The Name Game

I’ve always thought that my parents did a good job of choosing unique yet accessible names for me and my siblings: Bryce (real name Ronald, but they knew we’d call him Bryce), Alana, Kara, Dallin and Scott.  Okay, so Scott’s not so original, but we still love him.  None of these names are off-the-wall, but I still get plenty of questions about their origins.

I am disturbed by the volume of awful, awful names that celebrities give their children:  Phinnaeus (Julia Roberts, with that pretentious spelling), Tu (Rob Morrow – Tu Morrow, get it?), Apple (Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin).  It seems that celebrities feel obligated to foist unique identity on their children.

What happened to normal names? You know, like Steve or Moon Unit?  Here’s a list of 2004’s most popular names by gender:

Girls: Emma, Madison, Emily, Kaitlyn, Hailey, Olivia, Isabella, Hannah, Sarah, Abigail

Boys: Jacob, Aidan, Ethan, Ryan, Matthew, Michael, Tyler, Joshua, Nicholas, Connor

And to my brother Bryce I say it’s "The Ascent of Stan"! (see Ben Folds).  Stan is my nephew’s name.  We need more Stans.

40 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. Stan’s a good, solid name.

    Sumer and I have picked out some names but a) we have no kids and b) I won’t reveal them for fear of what happened to George Costanza.

  2. Oh yeah, one I forgot to mention is Shaun Alexander (of the Seattle Seahawks) who has a daughter named Heaven. I’m a fan of not putting to much pressure on the kids – it’s like naming your daughter Chastity. Bryce – you’re well on your way to tying George Foreman. You should also name the next one Ronald something.

  3. Worst celebrity name choice of all time:


    Michael Jackson actually named his son Blanket, as if the kid doesn’t have a horrifically uphill battle in life ahead of him already.

  4. My siblings and I all have incredibly common names: Barbara, Jennifer, Darryl, William, Daniel, and Susan. Barb, Jenny, Willy/Bill, Dan/Danny, and Susie. (Darryl was named for his father…I think. My memory’s so bad I can’t remember my mom’s first husband’s name, man.) It wasn’t until I was a teenager and saw something that said Barb is one of the most common B-names for girls that I asked my mom why she did that to us. She said she just wanted *something* in her life that was normal. And there was no arguing with that. (If you knew my family history you’d understand!)

    We named our kids Nathaniel Si, Catherine Elizabeth, and Elijah. Nathaniel Si because we love the name. (Pronounced like “sigh.”) Catherine Elizabeth was for my grandma. I actually don’t like the name very much, but I liked my grandma (and boy was she excited about it). Elijah was named from a dream my husband had while I was pregnant with him in which his dead grandfather, who we were going to name the baby after, told him to name him Elijah. No middle name.

    It wasn’t till my kids were in elementary that I realized we named them Nate and Kate. Ugh! We don’t allow them to be shortened like that, although Catherine has started going by Cat, which I like.

  5. O man, that’s a famous one! George comes up with a great name for his baby, and tells it to a friend who then steals it. You can read the whole script of it here, but here’s the gist (sorry for the length):

    SUSAN: I can tell you, I would never name my child Soda.

    GEORGE: Oh, no no no. Course not. I got a great name for our kids. A real original. You wanna hear what it is? Huh, you ready?

    SUSAN: Yeah.

    George uses his finger to draw a number 7 in the air, accompanying the strokes of his digit with a two-tone whistle.

    SUSAN: What is that? Sign language?

    GEORGE: No, Seven.

    SUSAN: Seven Costanza? You’re serious?

    GEORGE: Yeah. It’s a beautiful name for a boy or a girl…

    Susan scoffs.

    GEORGE: …especially a girl. Or a boy.

    SUSAN: I don’t think so.

    GEORGE: What, you don’t like the name?

    SUSAN: It’s not a name. It’s a number.

    GEORGE: I know. It’s Mickey Mantle’s number. So not only is it an all around beautiful name, it is also a living tribute.

    SUSAN: It’s awful. I hate it!

    GEORGE: (angry) Well, that’s the name!

    SUSAN: (also angry) Oh no it is not! No child of mine is ever going to be named Seven!

    GEORGE: (yelling) Awright, let’s just stay calm here! Don’t get all crazy on me!

  6. …then, when Susan tells him of the name theft:

    SUSAN: They’re gonna name their baby Seven.

    GEORGE: (disbelief) What?! They’re stealing the name?! That’s my name, I made it up!

    SUSAN: I can’t believe that they’re using it.

    GEORGE: (anger) Well now it’s not gonna be original! It’s gonna lose all its cachet!

    SUSAN: I dunno how much cachet it had to begin with.

    GEORGE: (rage) Oh, it’s got cachet, baby! It’s got cachet up the yin-yang!

  7. I can just hear George saying “Well, that’s the name!” accompanied by a brusque diagonal swipe of the arm.

    Apologies to anyone who has named their children in the following manner, but a recent trend that I am against is putting a “Mc” at the head of a girl’s name.

  8. My brother knew someone whose name was Joh3n. Or something like that…John with a silent 3 in it somewhere.

    I kind of like the name Seven. But that just might be because of Star Trek. I have a friend who once told his parents to just call him Nine of Eleven.

  9. Oh yeah…there was a girl at my church when I was little whose name was Wytanna. Because she was born in the back of a station wagon on the border between Montana and Wyoming. (And it wasn’t even a Mormon church.)

