Marys in her school.

Preppys don't really get that sort of names as much anymore. At least the girls don't seem to. Boys though, that is a different story. I know of one Cheesey, which has stuck from middle primary school. As I note below though, that is for day schools, and boarding schools are a different story.

I think that the big place you see nicknames is where there is a lot of intimacy. In prep school, the classes are small (say, 75 instead of 1,000), and the kids are together from 8 in the morning until 6 at night, for a decade or so, unless it is a boarding school, when it is around the clock. You get the same in a fraternity, sorority, or small military unit. Indeed, I would expect that most boys graduating from boarding schools, even today, would have nicknames.

Also, with boys, nicknames seem to attach more readily when their names are long and cumbersome, or are somewhat duplicative of others in their group (class, fraternity, military unit, etc.)

Marghlar said...

Cheating...that's a greek word, used as a name. I want an actual classical greek name (associated with a mythical or historic person).

I might be wrong, but I don't know of any real of mythic woman actually called Zoe (except a highly conceptualized figure in the Gnostic belief system).

I agree that its a pretty name -- I know a few Zoe's, and all wear the name quite nicely.

TheCommentsGuy said...

I remember Gwyneth's consternation at people thinking "Apple" was a dumb name. Cluelessness.

I really never got why Apple was thrown in with the more egregious celebrity child names. It's certainly unusual, but I think it's an adorable name for a girl.

I grew up with the Beaches, some of whom were Sandy Beach, Rocky Beach, and Windy Beach.

I also knew a Chip Chockley.

Icepick said...

Marghlar, my wife suggest Penelope as a Greek girl's name with a positive connotation.

Marghlar said...

Yeah, I think Penelope is the best I can come up with too. The problem is that I'm not a huge fan of it, in terms of the sound...but at least she got her guy back in the end.

Allison said...

I've always liked Xanthe, it's Greek for golden yellow or fair haired. It's a name that would certainly get some attention on the playground, but it has nice ring.

chuck b. said...

I knew a girl in high school named Immaculate whose last name was a Spanish-Philipino spelling of "conception".

I shit you not.

jinnmabe said...

This odd-name thing is a particular phenomenon in Utah Mormon circles. Here's a satire article about the phenomenon, and here's a website devoted entirely to documenting weird Utah baby names. My personal favorites: MervelDean and Rode O.

My wife is pregnant with our third, a girl. We like the name Ryan for a girl (I knew a girl in college named Ryan), but we are afraid we are doing the same thing being gently mocked in this post. Thoughts?

Jennifer said...

Alright, I wasn't going to bring up the super crazy names because I figured no one would buy them. But after Immaculate Concepcion and the Beaches family, I'll share too!

My brother played baseball in a league with two brothers - Xtra and Random Chance.

A friend in high school had a sister named Starsky Ann Hutchison.

Jennifer said...

jinnmabe: I knew a Ryan (a girl) in high school. I liked that a lot. But, my husband's best friend's name was Rian (a guy) - so it was a no go.

ignacio said...

I once saw "Jumbo Shrimp" in the phonebook and called him up. Yes, he said, rather irritably, his name really was Jumbo Shrimp.

Some names of athletes seem to have misspelled on the birth certficate and never corrected. "Antawn Jamison," for instance. Or "Dwyane Wade."

I can remember meeting Sir Ralph Bridges. Baron and Marquis and Prince. I think Milwaukee has a baseball player named Prince Fielder.

Fennis Dembo was a good name.

Marghlar said...

A good friend of mine swears that, come hell or high water, his first son will be named Xerxes.

I'll have to wait and see whether his marriage can survive it.

Kathy said...

Re: going by middle names

I go by my middle name, and it is no end of trouble. Sometimes for official papers I have to use my first name; sometimes I can use my middle name (the one I actually go by). So between the two names and the shortened form of my middle name, there are many different name variations that could be in someone's records.

My kids each have short names that can't be shortened; the first two have family names and the third has a Bible name. The first two names turned out to be trendy, but we didn't know that. With the third, we looked at the Social Security data for several years to try to be sure we weren't picking a name that was too common. Of course, you can never know what names all the other parents will select. . .

Hecla Ma said...

Jinnamabe - I have a niece named Ryan. She seems pretty well-adjusted and no one gives her trouble about it.

