First Name: Female, pronounced Ladasha November 29, 2011 2:08 PM   Subscribe

You know that thing people do where they swear a friend of their sister's total used to work with a woman who named their kid Shithead (pronounced Shi-thead of course)? I remember reading a great takedown from someone here about why that kind of subtle racism is especially insidious. I'm having a hard time finding it through searches. Anyone remember what I'm talking about?
posted by 2bucksplus to MetaFilter-Related at 2:08 PM (112 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

No, but it is moderately entertaining to view all the comments with the word "shithead" in them.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:11 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


is it this one:
http://www.metafilter.com/86304/The-dash-dont-be-silent
posted by 2manyusernames at 2:15 PM on November 29, 2011




2manyuserswith2sintheirnames
posted by Sys Rq at 2:21 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you for this question. I recently spent a while in a room full of teachers recounting all of these "strange names" of students in their schools. Some were the old standards (Lemon-jello and Orange-jello). sigh.

That comment is going to help me respond better next time. (And damn were some of their names weird!)
posted by Seamus at 2:45 PM on November 29, 2011


Y'know, I kind of like the name Lemonjello.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 2:59 PM on November 29, 2011


Me too. It's fun to say. Said with an Italian accent, it's even better.
posted by desjardins at 3:00 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know that thing people do where they swear a friend of their sister's total used to work with a woman who named their kid Shithead (pronounced Shi-thead of course)?

It was Shai-hulud. But you probably shouldn't believe anything said by a guy called Liet-Kynes.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:07 PM on November 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


i like drinking limoncello and will sometimes pronounce it all french/italian-y with accents in utterly the wrong places.
posted by nadawi at 3:09 PM on November 29, 2011


I'm shithead and I'm BAAAADD
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:13 PM on November 29, 2011


This reminds me of FAMOUS MONSTER's awesome comment on Idris Elba being cast as a Norse God in Thor:
Casting a white actor as a nonwhite character is furthering a problem; doing the reverse is addressing it. That might seem like a double standard to some people, and those people are cordially invited to go suck a dick on the moon.
posted by davidjmcgee at 3:15 PM on November 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


Regarding Oranjello, from Baby's named a bad, bad thing?
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:16 PM on November 29, 2011


Here's a comment of mine from yet another thread where the racist urban legends started surfacing. I don't know if it's the one you are thinking of, but it fits the general criteria. It's also ranked number three on my list of "comments where I was getting pretty obviously annoyed." If that's not it, there might be another one on that thread you are thinking of.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:19 PM on November 29, 2011


It's good that you're looking for the comment you recall. As someone who frequented alt.folklore.urban back in the day, "funny names" posts were a bane and eventually became verboten there. As Angus Johnston wrote there back in 1997:
Why no funny names threads? Nine reasons, at least. One: like Mike says, they're usually not that funny. [...] Three: many of those tales, as we've seen in this go-round wind up being of the obnoxiously idiotically racist variety. [...] Five: they attract a bad element. [...] Eight: they bring out the aforementioned racism, vectoring, and general stupidity, so it's dangerous to killfile them.
I'm not sure that these stories are "especially insidious—or, at least, they're not any more insidious with regard to racism than are a great many examples of urban folklore. And these stories are, in fact, urban folklore. They have the most important characteristics: the source is usually a "friend of a friend", they are funny, and they validate negative stereotypes about marginalized people. Urban folklore also often expresses social anxiety of various forms and there are several ways in which these stories about names do so.

It's also the case that while these stories are often false, they can sometimes be true. This is true of urban folklore in general. The truth value is not determinative—some urban folklore is true. But even when true, it still serves the same functions, some of which are quite destructive. And, also as it usually the case, when they're false, it's next to impossible to get anyone telling these stories to believe it.

If you do a Google Groups search of a.f.u. and some relevant search terms, you can find more discussion about this subject than you could likely read. A lot of it will be people slapping down funny names posts, but I think you'll find some very cogent discussion of why these stories are racist. (Note that back in the mid-to-late nineties the husband and wife team behind snopes.com were a.f.u. regulars and that's how they got into the whole thing. That might matter to you with regard to credibility of a.f.u. Or maybe not.)
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:47 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Note that back in the mid-to-late nineties the husband and wife team behind snopes.com were a.f.u. regulars and that's how they got into the whole thing. That might matter to you with regard to credibility of a.f.u. Or maybe not.)

