Friends, parents, knowers and namers of babies! We meet once again. It's been six weeks since my last column, which is a bummer, but it's been seven months since the last baby names column, which is a damn travesty. I used to believe that we'd reached peak baby name status -- once people started giving their babies names that were just random words spelled backwards, I lost all hope -- and yet every time I go through my submissions inbox or check my hard-hitting Facebook Trending news sidebar, I discover something new that I never, ever could've dreamed up. Granted, I did include a submission in December's column that featured the name Cviiilin (that's "Caitlin" to all you traditionalists), so I wasn't exactly surprised by this:
"Truly unique" are the words to zero in on here, because many names that used to be considered "unique" are now practically commonplace. The trick is to be TRULY unique. Unfortunately for parents, though, the window for what's considered "truly" unique appears to be about three days. Someone will always share your baby name vision, whether people want to admit it or not, and that's precisely how we've arrived at the name "Nevaeh" ('Heaven' spelled backwards) being popular enough to show up in children's homework lessons:
A baffled parent sent me this screenshot with the note, "My daughter asked me to help her with her homework, and I just about chocked when I read the "name" Neveah in her math problem." Ugh. Who cares how long it takes to change the car oil -- this is what's surprising about baby names now. Not only that they exist, but that they continue to proliferate in volume and get integrated into everyday use. At this rate, we're all culpable in the baby naming charade to some extent, aren't we?
Speaking of 'original' names dominating preschools and popping up everywhere in the media, is everyone reading this column aware of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's kids' names? If not, you're in for a treat, because it turns out he's not just creative in the kitchen:
Did I mention this clip ran in a post with the headline 'Jamie Oliver, Wife Jools Are Expecting Fifth Child'? When I posted it on Twitter, someone replied, "This is how I named my cats as a child." Indeed, the names some parents (celebrity or otherwise) are landing on after numerous brainstorm sessions, months of careful contemplation, and hours of labor and delivery don't seem to make much sense. I got an email the other day from someone who was innocently perusing a blog post about a "Star Wars"-themed nursery before she came across the baby's name, "Vegas-Jack," and emailed me to say, "Either the parents are rampant gamblers or I don't know what, but I hate that name with every fiber of my being. Decorating a cool Star Wars room doesn't get these parents a free pass to name their kid something this awful."
Oh, but doesn't it? If pressed, parents can justify their terrible baby name choices in ways ranging from the obvious to the inexplicable. Some will blame a name on family tradition, as though there's a Grandpa's Law that says you HAVE to name your baby after your Paw-Paw (except spell it in a way that has no historical basis whatsoever). Others say their baby's name is symbolic, giving weight to the idea that no one should judge another person's subjective experiences, but the truth is, we're all still judging. I don't care if you conceived your baby in a national park and named him "Yosemite," or if you named him after your favorite vegetable, which happens to be ocra; you still made a pretty bad call and should've dug a bit deeper. For instance, here's a comment that was left on a story about a baby who was born during a snowstorm and given the (awful) name "Wynter":
Thanks for the backstory, Shirley, but when was the last time someone was confused about the origins of the names "Autumn" and "Summer"? I'm gonna go with never.
Here's what I really want to know -- since when is it okay to saddle kids with haphazard words that have never in the history of the English language been used as forenames? It's like when Gwyneth Paltrow named her kid "Apple" in 2004, except somehow worse.
When I see something like this, I feel like we're already living in the future, Trump is President, and every child is one hot trend away from being named Kviiiilin or a series of clapping hands emoji. What else can we really expect?
This joke is a little too real. May the dictionary gods watch over us all. Let's check out some additional examples of what NOT to name your baby, unless of course you have an aching desire to be featured in one of these columns and should get to scrambling those Scrabble letters ASAP! Trust me, if you're searching for a "truly unique" baby name in 2016, you've got some serious competition waiting in the hospital wings.
1. Gun Names
Normally I block out the last names, but in this case, I blocked the "yoonique" first name to showcase the absolute wonder that is the middle and last names that create "Hollow Point." According to the submitter, this (now-two-year-old) little girl is called by her middle name, which strikes me as super fucking weird, not to mention upsetting on a very base level. We live in a country where our loved ones can be mowed down by anyone with a semi-automatic assault weapon at any time of day, in any manner of location, including elementary schools, and two dipshits decided to name their baby "Hollow" to fit with their last name "Point"? Hollow point bullets are, by definition, "designed to increase in diameter once within the target, thus maximizing tissue damage and blood loss or shock, and to remain inside the target, thereby transferring all of the kinetic energy to the target." And that's what this child's parents thought would be a badass name for her to live with for the rest of her life? Fuuuuuuuuuck you. Little Hollow's mom and dad couldn't just jerk off to gun catalogs like normal gun lovers; they had to pass on their fetish to their baby daughter. Gross.
But I'm sure you're wondering, what OTHER names could be derived from America's favorite weapon? There are a lot of words and nicknames associated with guns, so if you don't have the last name "Point," here are some other ideas, thanks to a cheerful question inexplicably posed on a cloth diaper Facebook group page:
1) My thought is that you and your husband are assholes.