Her parents almost named her Ryann. But they didn't want people construing it as REE-Ann. So Ryan she is. It works.

Claudia Lane said...

Greek names: Helen, Athena,

Marghlar said...

Helen: too overused, and also sets a bad example.

Athena: like I said, god's names are too grandiose.

But keep 'em comin'. So far, I think Penelope is the best we can do.

Claudia Lane said...

More ancient Greek names: Doris, Phoebe

Claudia Lane said...

Bee said: "When I was pregnant, my husband floated the idea of naming our children after computer languages"

Perhaps that is what Gwyneth P. had in mind with Apple - we're all thinking she meant the fruit, but what if she named hers after a computer!

Aspasia M. said...

My husband kind of likes Bjorn as a name for a boy. We knew a few Bjorns in Washington State.

One time he suggested Thor - but he was teasing me, fortunately!

My husband wants to know how Penn Jilette got that name past his wife.

Challenge to all: any ideas for a classical Greek girl's name that both sounds nice, and has nice connotations? God's names are off-limits as too grandiose.

Hmmm...I have the same problem with Greek names. I like Greek names, but many are too ill-omened. Cassandra, for example, ends up as a slave. Iphigania had a very bad end. Antigone - we all know what happened to her.

I like the name Thalia and Cleo. Cleo was only a minor Goddess, so the name isn't too grand. Selene.

Penelope. Minerva (ok - but the too grand Athenae comes into play here.)

I like Ariadne's name. Although she was kind of kidnapped by Dionysus from Theseus.

I kind of like Theadora - I don't know if her name was Greek or just Byzantine.

Aspasia M. said...


Is your name really Marghlar or was that a joke?

My other bloggy name is Aspasia, which I do, in general, like better then Geoduck.

Aspasia was the mistress of Pericles. Not sure I'd want to saddle a child with that name.

I've always like the name Alcibiades. But he was tried for impiety.

Aspasia M. said...

I love Greek Myths.

Here some more ideas:

Calliope. (epic poetry/ beautiful voiced.)

Polyhymnia. (yikes!)
Terpsichore. (dancing -doesn't really work.)

It's too bad that Calliope was made into a instrument, because I like the original meaning of the word and how the name sounds.

Jeff said...

Unusual names, especially "Shanaynay" type names can be a burden.

The practice of naming someone "Presley" or "Preston" is actually an old WASP tradition of naming a child after the mother's maiden name. Gore Vidal and Humphrey Bogart are two examples. The results can be elegant and unusual without being trashy, while avoiding the humorlessness of hyphenated last names. (It helps to have a WASP-y last name to work with, of one or two syllables).

Decklin sounds like a a misspelling of the Irish name Declan, which is the Anglicized form of Deaglán.

Marghlar said...


For now, you may have won my challenge. Thaleia is a beautiful name, and a comic muse isn't too high and mighty. The root meaning is "bloom", which is a lovely thing to name a girl. And she's tied to comedy, which says nice things about the kid's disposition.

Theodora is nice too...very well omened...but I've never heard of a Greek figure named theodora (or theadora, for that matter), so I think it's out. Besides, who wants a woman whose nickname is "Ted?"

Aspasia is a lovely name...of course there is the issue of being named after a hetaira. Has its pros (high class, educated, hanging with Socrates) and its cons (being a courtesan, being blamed for the Peloponnesian War). I agree that its a bit much to saddle a kid with. But I think it might be a leading contender as far as actual living people's names go...

Is your name really Marghlar or was that a joke?

Do you have to rub it in? Do you think I haven't suffered all my life? Oh, the stares that I got when the roll was called...the difficulty in finding a rhyme in English composition...the taunts from kids whose parents had the wherewithal to name them Dave or Steve or Keith, rather than a weird invented word...Sorry, I lost control there for a second. This thread has been a very wrenching experience.

Aspasia M. said...

Oh - I like the name Marghlar! Where did your parents get the name?

My husband also really likes Thalia. I like it too, but the TH makes it a little hard to pronounce, versus other names. (My favorite girl name is Thalia, Sophie, or Theadora .(Thea for short)

It's too bad that the major Goddesses names are too grand. I do like Athenae and Artimis. But I couldn't saddle a child with those names.

Xerxes is a fun name. I wonder if your friend will get to name his child Xerxes, or if his wife will veto it? Darius may have been a easier "ancient Persian King" name to get her to accept.

