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Tuesday, October 4, 2011



I am headed to my high school reunion in a few weeks, and I wonder if anyone will recognize me. Not because I have changed that much, but because I was hardly ever there. At the time I considered myself home-schooled. Now you may say that I was probably involved in “extra-curricular activities,” but if you only knew what was in my curriculum you would have to admit I stuck to it pretty faithfully. Anyway, it's possible that someone at the reunion might remember my name, if it was the same, but it isn't. I'm sorry, parents, but I never thought of myself as a "Dave." These days everyone calls me Rick, even though that's not my name either, legally. I had my middle name officially changed to my first name, and as a result, most officials call me Eric. Those at work figure Rick is somehow short for Eric, even though they are both four letters. Sometimes they address an email to "Ric," thinking that I am just too lazy to make the effort for the extra syllable. But Rick is an assumed name. I assumed it in college, at the risk of making an ASS out of U and ME (mostly U).

The process parents use when they choose a name for their baby is both inscrutable and scary. Howard Stern is always complaining about his name: What parent looks at a little baby and thinks it looks like a "Howard?" I wonder if the baby actually looked like a Howard to them, or if they were thinking ahead to some day when it might. Black moms favor a name that is 1.) three syllables, 2.) seems unpronounceable just by looking at it, and 3.) ends in an "a." This is no joke: once on Judge Judy a mom introduced her daughter as Latrina. That one was clearly not thought through. They also like something with some punctuation in it. Another true story: my sister's friend is a teacher, and when she saw the name "La-a" on her roll call she was stumped. "Is your name pronounced 'La-uh?'" She asked. "No!" the girl replied, "It's La DASH uh! The DASH is NOT silent!" I was channel surfing and came across a movie starring someone named “N’Bushe Wright.” What is supposed to go between the “N” and the “Bushe?” I can think of a lot of different things to put in there. YOU think of some and let me know.

Celebrities are no better, possibly worse. Gwyneth Paltrow named her kid Apple. I guess to instill core values? It’s almost worth having another kid and naming it Orange, then compare the two. Angelina and Brad named their kid Maddox. Is Brad is a big Atlanta Braves fan or something? Let’s see just HOW big if he names one Smoltz. Frank Zappa, I guess trying to be funny, names his kid Dweezil. This name is easy enough to understand when you realize that he combined three of his favorite things to form the name: dwarfs, weasels and tweezers.

Parents: think ahead to the torture your kid will go through. My grandmothers' and great aunt's names were: Gladys, Mildred and Blanche. Is that sexy or what? How did grandchildren ever get born back then?

I think the Indians had a better idea on how to name a baby, basing it on how the baby’s physical qualities might be represented in nature. If it catches on, expect more names like: “Rains from Wrong End,” or “Gurgles like Aunt Mary’s Stomach” or “Shrieks like Faulty Car Alarm.”

Now that soap operas are being cancelled right and left, who is going to provide America’s children with popular names? Dylan, Chase, Lance…. Connor, Shane, thank god Ridge never caught on… I know if I had a kid I would name it Victor Newman, even if it was a girl, just so I would have an excuse to do my world-famous imitation.

Also, Mom & Dad, consider all the angles. These days celebrities take the first initial from the first name and the first syllable from the last name, and combine them: A-Rod, J-Lo, YOU try it! So Mom, if your last name is Nussbaum, don’t name the kid Anthony. If your last name is Bagnotti, Duane is out….

Grownups don’t fare any better with their own names. Prince, whose name really is Prince, decided he didn’t like that name, and changed it to some goofy symbol. What was that thing? A theta? A beta? A Catherine Zeta? No one knew what the hell that thing was so they just called him “the artist formerly known as Prince.” Then he didn’t like the theta thing so he changed it back to Prince, and was called “the artist formerly known as that squiggly thing.” He hasn’t had a hit song for awhile, and now he is simply called “the artist formerly known.”

Getting married and taking your husbands name presents all kinds of other issues. I told my wife when we got married I didn’t mind if she wanted to keep her maiden name, since so many of the other maidens were doing it. But PLEASE no hyphenates. Jesus- who can fit it on a check? And what if you have children, and your hyphenate kid marries another hyphenate? Your name starts to look like the Morse code and before you know it somebody is rescuing you for no reason.

Incidentally, they keep a list of the most popular name combinations for twins. Number four on the girls’ list is Faith and Hope. Clearly Mom is looking for some guidance. Number 18 is Heaven and Nevaeh, and I am not kidding: 16 dingbat moms and dads named their poor girls that. Dumb and rebmud. London and Paris clocked in at number 21. I don’t know where Cleveland and Omaha check in, but they have to be right up there. Mia and Mya, at number 23, is cute, but what about triplets: Mia, Myselfa, and Eya....

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