The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

June 28, 2014

What’s in a name? Darn near everything

ENID, Okla. — Walk into a kindergarten classroom in Oklahoma in about five years, loudly call the names “Mason and Emma,” and chances are many little heads will turn your way.

Those were the most popular baby names in the state in 2013, according to the Social Security Administration.

The next five most popular boys’ names were Liam, Noah, William and Jaxon, while Sophia, Olivia, Ava and Isabella rounded out the top five girls’ names.

Nationwide Noah was No. 1 for boys, while Sophia topped the girls’ list. Noah made history, becoming the first boys’ name at No. 1 other than Jacob or Michael since 1960. Sophia, meanwhile, topped the list for the third straight year.

A couple of names that didn’t crack the top 10 but are the fastest risers among the top 1,000 baby monikers in the U.S. are Jayceon and Daleyza. Jayceon is the birth name of rapper, The Game, who also stars in VH1’s cable reality series “Marrying The Game.” Daleyza is the daughter of a Spanish-language TV star.

I was born just after the Cretaceous Period, in 1952, when flat-top haircuts and white T-shirts were considered high fashion. Back in those days, parents didn’t name their kids after TV stars. Heck, most people didn’t even have TV back then.

James was the top boys’ name in 1952, followed by Robert, John, Michael and David. On the girls’ side, the No. 1 name was Linda, with Mary, Patricia, Deborah and Susan rounding out the top five. Jeffrey was No. 31 that year. Woo hoo.

Actually, Jeffrey would eventually claw its way into the top 10, reaching as high as No. 9 in 1966, before beginning a long, slow decline in the late 1970s. In 2013, Jeffrey was the 256th most popular name in America.

I refuse to let that get me down. Prior to 1934, my name wasn’t even among the top 1,000 choices.

I like my name. I can’t think of another name I would like better, except maybe Mickey, since I always wanted to be Mickey when I was a kid — Mantle, that is, not Mouse.

Names are the one constant in our lives, the one thing we take with us from cradle to grave, and beyond. Thank goodness I won’t have to spend eternity beneath a hunk of granite bearing a name like Aloysius, Agamemnon or Abednego.

Naming a child is an important and highly personal venture. Just keep in mind you are naming a child and not a schnauzer. No one should be able to tell you what to name your offspring.

The Republic of Iceland doesn’t agree. The most sparsely populated nation in Europe has denied a passport to a 10-year-old girl because her name was not approved by authorities. The outrageous name in question? Harriet.

Icelandic law requires that parents must submit their children’s names to the national registry within six months of their birth. If the name is not on the approved list of 1,853 female and 1,712 male names, the parents must appeal to the Icelandic Naming Commission. Seriously.

So if Harriet Cardew and her family hope to go on their scheduled vacation to France in the coming weeks, she will have to travel on a passport identifying her simply as “Girl” Cardew, while her brother Duncan, whose name has similarly been rejected, will be known only as “Boy.”

There are some 5,000 kids born in Iceland each year, and the Icelandic Naming Commission must rule on about 100, of which they reject about half.

The commission says Icelandic babies must be given names that are “written in accordance with the ordinary rules of Icelandic orthography,” which means, in effect, that names containing letters that aren’t in Iceland’s 32-letter alphabet, like C, are rejected. Sorry Charlie. There is no Q or W, either, so Quincy and William are out, too.

Actually, Iceland is not the only country on Earth that tells parents what they can and can’t name their kids.

You couldn’t name your boy Anderson Cooper in Germany, for instance, because first names that also are last names are banned. Malaysia won’t let you name your baby after an animal, fruit or vegetable, so forget naming your kid Kumquat. The Mexican state of Sonora bans names that might attract bullying, like Hermione, Harry Potter, James Bond and Lady Di. In Portugal, Mona Lisa is among the names banned.

In America, you can name your child darn near anything you want. Authors Michael Sherrod and Matthew Rayback went through U.S. census records and wrote a book “Bad Baby Names: The Worst Names Parents Saddled their Kids With and You Can Too!”

Among the real names they discovered were Toilet Queen, Leper, Cholera, Stud Duck, Fat Meat and Freak Skull.

Heck, in Tennessee, you can even call your offspring “Messiah.” A judge at first ruled against a couple that named their boy Messiah, but that ruling was thrown out by a higher court.

I will never complain about my name. But if somebody wanted to start calling me Stud Duck, I wouldn’t complain too much.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com. Do not, under any circumstances, call him Stud Duck.

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