  10. Excellent! My name came out as Dalewyn Boydell.

    By the way, an interesting note about the name Steve. Elliott Smith’s real name is actually Steve. He thought the name Steve sounds too “jock”, so he changed it to Elliott. Elliott Evans? …

  11. Thanks Rusty, my Mormon name is apparently KaraDean Halla Lujah.


    So, Dallin and Bryce, I think I served a mission with your little sister Alana. Did she serve in St. Petersburg Russia in 1995-1996 time frame?

  12. Karen – Da. Alana is older than me, younger than Bryce. People call her Ah-LAWN-ah. It’s really. Ah-LANN-Ah. I’m not good at phoneticizing names.

  13. Steve, since you’re not too jock, why not change it to something more apropos of, to quote someone I know, your “wussy, skinny nerd[iness]”? Maybe instead of changing your first name, chaning your last name to say, Urkel. Nerds rule.

  14. Hey, if a name like Orville Redenbacher can be built into a major brand, I can work with Arville DeNorris.


    I went to elem. school with a DelRay.

  15. I had a Bishop whose first name was DelRay.

    I get really puzzled by a lot of stage names. For instance, Englebert Humperdinck.

  16. Hmm. I enjoy having an unusual name (Kaimi). So does Mardell.

    The kids have pretty unusual names too: Sullivan, Kace, and Indigo.

    They seem to fit, though. I wonder how much the name adjusts to the person, and how much the person adjusts to the name.

  17. I have an academic background and interest in literature [the 19th cent. William Morris]; I ended up working in the field of PR [William Morris Agency] even though that had never been my career plan.

  18. Kristine —

    We have a cousin Melissa, but she’s a Mano, not an Inouye.

    Unlike you Haglunds, Mormon Inouyes are not all related. That is, our family isn’t related to the rest of them :) (have made no resolution to eschew smilies)

  19. There’s a guy in our stake whose name is Carl Carl Carl.

    We also have a Benjamin Franklin in our ward, and a Robert Louis Stevenson.

    Does anyone really know a Lemonjello or an Orangejello?

  20. I am all for unique names. We named our daughter Keeley, which is my last name (my “maiden” name you might say, although I never changed my last name to Gibson when I got married, so it’s still my last name.) It’s perfect for her. There is a bit of confusion by people who don’t know that Brian and I have different last names. They say, “So her name is Keeley Keeley?”
    If we ever have a boy I’d like to give him Gibson as a first name and let him have Keeley as a last name. Now that would really be confusing!

    At any rate, I was so obsessed with having a more unique name as a youngster that I used to “change” my name periodically whenever I was going to summer camp or to a place where no one knew me. My favorites were Kennedy, Montanna, and Mercedes. I had a hard time keeping track of my various identities if one of my summer friends ever called or wrote.

    We toyed with using “Peace” as a middle name for Keeley. Ironically, it was Brian’s idea, and I really loved it, and then Brian soon decided that he hated it and it was stupid. We ended up choosing “Hope” as her middle name.

    Wow, I had a lot to say on this subject.

  21. My wife’s sister gave her second son her maiden name. His name is Hintze Garrett.

    Kristen (my wife) says it sounds like a sneeze.

  22. Two of my favorite names from college basketball: Majestic and Scientific Mapp (they’re brothers).

    Unrelated: I like when grandmas have nicknames. Like me and Bryce – our Grandma is Muzzy.

  23. On a related but slightly tangential subject. . .
    since some athletes names have been mentioned. . .

    A few years back I anonymously filled the final spot for the all -male fantasy football league Brian was in (they called their league “The Brethren.”) Knowing very little (okay nothing) about football, I somehow managed to get Donovan McNabb as my quarterback, with Dante Culpepper as my back up. I chose them purely because I liked their names, “Dante” managed to make football sound literary and slightly less obscene.

    With a name like Donovan McNabb, I assumed that this guy was some red-headed giant straight from Ireland (I pictured him like the cartoon on the front of the Lucky Charms box, only bigger.) You can imagine my surprise when Brian pointed out who McNabb really was in a Chunky soup commercial. Not exactly the red-headed bef-reckled lass I had visualized!

  24. Cameron Crazies to Antawn Jamison (who pronounces his name like “Antoine”):

    “Your momma can’t spell!”

  25. And if only I had known earlier that there was a baseball player named “Yogi Berra,” perhaps I could have developed an interest in the sport.

  26. Shannon,

    Since “Shannon” is a last name (not super common, but not unheard of), perhaps Keeley will marry a Mr. Shannon and take his last name — then she’ll be Keeley Shannon and you’ll confuse later generations of genealogists to no end.

  27. Re: Seven

    My son is the seventh in a patronymic line: the tradition has been to give the mother’s maiden name as the middle name. But, being me, I just couldn’t bow to tradition–at least not all the way–and I seriously toyed with the idea of giving him the middle name “Septimus” (like the main character in Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia”) and calling him “Sep,” which I still think is cute.

    In the end, though, we just gave him two middle names: Levin (from Anna Karenina) and Frandsen (my maiden name).

  28. My daughter is dating a guy with the last name Cheek. His dad says he lost all efforts of trying to name his kids what he wanted: Seymore, Harry and Rosy! Boyfriends name: Matt.

    The worst name i’ve heard lately was: Brigham. Last name: Young. In this day and age?!?

    Best name from the 70s: Last name: Brown, first: Golden. Friends of ours, total drug addicts.

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