Does anyone have good ancient Greek names for boys?

Aspasia M. said...

Helen: too overused, and also sets a bad example.

Helen did set a bad example! And, it was a very silly thing to start a war over.

Marghlar said...

Oh - I like the name Marghlar! Where did your parents get the name?

OK, now I feel guilty. It's not actually my name, but rather, a complicated joke between my wife and me. I had thought my prior post would be an apparent joke, but that's the peril of text as a communicative medium. My actual name is really quite boring and biblical...although there are some cool names among my relatives that I might appropriate (including several generations of men named Curran).

My wife likes the name Andromache, as do I, but we dispute over whether it is too ill-omened.

For boys' names: I already said I liked Hector, although it now has cultural overtones. I'd also really recommend Leonidas. It can be shortened to Leon or Leo so your kid doesn't feel weird. Of course, he died in battle at Thermopylae, but for an Spartan, that was a pretty good thing. And I like the name.

I actually met an Achilles once, but I think that's a lot of baggage to go through life with, and plus it seems pretentious.

Laertes is a great sounding name, but now it has all that Hamlet baggage...still, it's not bad as they go.

Is Zeno too weird? I've always loved him as a historical figure...I think it sounds especially nice when you say the zeta properly: Dzeno. Plus, you get great connotations -- creative thinking, wide travelling, and profound loyalty. Still, it's neck and neck with Xerxes for a socially-unacceptable name.

My wife, by the by, says that Thalia is too weenie. She prefers Maeve, which as she says, sounds like she punch straight through you like Ricky-Oh. I like the Gaelic names, although Maeve was a tad evil.

jinnmabe said...

I realize it's all tongue in cheek, but it's very funny to me to read a post, wherein the comments make gentle fun of celebrities for the wacky things they name their kids, while at the same time refraining from naming a child something because a fictional character had bad luck. (I'm assuming there are no Ancient Greek Theists among us, but forgive me if there are. Don't riot or anything, no disrespect intended). Very funny.

Marghlar said...


I don't know...it just seems weird to take a fictional name that implies a nasty end. It's not just about ancient greek -- I wouldn't name a kid Ophelia or Lolita either.

Brian said...


There's something about the Greek ancient names that makes me worry about hubris, necessity, fate, ect.

And when the ancient Greeks got into trouble - they got into BIG trouble.

Cassandra, for example. She rejected Apollo's attentions, and because of that she was doomed to fortell the future, only no one would believe her. And it gets worse! She's made into a slave by Agamennon and fortells the murder of him by Clytemestra. Yikes!


I'm kind of gullible - I guess. I'm kind of relieved. I thought I was the only person on the blog with a made up name. A shellfish! What was I thinking?

My husband said that he hopes Moxie Crime Fighter grows up to be a petty criminal. But he's just kind of cranky because he's tired.
I like the name Maeve.

Boys names are harder then girls names. I kind of like Simonides. (but everyone would just call him Simon.) I also like Pericles (but it's too grand.) There must be some good ancient Greek names, but I can't think of them right now.

Brian said...

oops. Brian is my husband. I'm posting from his computer.

You know, my blog name is really goofy. I thought Brian's name came out as Goeduck1. Hmmmm.

Good night everybody.


Barry said...

Celebrities treat their children like accessories. The 'creative' naming reflects on how hip the parents are. But a kid named MoxieCrimeFighter is gonna get the crap beat out of her on a regular basis.

Ann Althouse said...

Claudia Lane said..."Bee said: "When I was pregnant, my husband floated the idea of naming our children after computer languages" Perhaps that is what Gwyneth P. had in mind with Apple - we're all thinking she meant the fruit, but what if she named hers after a computer!"

I'd just like to say that my sister's name is Dell.

Also: if god's names are wrong, you'd have to be opposed to the very common name Diana. Is Roman different from Greek? And if you are going to permit god's names, don't forget Zeus. And bring in the Nordic god's too. I'd like to encounter a little kid named Thor.

Jennifer said...

Marghlar: Would you only shy away from names of fictional characters that met a bad end? Or would Gary, John and Jeffrey be out because of the serial killers with those names? No to Elizabeth, Jill or Polly because who wants a kidnapping hanging over their child's head?

Claudia Lane said...

