On giving (and having) an unusual name

Probably because it’s so nice to talk about something besides COVID-19, the internet had a lot of fun mulling over the name of Elon Musk’s new baby, which is apparently ‘X Æ A-12’.

I wasn’t able to work up much of a sweat over two eccentric celebrities giving their child an eccentric name.  Hey, no one seems to have hired a third world surrogate or a CRISPR technician to assist with the production of the child, and there’s no evidence anyone attempted to legally marry a chandelier or anything. The parents are a man and woman who are in a relationship of some kind with each other. This being the year 2020, that’s as wholesome and normal as it gets.

But the name. In general, I’m opposed to giving children names that are not pronounceable, because . . . why? (I’m also against giving children unusual spellings of common names, which strikes me as the worst of both worlds.)

I’m strongly opposed to giving children names that will automatically put them at a disadvantage with most people, because it’s in any way a joke, or designed to shock or offend. Life is hard enough without having to introduce yourself as Ima Hogg or Judas Panzer Boi or something.

What you name your child says something about you; but more importantly, their name says something to the world about them. They are individuals who exist outside their parents’ sphere, and their name should reflect this.

But what about names that are just unusual?

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8 thoughts on “On giving (and having) an unusual name”

  1. Not so much my name but rather it’s spelling and the way my dad chose to spell it how he sounded it with his lovely Lebanese Australian accent. I can relate to you that at a glance, I’m called Elizabeth or Isabella. Grrrr. Consequently, I’ve grown up with a complex because nobody EVER spells my name correctly unless I stop them before they attempt. And unfortunately this complex has been passed onto my children. We find ourselves correcting anyone, including teachers, who don’t spell any of our names correctly. No Ashley’s or Susan’s in our family.
    Btw, Elon Musk is weird. He’s an idiot for calling his child some unpronounceable symbols. I saw on the news tonight that he is launching something into space. He should go with it. Permanently.

    1. Margaret is lovely. I have a daughter called Margot. And we call her Margie. She makes sure nobody forgets that silent “t” at the end. 😉

  2. Jaidyn and Jaicyn, twins at my daughter’s after-school program, probably agree with you enthusiastically.

    But there’s no winning. I’m not related to beer family that shares my last name, but everyone over 20 or so should recognize the “Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, Missouri” voiceover that used to end Budweiser commercials. And yet, I have heard mangled good-faith mispronunciations of it that I never dreamed anyone could pull from those letters in that order. As for the crude sexual taunt junior high kids used to make of my full name, I’m just glad that’s over. The capacity for human cruelty is boundless, and won’t be restrained merely by normal names.

    1. Well, if it makes you feel any better, my nephew beat up a real Busch heir.

      The Busch kid put some foreign substance in his gas tank if I recall correctly. They were fighting over an Abercrombie model with large white teeth. After the gas tank thing they made a date to meet up at a posh private school parking lot with their friends to see who would win the turf war.

      Busch kid didn’t count on my nephew being one of 25 cousins. I’m told he ran away.

  3. I enjoyed this post, for obvious reasons. Although my name fit with my ethnicity (eastern European) my mother was oblivious to that–her favorite actress, Gene Tierney, named her daughter Daria, and so that was on her short list. The other contender was Mona (after the Nat King Cole song), and honestly, I don’t know which one would have been the worse choice in terms of kids making fun of it in school. Oh well. I grew up to more or less like my name (a great patron saint, by the way), although I vowed to find a man named Smith or Jones to marry, just to balance out the weirdness with something normal! Unfortunately, I fell for a guy with a Choctaw Indian surname, so the weirdness was multiplied.

  4. I was named after a character on the 70s TV show “Zoom” on PBS 🙂 I do like my name now, but when I was a kid I got embarrassed when people mispronounced it with a long ‘i’, making it rhyme with a certain female body part. My last name is also a first name, so a lot of people accidentally call me by that too, also sometimes pronounced wrong…oh well.

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