Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Rose by Any Other Name . . .

I just ran across an article about a judge in New Zealand making a child a ward of the court in order to change her name. It seems her parents had named her Talula does the Hula from Hawaii. Seriously. That was the girl's name-- a name, it turns out, she was so embarrassed about that she told her friends to call her "K." In the article, the judge cited other "insane" names that parents in New Zealand had saddled their children with-- including Sex Fruit, Yeah Detroit, Fish and Chips, Number 16 Bus Shelter and Violence, just to name a few.

So this got me thinking-- I love unusual names as much as the next person, but how much is too much? As an English professor, I stand in the front of my classroom every year and struggle to pronounce my students' names without embarassing them or myself. I'm also married to an Egyptian who wanted to name our first child Aswid-- needless to say, we compromised on Adam, which wasn't as unusal as I might have liked but will definitely save my child a huge amount of trauma in his junior high locker room.

So to make up for my children's rather normal names-- if you teach long enough, you learn that torturing your child with a name like Sex Fruit is just asking for self-esteem issues later in life-- and the fact that my husband and I have not once seen eye to eye and therefore had to compromise, I let my imagination run wild when I name my characters. Not New Zealand wild, but still, a little crazier than Adam. I have Desiree and Irisi, Genevieve and Dakota, Rio and Rafael-- just to name a few. And the thing I love most about naming my characters is crafting a personality that really fits the name I've chosen-- something parents can only guess at when they name their children.

So, what are your favorite names? Have you used them-- on your characters or your children-- or are they just there, floating in the back of your mind never to see the light of day?


Kim said...

LOL, Those names are crazy. I lucked out with my daughters name, Andrea. My husband was determined if we had a boy he would be named Ezekiel. It is a fine name but all I could picture is the harrassment the poor kid would get in school Zeke the Geek. "shudder"

Pat Cochran said...

I just read that article today. All
I could think was that those parents
really must have esteem problems of
their own. To those parents: change your own name if you need something
to build yourself up or get some
therapy! Just don't make your poor
child suffer!!

Pat Cochran

Tracy Wolff said...

I'm with you, Pat! Crazy, right?

Kim, Andrea is my mom's name and I love it! My maiden name was Deebs-- I was Tracy Dweebs for many a year, so I would definitely feel for Zeke the Geek!

Jane said...

I like names that start with J, but it's obvious that I'm biased. I used to hate my name, but now I can see that the name is kind of classic. Kids used to tease me and ask me where Tarzan was. I remember when Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple. I thought it was cute, but maybe it's because I'm from NYC.

Ellen said...

I taught in the public school system for many years and always had two or three students whose names I could not pronounce and each time I wondered what the parents were thinking before I decided they weren't. And then there were the names I could pronounce but didn't want to. I read the story just about an hour ago and thought to myself "good for you having the courage to go to court and have your name changed."

Jill said...

This is a great topic b/c my husband and I are expecting our first baby and we love discussing names. We want something that is slightly unusual, but we want something that is still a real name and preferably something old-fashioned.
If it's a girl, he wants to name her Wilhelmina with the nickname Mina. We are not Scandinavian or German, he just thinks it's pretty.
I agree with him that it is pretty, but I think it maybe a little too unusual and too old-fashioned :-) Mostly I am afraid of our families hating it and never hearing the end of it. Plus we have a friend with a dog named Wilhelmina and another friend with a cat named Mina

Of course maybe it will be a boy and we won't have to worry! Any Wilhelminas out there have an opinion for me?

Estella said...

I cannot imagine naming a child Sex Fruit!

Tracy Wolff said...

Neither could I, Estella!!!!! Congrats on the baby, Jill. What an exciting time for you and your husband. I think Wilhelmina is beautiful and just unusual enough that she won't be turning around every second. My poor best friend from college is named Jennifer, and she won't even answer if you call her name in public-- too used to it being someone else. When we were in the dorm, there were seventeen other girls on our floor with her name. Yuck!

Jane-- I thought apple was cute too. I even like Bruce and Demi's Scout after Harper Lee's main character. And ellen, believe me, I know what you are talking about. Very often I stand at the front of the classroom and think, "Wow, your mom had a hard labor." LOL!

Laura Drewry said...

Great topic! Picking names is hard and my DH and I ended up choosing what we thought would be 3 very common names for our boys. Turns out they've never had another kid with the same name in their classes. :) My mom always said that before anyone names a baby, they need to go stand on the back porch and yell it out loud a few times to see what it really sounds like. Obviously the Hula-from-Hawaii and the Sex-Fruit parents didn't do that. I completely agree with Pat - if you like weird names, change your own name and leave your poor unsuspecting children alone. Growing up is hard enough. :)

Maureen said...

Giving a child a crazy name like the ones listed is an awful thing to do to a child. I think those parents were thinking about themselves and how clever they were instead of a child who would have to be teased and mocked their whole life.

Nathalie said...

Those names are crazy... poor kids!