The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Opinion

May 30, 2013

Our names are our first possessions

ENID, Okla. — Editor’s note: This column was first published May 23, 2004.

When there’s a baby on the way, the mom- and dad-to-be spend as much time trying to come up with just the right name as they do painting the nursery or buying diapers.

There are whole books on the subject of what to name your child. Family members and friends have no shortage of suggestions, as well.

Some children are named after relatives, some are named after biblical figures, some after sports stars or popular entertainers.

In several years when teachers in Oklahoma classrooms call out “Jacob,” or “Emily,” several heads are likely to turn.

According to the state Health Department, Jacob and Emily were the most popular baby names in 2003 in Oklahoma.

In this matter, at least, Oklahoma was in step with the rest of the nation, as Jacob and Emily were the most popular baby names nationwide last year.

Nowhere to be found, of course, is Jeffrey. My name came in 142nd last year, down from 132 in 2002.

Just 13 short years ago, in 1990, Jeffrey was No. 44. This is a disturbing trend. Jeffrey is getting a bad rap.

During the 1950s, the decade of my birth, Jeffrey was 24th most popular, rising to a peak of 10th during the 1960s and then beginning a steady decline.

I don’t understand why it has been slipping in popularity. It is a perfectly fine name, functional and yet not too flashy.

It comes, according to a Web site called behind thename.com, from an old French form of a Germanic name.

The second part comes from the Germanic word “frid,” or peace.

The first part might have come from the Germanic word “gawia,” which means territory.

It also might have come from “walah,” which means stranger, “gisil,” which means hostage, or “god,” which means, well, god.

So my name either means “peaceful territory,” “strange hostage,” or “God, is that kid ugly.”

 I hated my name when I was a kid. I was convinced it was stupid. And I hated being called Jeffrey.

When my mother was really mad at me, or wanted to get my attention, she would use my full name. It always got my attention. She could stop me in my tracks at 100 yards with my full name.

Some names are lyrical, some poetic, some downright strange. Count on celebrities to hang some of the goofiest monikers on their offspring.

Rocker John Mellencamp and his wife Elaine Irwin named their sons Speck Wildhorse and Hud.

Can you imagine Irwin doing the “yell the kid’s full name to get his attention” trick — “Speck Wildhorse Mellencamp, you come in here right now,” — and being able to keep a straight face?

Rocker Bob Geldof had three daughters named Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom and Pixie.

These were his children, mind you, not his French poodles.

Celebrities, it seems, aren’t the only ones who bless their children with strange names.

In 2000, the last year for which the Social Security Administration has complete records, 29 baby girls in the United States were named Whisper, 35 were named Vanity, 16 named Reality and 23 named Sparkle.

The list of odd boys’ names is even longer. There were Doc (five babies), Gator (eight), Truth (10), Denim (seven), Atom (11), Casanova (six) and Famous (six) — which sounds like the 21st Century version of the seven dwarfs.

Our names are our first possessions in this world, our first gifts from our parents.

All of them, even the odd ones, are bestowed lovingly, if a bit misguidedly.

As I grew I came to really like my name, especially when you consider some of the alternatives.

I could have been Champion Cashmere (which sounds like a show dog), or Maverick Morpheus, all of which were names with which parents saddled their infants in 2000.

These days my wife calls me the usual assortment of pet names spouses use, like Honey or Dear, unless she really wants my attention, in which case she uses my full name.

It still works.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.

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