I’ve written on weird and funny names before, though in a largely different context. Last time was when Adolf Lu Hitler announced his campaign for state assembly in Meghalaya, India. Now, the topic has returned to the news. You may or may not have heard of Stephen McLaughlin, a new Canadian father whose online escapades have been compared to Sir Edmund Hillary climbing Everest. So what did he do?
He is the first man ever to submit naming rights for his newborn child to the will of random internet voters. By his own testimony, when he found that namemydaughter.com was available as a domain name, he knew it was a sign that the experiment was meant to be. Believe it or not, Stephen seems to have approached this about as reasonably as one could. Not what I expect from the man who came up with this idea in the first place. For one thing, he did not completely yield to the will of the voters. The winning name was “Cthulhu All-Spark McLaughlin,” but Stephen named his daughter “Amelia Savannah Joy McLaughlin,” drawing from the second-place first name and middle names in the top 10.
For another, Stephen did edit down the list online. According to an “ask me anything” Reddit post, his preference was to leave all options intact, but when several STIs appeared in contention, he removed them like any good father would.
So, here’s the question: how seriously should we take the naming process? I think we all have a good funny name story. In my family, one has been circulated for quite a while now, about a young girl whose name was pronounced “Ledasha,” with a long A, but was spelled “Le—a.” In her own words, “the dash isn’t silent.” Older generations have probably heard about someone named “Dick Hertz” or “Harry Cox.” Is it really damaging to be one of those people, or should we just say that it’s enough to let adults change their names in court?
Some have taken serious positions on this kind of thing. Adolf Lu Hitler might have a political career in India, but, in 2010, when a New Jersey couple tried to give their son the same name, it didn’t fly. They were deemed unfit parents, and they lost custody.
On whether or not the law should be involved, I won’t comment. My intuition, however, is that unless you’ve got some philosophy about abusive names (like in Johnny Cash’s song, “A Boy Named Sue”), it’s best to try and err on the side of banality. Le—a and Harry Cox were given no advantage by having legendarily funny names, but one can see pretty clearly some disadvantages of their naming. I would enumerate these, but I’m assuming you can guess.
And, to tell you the truth, something still bothers me about Stephen McLaughlin’s project. It reminds me of someone I knew in high school, whose middle name was “Danger.” Literally. You know, as in, “Danger is my middle name.” I think the rest of us might get to take comfort in knowing that our names are not gimmicks. I can’t tell you anything metaphysical about the significance of names, but there’s a difference, to me, a good difference, between the parents who make every effort to choose the right name for their sons and daughters, and those who treat the whole thing as a practical joke. It shows a certain consciousness in the former that is lacked in the latter. At least those parents know that it is possible for a name to preface an entire life in tone.
Ben “The Business” Moss wrote this article.