Ann Althouse said:
"Cherry Pitt"

to which I add "Olive Pitt"

Pogo said...

The big name question. Should it honor the dead, or prophesy fate? Should it conform to cultural norms, or flout them with indifference? Is it any of my business what Gwyneth or Angeline name their kids? Do they actually care what I think? (..they ought to, for I hold their popularity in my People-buying hands)

Do I give her a name that is like a midnight tattoo (it seemed like a good idea at the time)? Do I imagine her President Marghlar and thus nix the name? Do I name my baby like a grown-up would, or like an irritable adolescent? (...you can't tell me what to do; I mock your stupid conventions cuz they're stupid!...)

Maybe it's too much responsibility. Maybe we should just name all babies by Government Committee.
We'd get Bill346, Anne2.3, and Moxie Crimefighter.

Best greek name? Diabetes, hands down.

Claudia Lane said...

Roman names are the best :-), my own for instance! But there are also: Julia, Aurelia, Cornelia, Livia, For boys: Marcus, Lucias, Lucian, Julius,

$CAV3NG3R said...

Being from a part of the world where names are sentences it's interesting to let you know that When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate one another. Besides since we have a naming ceremony on the eighth day, where everyone (family members have priority) is allowed to name the child, every child has at least 5/6 names culled from the pool of names although the parent's choice usually becomes the first or second name. Since traditionally the yoruba believe in reincarnation names like babatunde/yetunde/iyabo (father came back/mother came back) used to be common, then there was the whole born again explosion and people started with jesuseun (meaning thank jesus) as opposed to the more tradition Oluseun (meaning thank God - oluwa/olu was the supreme being in yoruba mythology that became the yoruba name for the christian God). As an example of yoruba names and their meanings:
Ayotomiwa -Joy follows(looks for) me
Iretomiwa - Goodness follows me
Adedeji - the crown has been doubled
Ayodeji - the joy has been doubled (usually a second childs name)
Omololu - a child is the most important thing
Omoniyi - a child is the extent of your fame
Oreoluwa - the gift of god
Olaoluwa - the wealth of god
Ayooluwaleyi - this is the joy of god
Oyinkansola - honey drops in a jar of wealth
Motolani - I'm worthy of wealth
Enitan - someone with a story (usually means there were unusual circumstances at or during childbirth)
Tolulope - thanks belong to god
Opeyemi - this is thankworthy
Adebayo - the crown meets wealth
I guess being sentences the permutations are endless. Now surnames is where you'll get some really interesting names that tell the story of the clan.
Jenmi - let me breath
Mafolabomi - don't oppress me with your wealth
Karounwi - Let's find something to say
Dada - given to someone born with natural dreadlocks, at least in the ijebu region of yorubaland (the hair can be real kinky over there)
Ojo/Aina - male/female born with the umbilical cord around his/her neck.

And I've not even scratched the surface of names in that place. By the way I like gaelic/greek/roman names on caucasians. I'm not a big fan of the bush/stone/brown kind of names. Those just sound so devoid of history (even though I know some of those came from when people were named for their ancestors profession
like mason).

Marghlar said...

Geoduck: I like Simonides, and it doesn't seem too outlandish. Good one.

On the general question of Gods' names: I think that you can get away with it if the god is pretty obscure, or if it is a minor god rather than one of the big ones, or if their is a long tradition in your culture of naming after that god (e.g., Diana, Jesus...). Naming a kid Thor out of the blue seems grandiose, but I think I have actually heard of a real-life Thor before. I just somehow get a sense that a Thor would be really really badly behaved, and who wants to call that down as a parent?

Jennifer: I wouldn't let a few bad apples destroy a long tradition of using a name. No matter what recent events occur, I'll always associate Elizabeth with the English Queen...however, I'm not a huge fan of any of the others (although I think they are common enough that they are still fully usable).

If, however, Moxie Crimefighter turned out to be a murdering bastard, I think that might make people pretty nervous about using the name a second time. It's all about the connotations that go with the name, in other words.

Claudia: I also am a big fan of Roman names...and Lucian is both a beautiful name, and also refers to a very funny satirist. The only time I've ever laughed outloud while translating Greek -- or at least the only time it happened as frequently!

MadisonMan said...

Oh Theodora

Don't spit on the floor-a

Use the Cuspidora

that's what it is for-a

No, I don't think Theodora would be a good name. Simonides is much too close to simonize.