If, of course, you believe they exist at all and aren't fake identities created with George Soros's billions.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 4:00 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno. I mean, I see that there can definitely be a racist component to what's going on here, but I've always gotten just as big of a kick out of ridiculous, made-up hippie/yuppie names and deliberate misspellings.

Riffing off Pater's comment, I'm almost tempted to ask... why not?

Names, as a rule, or at least historically, meant something. We don't necessarily do a lot with that meaning anymore, but most cultures did at one point. For example, "John," "Johann," "Johannes," and "Ivan," are all translations of the Hebrew "יוחנן," "Yôḥanan," meaning "God is merciful." So while the meaning of many given and surnames is frequently lost in translation (literally in many cases), they're still real words.

It's one thing for someone to have a name that's simply foreign, and yes, it's in pretty poor taste to poke fun there. But a lot of the names on Pater's list are just made up words. They don't mean anything at all. A similar critique can go for bizarre alternate spellings like throwing in "y" in place of "i" (or vice versa) for no readily apparent reason.

Can someone explain to me why it's wrong to think there's just something funny about that?
posted by valkyryn at 4:14 PM on November 29, 2011


How come you your username is all weird with those Ys? And does it mean anything? Hilarious!
posted by rtha at 4:18 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Can someone explain to me why it's wrong to think there's just something funny about that?"

There's not. But you're ignoring the context. Most—really almost all—of the time these funny names stories are told by one person to another, they're passed-along stories about odd names that make it clear that the person with the funny name belongs to a marginalized demographic, usually black people but sometimes poor, rural white people and some others. That's the context. Those stories are offensive.

With regard to your sensibilities...it's not clear to me why you think that made up words for names are intrinsically funny. I'm not saying you're wrong for thinking this. I just don't get it.

I do know that many people find that unusual/original made-up names with "odd" spellings are not necessarily "funny" but are somehow annoying or offensive. I don't really get that, either, unless it has something to do with a streak of conservatism with regard to names.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:27 PM on November 29, 2011


Can someone explain to me why it's wrong to think there's just something funny about that?

I'm not going to tell you what you can or can't think is funny, but I do think that mocking another culture, particularly one you don't have a sophisticated understanding of, is pretty boorish.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:28 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's one thing for someone to have a name that's simply foreign, and yes, it's in pretty poor taste to poke fun there. But a lot of the names on Pater's list are just made up words.


I'm certainly no expert in African-American naming traditions, but my sense of things is that part of what is in play here is a desire (inchoate though it may be) to reclaim a sense of a unique cultural identity after centuries of forced slavery had denied Americans of African heritage a connection to their homeland; exacerbated by the separation of families when children or spouses were sold to other slaveowners, never to be seen again. Following emancipation, some felt it important to find names for their children that were, if not always names connected to their original culture, at least names that were not borrowed from the culture of the slave traders and plantation owners. But without a way to connect to African relatives, what can you do if you want your kid to have a name that has a connotation of a unique cultural identity? Well, you make up a word. Some might think that "just making up words" is worthy of mockery, but I read it as a creative and positive response to the loss of one's homeland, even in memory, and a refusal to simply be absorbed by the dominant culture. Naming is always an act of hopefulness and imagination even if you are just imagining the wonderful future that a child with the name you chose might have, but that is especially true when you are forging a completely new set of naming conventions to replace the ancestral names you no longer know.

There is almost nothing more meaningful to a person than the name they have chosen for their children. I wouldn't mock that choice lightly, even if I find it odd. And I certainly wouldn't mock the choices of a subculture that is collectively responding to a circumstance I have never faced. There's always more to something as important as naming than "they just make up words."

---
Addendum. Some quick Googling leads me to this pdf, which makes me think I'm on the right track.

