September 3, 2008, - 9:30 am
By Debbie Schlussel
I know I’m likely to offend a lot of readers (depending on your or your kids’ first names) with this post, but I’m writing it anyway.
Unlike a lot of liberals–and contrary the constant accusations against me by liberals–I don’t apply a double standard to conservatives and my side of the aisle.
In the past, I’ve mocked the absurd names with which vapid celebs afflict their kids for life. For instance, Penn Jillette named his first kid, Moxie Crimefighter. Jason Lee’s first-born is Pilot Inspektor. And then, there’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s Apple. I’ve dissed them all.
But I’m fair.
And that’s why I have to say that Sarah Palin’s choices in names for her kids are just annoying as all get out. Whacked out and pretentious. And frankly, stupid.
When Jillette named his daughter, I was quoted in the Las Vegas Weekly:
To further show us how much he “values” free speech–or wants to push its limits beyond acceptability and normalcy, Jillette recently named his new daughter Moxie CrimeFighter. She will be tortured all her life with this absurd name. No problem since her father’s house resembles a bizarre sado-masochism den mixed with macabre death penalty implements.
And I don’t feel differently about the Palin’s choices. Five choices. (Minus the bizarre, macabre stuff, which Jillette really does display all over his home.)
As I noted on Friday, her oldest kid, son Track, is named that because she likes to run. One story goes that the pregnant teen daughter, Bristol, is name after the city in Connecticut where ESPN is located (Sarah Palin was once a sportscaster who longed to make it in the biz). Though, the Palins are now saying it’s not true and that she’s named for Alaska’s Bristol Bay. And then there are Willow, Piper, and Trig.
When I heard names like this, I think: “hippy parents” or “very plastic”.
Um, whatever happened to names like John, Sam, Sarah, Rachel, Jim, and Bill? Not one of her kids has a conventional, normal name. Ditto for the Hussein Obama kids, Sasha and Malia. Funny, Sasha doesn’t look like a Russian male. Not impressed with Hunter Biden, either.
Whenever I hear of parents who name their kids with these pretentious and bizarre names off the beaten track, I feel these parents are saying: look at me, I’m special, I’m fancy, I’m different, and, oh yeah, did I mention, look at me? It’s annoying.
And the same goes for Governor Sarah Palin. If you name your kid after something you run on or a city where you longed to work (though, again, they’re now saying Bristol is named for the well-known Alaskan bay), I have to question your judgment. I wonder where the Miss America pageant was held the year she became runner up for Miss Alaska. If memory serves me correctly, perhaps she should have named one of her kids Atlantic or Boardwalk. Or Talent.
In the past, WASPy upper class women gave their children–particularly their male children–their maiden surnames as first names. Soon, though, those names became adopted by the aspiring middle class and, finally, the aspiring working class, from which they ultimately became stripper names. Tiffany, Taylor, Hunter, Carter, Cullen, Spencer, Lyon, Logan, Sterling, Walker, Tucker, Prescott, Grayson, Brittany-cum-Britney were all last names of some rich guy’s clan. Why would you name your kid after some old, fat, inbred rich guy you’ve never met? Trust me, he’s not reciprocating the favor. (Would you name your firstborn son, “Bush“? He fits the same bill.)
People who do this–who choose these fancy-sounding or obscure name–really strike me as ignorant and common. Some of them are immigrants, who want their kids to sound upper crust. Others are native born. They want to sound classy, but their choice of names for their kids betrays from where they really come. I knew someone whose parents named her Remy after a bottle of Remy Martin. Dumb (and she changed her name). Giving your kid a name like this is akin to a nouveau riche lottery winner buying a bright yellow Ferrari. Look at me–I’m fancy, I have class; Really, I do. No, really.
Logan, Ryan, Reagan (unless the kid is named after the great President Ronald Reagan–then it’s okay), Murphy, Kennedy, Campbell, and Reilly (in various spellings) all began as Irish surnames, which they still are. But I’ve seen a lot of Jews–especially those who don’t keep much of the religion and seem embarrassed by it–name their kids with these as a first name. I always think: Funny, you don’t look Irish. I can’t imagine any Irish person naming his/her kid Cohen or Feldman. Horowitz O’Houlihan doesn’t exactly have a great ring to it (though it makes for a great tongue-twister). Katz Flannagan is an improvement, but not by much–don’t look for that to happen.
I also laugh when I see offspring of my fellow co-religionists with the names Hunter and Fisher. Like they or their parents ever did either. Hunting for sport and for food is prohibited in Jewish law (because of Jewish law requiring animals to be slaughtered in captivity, not shot). And even though most Jews are not religious, they just are not sportsmen in general. I know, I know–it’s a stereotype, but largely true. You don’t see a lot of Jews at Gander Mountain or Cabela’s looking for gear.
That said, my father and I loved the great outdoors and he took us whitewater rafting on the Colorado River, to see the rocks of Sedona, Arizona, in and around the Florida Everglades, on regular hikes, and encouraged us to learn how to identify different birds and animals in a field near our house. He was very much into nature and wildlife and taught it to me–subscribing me to “Ranger Rick” Magazine. And, yes, a few times my dad took me fishing. None of this inspired him to give me a pretentious name, though, and it doesn’t inspire me to have kids and name them thusly, either. Thank G-d, I’m not Ranger Schlussel. Or Sparrow.
