There is a host of traditional names slapped onto mewling, unsuspecting babies in the United States when they’re born: William, Emily, Alex, Susan, Mary. And we’ve all seen and heard those more creative names–some of which have cultural or familial connotations–such as Shaniqua or Anders. But then there’s a whole other class of names out there: the out-and-out “Did Mama’s epidural seep into her brain?” monikers.
I heard a story several years ago about a woman who was cooking in her kitchen when she went into labor. She ended up naming her baby “LaMonjallo” because the last thing she saw before she hit the floor that day were the words printed on the Lemon Jell-O box on her counter.
And then there was the time a friend of a friend of a friend (the most reliable of sources, and always just where I need her!) was in line at McDonald’s, and in front of her was a kid who was cutting up, dancing around, bumping into folks. After rolling her eyes a lot, his mother finally shrieked, “Spatula! I have two words for you: BE HAVE.”
No matter how you Ginsu up a name and the word “behave,” however, the fact remains that the tags we use to identify ourselves on our homework, job applications, and ultimately tombstones, matter. A rose by any other name smells like garlic toast.
Feeling as I do about names–convinced of their importance and ability to shape lives–I found myself involuntarily snurfling with laughter and disbelief last week at the end of my Short Story class, as I read over my students’ responses to an activity that had asked them to analyze their feelings about their own given names (as much as I like to mess with the kiddies and pack their hours with meaningless busywork, this assignment actually related to a story we’d read about a Chinese man who had to change his name during the Cultural Revolution). Part of the activity required them to explore optional names for themselves; that is, if they had to abandon their given names and choose new ones, what would they choose and why?
Gentle Readers, here is a cross-section of their answers, carefully vetted to give you a clear picture of the analytical abilities of our nation’s next generation of leaders. They would change their names thusly:
“Probably something like Sydney because I have always wanted to go to Australia and I just like the name.”
“Semore Butts–saw it on THE SIMPSONS, thought it was funny.”
“My new name would be Hiro Nakemura. It’s the name of an awesome and funny character on the show HEROES.”
“I would change my name to Buddy. I think it would be kind of cool and funny if everyone called me by a slang version of the word friend. It would be like not having a real first name.”
“I’d change my last name to Shanks and my first name to Adam. Shanks because it’s badass and Adam because it flows with Shanks.”
“If I were to change my name, I would change it to Jagermeister. I would choose this name because the meaning of it is ‘hunt master.’ I love to hunt things of all kinds. I think this name would be suiting for me. It is also the name of a rather popular drink. I also like to drink it. I could drink my own name. Not many people can say that. I would also have a nice looking coat of arms. It would be the picture on the Jag bottle. It’s a big old buck.”
By my calculations, President Jagermeister, Vice-President Shanks, and their Cabinet of Intellect will take charge of the White House in roughly 2037, ushering in a tenure of leadership that will make Americans long for the relatively-sensible logic and thoughtfulness of thirty years earlier.
This is your heads-up. They’re coming.
Move to China; change your name.