Joanna Schroeder thinks it’s high time we realize that diversity is good for society, even when it comes to unusual baby names like Pilot Inspektor and North West.
If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen this theme:
Celebrity has a baby. Celebrity gives baby an unusual name. Maybe it’s Pilot Inspektor. Maybe it’s Moxie CrimeFighter. Most likely the one that sticks out in your mind is North West, daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
Cue people complaining about “names these days” and concern-trolling the poor little dear. “What kind of life will these children have? Won’t they be teased?”
Let me tell you about the life North West will probably have: She will be very loved, as it seems every member of the Kardashian/Jenner family has been so far. She will never lack for proper nutrition, never go without medical care. She will probably go to the best schools and get an excellent musical and artistic education. She will meet celebrities and people whose names are in history books. Judging by her parents, she will probably be beautiful.
Now, I’m not saying her life will be perfect or that Kim and Kanye will be the best parents ever. I don’t know them. I don’t follow their lives outside of the inescapable headlines that come through my timelines and the occasional gluttonous Keeping Up With the Kardashians marathon when I’m sick.
But if you’re clutching at your pearls because of the names people are giving their babies, you might want to look into getting a new hobby, because unusual names are here to stay.
This month, GQ ran a piece by Drew Magary called The GQ Guide to Naming Your Baby, with a subhead that reads:
If name is destiny (Destynee?), then judging from the dumb-ass, intentionally misspelled, needlessly apostrophe’d names we Americans are giving our kids nowadays—Jaxxon, Branlee, Scot’t—we’re raising a generation of meth heads…
Now, I know he’s kidding about the meth heads, but with the way people erupt every time a celebrity announces the newest “Pirate” or “Daisy-Boo”, it’s not all that irrational to think some folks actually believe that a kid’s name could lead him to a life of crime.
Guess what? It’s all bullshit. Check out that poor mess of a human failure Condoleezza Rice, whose name violates not one, but TWO primary rules on Magary’s list: “Go easy on the ‘extreme’ letters” (such as k, z, and x) and “Do not use double letters if you don’t have to.” I mean, imagine how far that nice lady Condoleezza would have gone had she been named Jane…
Oh wait. That’s right. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
And that one guy, you know him, the guy with the funny, un-American first and last names. Barack Obama. Poor dude. If only he’d been called Jim, maybe he could’ve been a two-term President.
But this isn’t only about people of color and the ways in which some white folks can’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that the Black community has, in the last thirty years or so, embraced unusual names more quickly than white folks have. Though that’s an important note to be made—one mark of a person I have no interest in being friends with is their willingness to make a joke about so-called “Black names”. If you can’t see how racist and colonialist that entire conversation is, you need to just step away.
But now mainstream society (read: white people) has jumped aboard the made-up name train and is riding it all the way to Bryndyn-town. As Magary notes, “Seemingly rational people are naming their kids Baylynn, and Daxx, and Nirvana. Ethans are becoming Aythans. Marys are becoming Jazzmins.”
Leaving aside the fact that every generation has a group of names the generation before finds irritatingly trendy or “made-up” (in 1987 my mother lamented that my friend Alisa was neither “Lisa” nor “Alisha”), we need to face the fact that once upon a time even the names Abraham and Sarah were new. You never know what’s going to stick. For instance, when Jaden Smith was born in 1998, most of us had never heard the name (his mom’s name is Jada). By 2012, the name Jaden (with variations like Jayden and Jaeden) was #9 in the top 100 baby names in America.
Above all, I think it’s high time we recognize the inherent problems with assigning more legitimacy to New Testament names like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John than names that come from other cultures and religions.
Back to the Kardashians (sorry). Over the last few years more than one of my friends has complained that “Khloe” isn’t even a name.
Here’s the newsflash: Yes it is. You know how you can tell? Because it’s what her parents named her and also it’s what people call her. That makes it a name. It makes it her name. It’s okay if you don’t like it, but your dislike doesn’t make it somehow not legitimate or respectable.
My favorite quote on this subject comes from Penn Jillette, whose daughter’s name is Moxie CrimeFighter.
I think it’s pretty cruel to give a kid a name that others are going to have. I think it’s very important to have a unique name within any group you’re likely to be in. It’s more friendly to go to school being the only “Penn” then to have to be called by your full name, “Mike Jones” or whatever. I always felt sorry for the Mikes and Bobs. There’s just so many, how do you know when they’re talking to you?
I love the name Moxie, I love that’s it’s a purely American word, and those are rare, and I love that it stands for old fashioned spunk and energy. EZ [Jillette's wife] pushed for her middle name, “CrimeFighter” because EZ doesn’t have a middle name and thinks middle names are stupid. So, it’s just a joke. When she gets pulled over by the police she can show her license and say, ‘We’re on the same side, officer, my middle name is CrimeFighter.’
And while I like traditional names, I see his point. When I was in high school, every Sarah, Jennifer and Michelle hated having to be called by both first and last names, and one time I rode in a car with three different guys all named Josh. There’s even a great song from The Kids in the Hall called “The Daves I Know” that I think we can all relate to. And get this: I have an uncle named Dave, a cousin named Dave, a nephew named Dave, a brother-in-law named Dave, dated a guy named Dave and my first husband was a totally different guy named Dave. I bet you know just as many.
I’m not saying Dave isn’t a great name. I’m just saying that being one of twenty in your school might not be the best thing either.
Above all, what someone else names their kid is none of your damn business. Nothing is going to happen to society because your neighbor’s daughter is called Shauntoria or your kid’s best friend is named Atlas. In fact, with all this name diversity, we may be close to eliminating the entire concept of the “weird name”. Wouldn’t it be great if your kid could go to school and not worry about being bullied because of his or her name? That isn’t gonna happen if all the grown-ups keep bitching like this about so-called weird names.
So hop on board and enjoy what’s happening right now with baby names. It’s going to happen with or without you, so you might as well set an example for your kids on how to learn to love people not just despite of their differences, but because of them.
Jamie Oliver and family: AP