Shakespeare once asked, “What is in a name?” The answer to this age-old question depends on the particular culture from which it is framed: among many African cultures a name tells a lot about the individual that it signifies, the language from which it is drawn, and the society that ascribes it. A name may indicate the linguistic structures and phonological processes found in the language, the position of the name’s bearer in society, and the collective history and life experiences of the people surrounding the individual. African cultures have various ways of naming a child, ranging from the Akan naming system based on days of the week to the Egyptian more cosmic one. Slavery, colonialism, and globalization have all contributed to the exportation of the African systems of naming into the African Diaspora. Among the various endeavors that African slaves made in becoming African American in culture, orientation was the culture of resistance involving the process of renaming themselves, constantly reverting back to their African cultural forms, such as spirituality, burial rites, and naming for inspiration and guidance, and thus reasserting themselves and reaffirming their humanity in a hostile world. Through re-naming themselves, African Americans have continued the process of cultural identity formulations and re-claiming of their complex African roots in the continuing process of redefining themselves and dismantling the paradigm that kept them mentally chained for centuries.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:41 PM on November 29, 2011 [56 favorites]


Well, this is the perfect place to relate my coincidentally-named-people story. Today there was a sample sale on Fifth Avenue and 27th Street for J. Crew (and Madewell, etc). I had an hour to kill this morning and the line wasn't too long so on it I hopped thinking to score for my daughters for Christmas, and then began talking to the young woman in front of me -- tall and blonde and super-preppy looking and maybe 20? After a bit, we introduced ourselves and I was secretly delighted to learn that her name was Chanel. I shopped and left and went across the way to Starbucks, queued up again, and the gorgeous dreadlocked, (lightly-accented although I couldn't identify it) black woman on line in front of me was asked her name to be written on her cup, and she spelled it out, yes, Chanelle. This really happened! It made me happy to be a New Yorker.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:54 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is it Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore's kid that's named 'Coco'? Somebody like that.
posted by box at 5:05 PM on November 29, 2011


Courteney Cox and David Arquette's daughter is named Coco.

what I wouldn't give for the chance to repurpose the brain cells dedicated to that factoid
posted by argonauta at 5:09 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


(In addition to Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore's daughter, I meant! You were right!)
posted by argonauta at 5:10 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Can someone explain to me why it's wrong to think there's just something funny about that?"

Because someone will always try to correct you and show you the error of your ways, because they feel it's their responsibility to really use this platform, uh, as a platform, you know, to really address a social issue.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:13 PM on November 29, 2011


My mum once taught a girl whose name was pronounced "Car-oss-uhnny".
posted by flabdablet at 5:15 PM on November 29, 2011


Was it this thread? Cuz that was me specifically repeating the Shithead thing. My boyfriend at the time had sworn it was a girl he knew. When I got called out on it here, I asked him about it and found out that he was just personalizing the story from someone else. Which seems to be the way these things keep going. Sigh. Live and learn.
Is this my first callout? I'm so proud.
posted by yellowbinder at 5:47 PM on November 29, 2011


I get a grin out of hippy names like River, Sunshine, Moon Unit, but I wouldn't think anyone would put that in the same category as laughing at cultural/ethnic names.
posted by Glinn at 5:51 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Addendum. Some quick Googling leads me to this pdf, which makes me think I'm on the right track.

See, now that's what I was looking for.

Also, I should have been clearer earlier. Even cultures that put a huge premium on the meaning of names play with them a bit. I get that. You see this a lot in the Bible, where Old Testament women were constantly naming their kids with neologisms that sound in Hebrew like "normal" words that had significance for whatever was going on when the kid was born. But it's still always a play on something with actual semantic content, not just a combination of more-or-less aesthetically pleasing phonemes.

I think what jumps out at me a lot of the time is that a lot of the sort of names we're talking about here don't obviously have this semantic content. I'm not talking about straight-up foreign names. Both "Rajesh" and "Kwame" look like "real" foreign words, even if I have no idea as to their actual meaning. But a lot of African-American neologisms just don't, and the linked pdf suggests that this is because they're actually mixing words from different languages in what is intended to be an approximation of African naming traditions. Then on top of that they engage in the standard sort of play that all cultures do, with the result a name that doesn't look like it came from anywhere.

As the article says, "The fact that they are adding a French prefix to an English word is of little concern." If the result is names that don't intuitively look like they come from any particular place, the article suggests that this may actually be the whole point, as African-Americans attempt to reassert a cultural identity after centuries of explicit and implicit oppression, cultural and otherwise.

So yeah, that makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks.