You'd think the members of a cloth diaper Facebook page would be all, "Umm, take your weird gun baby name questions to the 'Moms Who Luv Guns' page," but no. Instead they said this:
WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE??? "Caliber is adorable"???????? RAYGUN? Beretta?? I feel like I'm living in a dystopian future where everyone not only struts around malls, daycares, airports, college campuses, and financial institutions with their deadly weapons, but also totes around cute li'l mini-mes named "Caliber" and "Holster" and "Sniper" and brags about building them "weapons funds" in lieu of "college funds." Thankfully, by the time this happens I'll be able to tap any random stranger on the shoulder and say, "Please, just put me out of my misery," and they'll be able to do that in five seconds flat!
2. A Speshul Holiday Tribute
The person who submitted this had previously only known this child as "Vallen," so she was surprised to learn that the baby's full name is "Vallen-Tyne," hyphen and all. The fact that this kid's mom decided to post a collage of photos that are all essentially the same photo already tells me plenty, but the name "Vallen-Tyne" makes me both mentally and physically uncomfortable. If names are like a box of Russell Stover chocolates, these parents picked a bad one, like the fruit & nut caramel. I'm not even sure I'll be able to sleep tonight, knowing there's a little Vallen-Tyne toddling among us. I just hope these parents don't make a repeated habit of this. The world doesn't need a Pearrl-Harbör or an Ashe-Winzdai.
3. It's A Natural High, Man
Fun fact: You can sing "Joplin Jangling" to the tune of the Bobby Day classic "Rockin' Robin," but it won't further endear you to the actual name. Also, if there's a type of mom that deserves ridicule, it's natural birth junkies. They're always talking about how great they feel after pushing out a baby naturally, completely unaware of how utterly intolerable they are. Case in point: This mom named her baby "Joplin Janglin." Here's a tip to all you pregnant ladies out there: You can name your baby Joplin Janglin (yes, I confirmed this is a middle name and not a last name) OR you can brag about delivering a baby without any meds, but you can't do both. I wouldn't recommend doing either, unless you're a Duggar.
4. The Name Prophecy
Y'all, Alana can't even remember when she had this prophetic dream, but she definitely recalls that it had a certain je ne sai quoi that informed how she would name her future daughter. Talk about destiny! Or as the French say, "destin." Except...the Sistine Chapel is in Vatican City, which is Italian, so I'm not entirely sure why she says, "The middle name means "the dream" in French as well," because the word "Sistine" derives from Latin. I guess she's just obsessed with giving her daughter a name that requires a ridiculous explanation. Hey, it's unique! Or as the French say, "unique!"
5. Keep Your Rube Comments To Yourself.
Upon first reading this, I was struck by how suddenly my emotions shifted when I went from reading about "4 very horribly sad miscarriages," which sounds horrific, to reading the words "Greenlynned Emerald Hippo." I'm not going to say that I was left without sympathy, because the pain and sadness of 4 miscarriages will always trump the unforgivable illogicality of a terrible baby name (or three), but I will say that I was left with considerably less sympathy after getting to the name.
I was left with even less sympathy than that after reading through the second part of this submission, via a screenshot of a Go Fund Me page titled 'Help Covering Cost of Childbirth.'
To summarize: Jennifer has another child named "Skottland." Since having Skottland, she's had four miscarriages and tried for many months to have a successful pregnancy, and yet "like most people" she and her family are "completely broke at the moment." In many ways, the elements of this story don't exactly add up, but if you sort of tilt your head to the side, re-read this fundraiser description, and then reflect on all the details, it actually adds up perfectly. I also appreciate the way Jennifer sort of bullies her friends into contributing to her home birth by saying she won't have a trained professional at the ready if her buddies don't chip in and pay the fee. Way to subtly guilt trip your network of friends, Jennifer! "Hey guys, do you want to help ensure that my child is born healthy, or are you willing to accept a fraction of the blame if something goes wrong and we couldn't afford to hire a midwife? Just some food for thought. We accept cash and credit cards. Thanks!"
6. Infinitely Annoying
I love the way Madison's comment just fades into the ether of this cut-off submission as she's explaining that she doesn't mind when people pronounce her daughter's name wrong by in fact saying the word correctly. It's one thing to jumble a bunch of letters together and insist that people pronounce your kid's fake name a certain way, but it's another thing to change the way a person says a word like "Pangea," whose alternate spelling (but not pronunciation) is "Pangaea." First of all, Pangea was already a proper noun. This means you basically can't change the pronunciation or expect anyone to take your version seriously, because who the fuck are you? A respected scientist who figured out that 175 million years ago, a massive supercontinent began splitting apart? When a word like "Pangea" has a firm, specific meaning and is capitalized, it's like a building being landmarked in an old city. You can't change the facade. That's not how it works.
But I do love the way Madison brushes off this idea that people will forever be 'mispronouncing' her daughter's name, almost as though she welcomes correcting people on a daily basis and is comfortable inflicting her daughter with the burden. Also, if she'd really wanted to get creative, she could've just named her daughter "Panthalassa" after the super ocean. It's a little less known by name than "Pangaea," and she could've spelled it or pronounced it however she liked, because no one ever wants to say that word and doesn't even care. But hey, no worries. Next kid, perhaps. There's always room for a little Panthalassa in the family. Believe it or not, the name is gender neutral.