Monday, August 10, 2009

The Name Game



(Disclaimer: If you watch this video long enough, you will encounter some naughty language. Watch at your own risk.)

Pay attention to the first part of this stand-up routine from Louis C.K., a reasonably funny guy who I thought was a no talent hack after seeing the commercials for his series on HBO (he still may be a no talent hack, but this bit is kinda funny). We as North Americans have become accustomed to hearing all kinds of crack pot names, largely thanks to celebrities deciding to buck conventions (just like George Clooney said) and name their children all kinds of weird crap. That, and LSD. Here is an abbreviated list of my favorite celebrity baby names, compliments of "Read The Smiths" (notable parent in parentheses): Diva Muffin (Frank Zappa); Dusti Raine (Vanilla Ica); Jermajesty (Janet Jackson), which is not to be outdone by Ya'majesty (T.I.); Audio Science (Shannyn Sossomon); Pilot Inspektor (Jason Lee); Tu Morrow (Robert Morrow); Bogart Che Peyote (David "Puck" Rainey, of Real World fame. And I need to say this is quite possibly my favorite. It incorporates so much! Bogart could mean hogging something or simply refer to Humphrey Bogart; Che could be directly inspired by Che Guevarra, or just by Argentine Spanish's version of "dude"; and peyote, well, is peyote. It's like Jerry Garcia naming his kid "Magic Mushrooms".); and Moxie CrimeFighter ( Penn Jillette from Penn and Teller). These names make Tom, Katie and Gweneth Paltrow look relativey sane for the names the chose. What's next? LovelyRitaMeterMaid? Don't get me wrong, I fully support naming your child as you please, whether that means having a John Smith or giving your baby a unique name that may break from familial tradition. But Diva Muffin? Really? Again, thank you LSD...and peyote.

I learned from my students a few months ago that this problem does not exist in Argentina, for there is a law against such practices. According to one online guide book, which gives a good translation, the law states: "(i)t is against the law in Argentina to give children names that are 'extravagant, ridiculous, contrary to our customs, political or foreign.' The government reserves the right to veto any name, though it kindly provides a list of 'acceptable' names for new parents." They told me that an Argentine child born in Argentina could not have my name, much less Moxie CrimeFighter. They described some of the other naming traditions, which I've since forgotten, and many names get repeated play down here. I know plenty of Santiago's, Gabriel's, Mariano's, and Natalia's, just as you'll find a slew of Micheal's, Jessica's, or Joseph's up north. That's not to say that I haven't met Argentines with interesting names. For example, one of Uli's friend's name is Rocio, the Spanish word for dew. A little strange, yes, but all together sweet sounding and beautiful in the image it evokes. Sadly, I can't say the same for Audio Science.


Above and below, Audio Science.


Odd Spanish names have several redeeming qualities; North American/British ones imply the parents blindly threw a dart at a board full of random words they picked from the dictionary. So while I may never meet an natural Argentine who shares my exact name, I also won't meet one named Ma √Ďana. However, I should not curse the name-Gods for allowing North Americans and Brits to give their children excessively weird names. If these people had not been able to exercise their inalienable right to "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness which definitely includes giving your children awful names even if that means they will suffer through middle school, high school, and require several years and multiple thousands of dollars worth of therapy in the future", Soleil Moon Frye would not be Punky Brewster.

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