Still doesn't explain the hippies and celebrities, but whatever.
posted by valkyryn at 5:58 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I get a grin out of hippy names like River, Sunshine, Moon Unit

My middle name is Charity which I lump in with all those other names. I have a friend named Lichen and she's a really lovely person and it's a lovely name for her, but I don't think that sort of thing is for everyone.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:04 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


why it's wrong to think there's just something funny about
Because making fun of other people's cultures is not nice. And, confirmation bias plays a big part. Robert Porter-Anderson is a goofy name, but Robert says it's an old family name, and it sounds British, so it doesn't get disrespected. Chantrice Washington, however, might. In my Catholic grade school, there was a plethora of Mary Anns, Mary Katherines, Mary Janes, and even a Mary Bernadette in high school. When you pick out Chantrice, or Reshawn, you're only noticing one trend in naming.
posted by theora55 at 6:05 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a friend named Lichen and she's a really lovely person and it's a lovely name for her, but I don't think that sort of thing is for everyone.

I don't know. It kinda grows on you.

sad trombone
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:09 PM on November 29, 2011 [62 favorites]

"Names, as a rule, or at least historically, meant something. We don't necessarily do a lot with that meaning anymore, but most cultures did at one point. For example, "John," "Johann," "Johannes," and "Ivan," are all translations of the Hebrew "יוחנן," "Yôḥanan," meaning "God is merciful." So while the meaning of many given and surnames is frequently lost in translation (literally in many cases), they're still real words.

It's one thing for someone to have a name that's simply foreign, and yes, it's in pretty poor taste to poke fun there. But a lot of the names on Pater's list are just made up words. They don't mean anything at all. A similar critique can go for bizarre alternate spellings like throwing in "y" in place of "i" (or vice versa) for no readily apparent reason."
In addition to what others have said, I'm surprised that you ask this question, valkyryn. You usually seem like a pretty thoughtful person. To begin with, we invoke the ghost of languagehat to once again remind everyone that all words are made up. Language is not physics, and its forms and rules change over time. A fact that you illustrate very well in the first paragraph of yours that I've quoted.

So we must therefore amend your objection. It doesn't bother you that the names in question are made up words, but rather that they were made up recently.

To expand on your answer to the posted pdf: I'm again surprised that it took you reading that pdf to say that. The way I was going to put it was "it seems self evident to me that the names do "mean something": they mean that the named is a proud member of a particular American subculture."

I also don't really get the giggles at hippie names. A couple people that probably believe pretty strongly in certain principled things fell in love and had some number of children. They express those principles (and hope to impart them to their children, in the way that most parents hope to impart values to their children) in part through the child's name.

Or perhaps sometimes it's something shallower, like "you are special and glittery and unique and important, just like me!" Whatever. They're just names.

If you actually meet someone named "Orangejello," sure, I'd understand having a quick giggle. But I'd think that if you thought about it later in a more reflective mood, the humor would dissipate.
I don't know. It kinda grows on you.
I'm giving you a very stony-faced look right now.
posted by kavasa at 6:20 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]

just made up words. They don't mean anything at all. A similar critique can go for bizarre alternate spellings like throwing in "y" in place of "i" (or vice versa) for no readily apparent reason.

Can someone explain to me why it's wrong to think there's just something funny about that?
posted by valkyryn at 7:14 PM on November 29 [+] [!]
You're kidding right? Does Lion or paper or raindrop mean something all on it's own, or are you and I part of a group that agrees that each means something? I think it's interesting that you draw the line of acceptability at "at least means something in another language." I mean, seriously? My parents were pretty fucking presumptuous when they chose my name. We are a Whitey McWhiterson British but been here in American since 1634 family. And yet I have a Fancy Frenchypants name. Which I am allowed to think is ridiculous because it's my family and my name, and it fits my ridiculous self. ok, so the story is that my older sister and I are named after songs. But while I'm whining, could pepole please stop telling me that The Four Tops recorded it first? Thanks.

So those names on Pater's list? They mean something to the families who choose them, and to the people who are known by them. I'm sorry that you don't get to be part of the group that's privy to those meanings. I know it sucks to be left out. But congratulations on being left out of group whose language sharing members, often families, were separated and/or forbidden to speak their native tongue.

Lucky for you, meaning is not static. Meaning is not inherent. Meaning is not a value that you or I get to allot.

