Monday, August 6, 2012

What's In a Name?

The top boy's name in the 1950s, by a considerable margin, was James. My mother must have had an inkling  that the name would be popular when she named me in July of 1942. The top four runner-up names for boys in this order were Michael, Robert, John and David. The most popular five girl's names: Mary, Linda, Patricia, Susan and Deborah. Nobody called me 'James' except my mother when she was mad at me. I answered to Jim or Jimmy, the shortened form of James. I always liked the name and was told I was named for my father's father, Innocenzo. I later learned that in Italian, Innocenzo means harmless or innocent. There were 13 popes named Innocent, but it doesn't describe me very well.

I recently looked at a photo of my sixth grade grammar school class and there were eight other boys out of 53 in the class named James. We had multiple Michaels, Vincents, Josephs, Roberts, Johns and Thomases. We also had the odd Louis, Dennis, Stephen and Patrick. The only really unusual name in the group that I can recall belonged to a boy named Granville King who reminded me a lot of Stan Laurel. I believe he was born in England, a country where that name may not have drawn much attention, but I can assure you that in Brooklyn, it was noticed. Granville was an effeminate boy who would have had trouble even if he wasn't saddled with that name, but the combination of his demeanor and his name was deadly. He was teased mercilessly.

Where am I going with this? I think parents need to choose carefully when they are naming their kids. Tagging your poor child with a gimmicky name may be cute now, but the consequences down the road for your kid could be devastating. There was a Seinfeld episode where George Costanza imagined his first child might be called "Seven" after Mickey Mantle, or "Soda" just because he liked soda. The late Michael Jackson, poster boy for the seriously odd, named his kids Prince, Paris and Blanket. Those names might be OK in Hollywood, but if your kid's name is Blanket, better teach him self-defense and stock up on Band Aids. Frank Zappa painted a target on his kids' backs by naming them Moon Unit and Diva Thin Muffin. Sly Stallone cursed his daughter with Sage Moonblood.

I realize it's not the 1950s any more and those good, strong Biblical names are finding disfavor among the Pepsi generation. The top names for 2011 for boys were Jacob, William, Mason, Jayden and Noah. The first two are OK, but Mason will be called "jarhead", Jayden sounds like Superman's father and Noah means you should get the kid two of whatever pet he likes for when he builds the Ark. As for girls, the most popular names in 2011 were Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Olivia and Ava. These seem more conventional and safer. One last thought...I hate people who use initials to refer to their children. PJ, MJ, JR etc. all sound like the ass kissers who would remind the teacher she forgot to give homework over the weekend. BJ is just too unfortunate to even merit a comment.

Moms and Dads, unless like in the Johnny Cash song, "A Boy Named Sue", you want to toughen up your kid for when you're not around, let's not get too cutsey with far out names or nicknames; it's like writing a check your kids will have to cash with their fists in the schoolyard.


Children's Craniofacial Association


The Whiner said...

You're in the minoriy these days if your name is William, John or Robert. Everyone is Mason, Jayden, Zachary, Dylan and Tyler. The nursing homes will sound interesting in 60 years...

Jim Pantaleno said...

I'm probably in the minority on pretty much everything these days my dear.

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

Just think of 'John' Wayne and what his parents named him!