My dad longed to see Montana (which he eventually did and was disappointed). Thankfully, that didn’t inspire my parents to name any of us after the state. I think the same thing about people who name their kids, “Dakota“–North or South? Isn’t that an American Indian name?
My own siblings are guilty of this phenomenon, sort of. One of my sisters named her kid, Bella (like an old lady or the guy who played Dracula–though he used one “L”). My other sister named one of her kids, Isabelle (that mistaken old-lady-name-as-chic thing, again) and another, Elliot. Why must everything be so fancy and pretentious? My father and I used to mock these haughty names, as we did someone at our synagogue who named his daughter Brittany Erin, which struck us as the name of someone more familiar with a pole and six-inch platforms.
Simple, Biblical, average names are where it’s at. They do well, when you’re applying for and interviewing for a job. Unusual names don’t.
Problem is, no one in America wants to be average. Sadly, they express their “aspirations” with their kids’ names, only to have themselves and their kids be average–frankly, below mediocre–anyway, in the way they live their lives. Better to have an average, plain name, and to achieve greatness in your accomplishments and deeds. But everyone wants their kids’ names to sound like they walked off the set of a soap opera.
It’s fraud, really. People who give their kids these kinds of names want to pretend they’re something they’re not.
Here’s a good rule of thumb. Don’t name your kids after any of these:
* fruits, vegetables, spices, drinks, or other foods (no Apple, Cherry, Pepper, not to mention Lasagna, Pizza, Lutefisk, Gefilte Fish, Jambalaya,Salsa, Shawarmeh, or CousCous);
* jobs, especially when you misspell them with a “k” (Hunter, Fisher, Pilot Inspektor, Moxie Crimefighter, Poet, Carnie Wilson);
* colors (Amber, Blue, Azure, Turquoise, Teal, Silver, Grey, Gray);
* places (Bryce Dallas Howard–Ron Howard’s daughter, named after the city in which her parents conceived her (real classy–well, at least she wasn’t named, “Buick Backseat Howard”), Bristol Palin, Paris Hilton, Paris Jackson (one of Michael’s other pseudo-kids) Tehran, Karachi, Dearborn, Walla Walla);
* natural phenomena (Leaf, Twig, Willow, Flower, Sierra, River, Lake, Sunshine, Sunset, Sky, Dawn, Tornado, Earthquake, Mudslide)–these names are the domain of American Indians;
* household items (Michael Jackson’s pseudo-kid, Blanket);
* fake royalty and weird perversions of real words (Jermajesty Jackson–Germaine Jackson’s kid, Prince Jackson–another of Michael Jackson’s pseudo-kids, Star Jones–real name, Starlet Jones);
And now a new one:
* sports equipment (Track Palin, Mitt Romney (to be fair, his is a middle name–real first name is Willard), Baseball, Jock.
(I won’t even go into the inner city, urban names that have nothing to do with Africa, despite the belief that they do. LaDainian, Condoleezza (supposed to be based on a musical term)? Who names their kid that?)
I’m sure you can add some other rules.
The bottom line is that a name is like a tattoo. Sure you can have it lasered off (or go to court to get your name legally changed), but the scars and a hint of it remain, and in general, this is a permanent, lifelong decision. If you treat it lightly or absurdly, I wonder how you make other decisions.
And I conclude that you don’t really think too much or too hard. It may sound trivial or old fashioned to you, but her choice of kids’ names makes me wonder all of these things about the woman who may be our next Vice President.
Even though I like Sarah Palin and I’m still voting for her, I wonder.
Reader Sean and his wife Rebecca put this list of naming rules together over the years. Some are the same as my own (great minds think alike!) and others are great additions:
1. Don’t name your kid after a season. That includes, Summer, Autumn, Spring, and especially any FRENCH versions of the same.
2. Don’t name your kid after a city/place. That rules out Dallas, Houston, Austin, Atlanta, America, etc.
3. Don’t name your kid after an occupation/pastime. No Hunter, Tanner, etc.
4. Don’t name your kid after a spice. No Cinnamon, Saffron, Sage, etc.
5. Don’t name your kid after a fruit. Sorry Gwyneth, that means Apple, too.
6. Don’t give your kid a normal name with a weird spelling. For example, Aymie, Ondray, Alyce, etc.
7. Don’t name your kid to show how artistic and/or freaky you are. So Moxie Crimefighter, Rumer, Scout, Moon Unit and the rest are pretty much headed for therapy at some point.
7. Finally, the “Boy Named Sue” test. This is named after the song sung by Johnny Cash in which a man leaves his family after naming his new son Sue. Needless to say, the kid’s life was hard. So while babies may seem cute when you name them Percival, Sidney, Gertrude, etc, you have to picture what life will be like when they go through middle school with that name. It’s a VERY different experience.
Here’s another way of looking at it. How would your child do if he/she was left stranded on the island from “Lord of the Flies” with that name?
Great advice. Too bad the Palins didn’t get the memo.
*** UPDATE: Reader Breda, a loyal reader in Ireland, writes:
My name in english means Brigid (St. Brigid of Ireland) When I lived in the U.S., I knew many Jewish people and they always loved my name, but when they asked what it meant and I explained, they would say it is a very obviously Christian name and we can’t use it. We use to have a great laugh.
I always said to them why do you want unusual names? We were brought up to use Biblical or Saint names which have great histories.
There is nothing more inspiring than having a name which has historical or religious connotions. [DS: Amen, Breda!]
God Bless you and your common sense which unfortunately is now an endangered species.