Also, I don't think there's something wrong with thinking it's funny. But I do think there's something wrong with insulting folks' cultural choices for kicks especially when the range of available choices is limited by circumstances that it would be generous to describe as cruel. And I definitely think there's something offensive about your being indignant about my not being amused at your insults to some people I care deeply about. Because while you may not know any people with these "made up words" for names, I do. And they are people.
posted by bilabial at 6:21 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


They mean something to the families who choose them

My middle name is John, which means my parents lacked originality. Making fun of names that don't conform to whatever style sheet you think matters is just another way of making someone the "Other", and it's a few steps away towards denigrating them and thinking they don't have as much value as you and your social group.

In other words, the name you're given matters less than the name you make for yourself.
posted by arcticseal at 6:24 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm giving you a very stony-faced look right now.

Oh, who can give this little fella a stony-faced look, I ask you.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:33 PM on November 29, 2011


I'm surprised that you ask this question... You usually seem like a pretty thoughtful person.

How does asking a question make someone thoughtless? This thread is sure bringing out the sanctimony...
posted by John Cohen at 6:51 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


jessamyn: "My middle name is Charity which I lump in with all those other names."

Hmm. I always parsed Charity as a WASP name, one of the trifecta along with Faith and Hope.
posted by workerant at 6:52 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


All clothing styles are made up too but sometimes the way people dress just looks ridiculous. I don't think it's simply a matter of a name obviously having been made up: it's the case where someone has sat down, solemnly contemplated the name that may identify their child for that child's entire life, and arrived at the equivalent of a Lady Gaga outfit.

I wouldn't want to make anyone feel bad and it's an entirely subjective and culturally-oriented perception but the fact that the resulting name is deeply meaningful kinda makes it even funnier. It's like - these were my father's enormous red clown shoes, and he was a talented and professional performer! I'll wear them anywhere I please!

Some of the heavily hyphenated baroque names that British nobility have are especially funny because not only are they deeply meaningful but are seen as status symbols and signs of good breeding.

Making up urban legends as a sort of minstrel show to mock a particular culture, especially a disadvantaged culture or people, not so funny.
posted by XMLicious at 7:13 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

How does asking a question make someone thoughtless? This thread is sure bringing out the sanctimony...
Don't judge. My parents named me Shithead, and this is how I feel better about myself.

:(
posted by kavasa at 7:29 PM on November 29, 2011


I always parsed Charity as a WASP name

I see more of that than hippie, too. It's got echoes of Puritan naming traditions, in which kids were named after desired values, textual references, or even warnings. I've always had kind of a thing for names like Hate-Evil, Remember, and Restore.

In any case, I think it's a particularly apt name for a person inclined to be tolerant and patient and to assume the best of others, generally, even when they're a little wigged out.
posted by Miko at 7:34 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


My dentist's daughter in law's cousin totally had a student in her class named Sanctimony. Yuh huh!
posted by villanelles at dawn at 7:34 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hmm. I always parsed Charity as a WASP name, one of the trifecta along with Faith and Hope.

For similar, but in many ways opposite reasons, I parse it as "evangelical preacher's kid."

To the topic at hand, I think the fact that these urban legends often revolve around the namer being dumber is really important. Lemonjello? Asshole? These aren't "wacky" names, their people mispronouncing things with the obvious implication that they're illiterate or stupid. It's always in bad taste, but making it about the parent's intelligence, rather than simple bad taste, highlights the racism.

I have a complicated relationship with the simply unusual names because I have a cousin (first, once removed), who has an absolutely absurd name: Johneteria, pronounced to rhyme with cafeteria. There's a lot making this name sound funny; not least of which is that it kind of sounds like gonorrhea, but rhymes with cafeteria. It's really hard not to hear that and laugh, and I still do on a regular basis, even though Johneteria is a lovely person and I don't really like the idea of people making fun of her. I don't judge my initial instinct to laugh too harshly, since it's a fairly involuntary response, but I do hope that people don't laugh at her. I also kind of wish that her father hadn't been so hell-bent on naming her after himself (John) that he inadvertently damaged her chances of finding a job.

Oh and on the bizarre chance that Johneteria is reading this, apologies if I misspelled your name.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:35 PM on November 29, 2011


I parse it as "evangelical preacher's kid."