When we named our son, about a week later we realized he seemed much more like an Adam to us, rather than his given name. That was odd. Well, he's grown into his name now (he's 10), but yesterday, my mother-in-law called him Adam! Where'd that come from -- we never told her of his mis-naming.

So it can be hazardous to name a child in utero, because once they've come out, they may not match their name at all.

Old-fashioned women's names poised for a comeback: Mabel, Cornelia, Edith, Dorothy, Eleanor.

Kathy said...

I'd like to encounter a little kid named Thor.

Our neighbor a couple of years ago was named Thor. He was an adult by then, though. One of my husband's best friends wanted to name his son Thor but was overruled by his wife.

Aspasia M. said...

Yes, my husband likes the name Thor, which I vetoed. (Of course, he may have been teasing me...)

I like the name Eleanor -- Elly for short.

Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

Think what you name your kids, folks. They're the ones that have to live with them.
Constantly being asked how to say, spell or explain your name is no fun for anyone, especially a kid. No cute spellings of normal names either. See above.

Kathy is also right about going by middle names. Call your child by his first name. Rearrange his name if you have to.

You may want to name your child after some Greek figure to let everyone how well read you are, but do him a favor and give him a normal name. Treating a child's name as some kind of unique brand is like treating your child as a fashion accessory. Name him for him, not for you.

Marghlar said...


Do you feel the same way about unusual names that run in families (like Curran, in my family)? How about culturally or religiously inspired names -- might stand out, but help express a unique community identity (see lots of Jewish names)? Or is your hostility just directed towards those of us with a fondness for classical history?

I think its an interesting assumption that a child would rather be named a boring name. I've often regretted my rather humdrum first name...(which by the way is also classical, just the type of classical (biblical) that is overused in our culture...)

Clearly, I agree that it can be overdone...I certainly wouldn't name a kid Anaxandrias, or Clytemnestra, or anything. But a lot of ancient greek names are quite common in our culture. Alexander, for instance, gets a great run (and is a great name). I think there is room for a little variation within reason -- it makes society more interesting.

But then again, maybe my outlook is twisted. I come from a family with a fair amount of weird naming...I just got shut out of it.

Pissed Off Hillbilly said...

Family names, even though a little unusual are fine. Curran is a great Irish name.
Alexander has always been a good name.
There are many good classical Greek names you could pick without going overboard.

But you've got to admit most of those other names have not been seen much daylight since they were first used. There's probably a reason for that. They just sound, as you said, pretentious. You can bet if you name a kid Xerxes he's going to be called Jerky or some other variation for his entire school career.
Sure, there's a wide latitude for variation, but don't saddle the kid with some bizarre name. He'll thank you later. It's hard enough being a kid without wishing your name was Jimmy instead of Socrates.

Wouldn't Malaria sound good for a girl if you didn't know what it was?

Marghlar said...

I don't know...maybe I've known more people with outlandish names than you have...in my experience, they've generally gotten on pretty well, and often seem to like the distinction.

I agree there's a line...and I agree that my friend would probably be crossing it with Xerxes. But I think there are some non-common Greek or Gaelic names that are still acceptable for naming use. Especially when they have more standard nickname variants, or sound close enough to be credible.

Honestly, would you really think that someone named Thalia was that big of a freak? It seem like a fairly reasonable name to me.

Jennifer said...

Isn't Thalia a huge Latin American pop star?

I had the unfortunate combination of a seriously common first name and an uncommon-and-pronounced-differently-than-spelled last name. Of the two, the heavier burden was by far the first name! I had 12 other Jennifers in my grade. I had 4 other Jennifers in my first grade class alone!

I would have gladly spelled and pronounced my name once a day rather than turn around for every single time someone calls out to some Jennifer!

Marghlar said...

Jennifer -- mine was a similar experience, which is probably why I'm more into the slightly unusual names...

Damn it, I didn't know that about Thalia. I googled this woman, and I had to turn the sound off in order to peruse her site...I had this lurking suspicion that Thalia had latin overtones, but I hadn't known why.

It's still a nice name, but I wouldn't want a kid to have to explain all the time that she's not named after that one singer.

Not that it is a pressing concern -- it will be a cold day in hell before I can persuade why wife that we ought to have kids, and even then she has dibs on Maeve as the name of our first female child.