Not totally off base. The last West on that side who wasn't a Joseph Thomas was Bennett West who had a wife and a baby [JTW I] and then went off on his own to be an itinerant horse preacher [we can see her in the rooming house alone after he left in the census] and I always sort of wonder what became of him.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:42 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


to mock a particular culture, especially a disadvantaged culture or people, not so funny.

It's funny to me that one would find it more acceptable to mock names given by members of an advantaged culture. I'd love to know your reasoning there.

(For the record, I mock advantaged people's names all the time. I really can't stand the practice of giving last-names-as-first-names, which seems to happen predominantly among the pretentious rich people in my town. But I also mock poor people's names, encountering some real howlers down at the criminal courthouse.)
posted by jayder at 7:44 PM on November 29, 2011


Why, for the love of little green apples. would you mock anybody's name?

It's one thing to notice and wonder, quite another to mock. Is there anything more provincial than "Wow, you sure got a weird name!"
posted by Miko at 7:50 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


As enlightened and respectful as your and other people's viewpoint is, it's just hard for me not to laugh at some names, sorry. As someone recently said to me, "Name your child after a $4 bottle of rum and expect me not to joke about it? Fahgetaboutit."

But anyway, naming is a choice, and like many choices, some people choose poorly. And that creates occasions for humor.
posted by jayder at 7:56 PM on November 29, 2011


It's funny to me that one would find it more acceptable to mock names given by members of an advantaged culture. I'd love to know your reasoning there.

I don't know about reasoning, but it certainly isn't unusual. Not exactly the same, but what leaps to mind was a thread where there was much derision about people wishing others "have a blessed day" -- until a couple of people noted that these were mostly older, black women doing the religious well-wishing. IIRC, to some, this made all the difference in the world between being utterly worthy of mocking and not. I'm guessing they were initially picturing some new-agey white folk.

As for Puritan names, I've always really liked Constance.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:58 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


it's just hard for me not to laugh at some names, sorry.

Still don't get it. It's hard because....?

It just seems like you have a wilful lack of reflection here on what you're doing when you choose to laugh at people's given names (something they don't even choose for themselves) without understanding the reasoning behind them, or even having sympathy for the people who did the naming with, it stands to reason, the best of intentions.
posted by Miko at 7:59 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's interesting this is coming up, because just yesterday I was reading an article by Shashank Bengali in Grantland, and went to the FB thread about it, and a bunch of comments were, "Ha ha! I laughed at the name!" "LOL haha name!" type stuff. The article is about watching sports in a foreign country, and I combed the story to see what was so damn funny...is he a Bengals fan? Nope. Er...anything else? Nope, as far as I can see. Guess the name Shashank is supposed to be obviously funny. I almost waded in with "what's so funny about Shashank" but didn't.
posted by sweetkid at 7:59 PM on November 29, 2011


jessamyn writes "My middle name is Charity which I lump in with all those other names. "

This is interesting to me as I wouldn't associate Charity with hippies but rather Fundamentalist Christians along with names like Chastity, Grace, Mercy and Hope.

On preview looks like I'm not the only one.
posted by Mitheral at 8:04 PM on November 29, 2011


Now, there's an important difference between laughing at a person's name and laughing about a person's name. You can mock, or you can just be amused.

For years, I had a downright ridiculous name. It had to do with rather unfortunate divorces and remarriages that left me with a hyphenated last name. I won't say what it was (but you can MeMail if little stuff like this bugs you -- it'd bug me), but it was like this: "Joy-Sorrow" or "Big-Little" or something like that. You can't help but be amused by that. There were times, when I was cranky, when I just didn't want to deal with any jokes about it, but most of them time, I just acknowledged that it was a ridiculous name. No one ever was mean when laughing about my name. It wasn't the sort of thing that's amusing in a mean way. It's just silly.

Or there are names like, say, Ruth Barcan Marcus. That name's just fun.

Of course, my silly last name didn't have anything to do with race or class. And Ruth Barcan Marcus is an incredibly well-respected philosopher. The fun involved here has nothing to do with pointing and laughing at someone who's stupid enough to have a stupid name -- instead, it's just soaking up what amusements life gives us.

But this doesn't at all excuse laughing at names like "La-a." There is an unavoidable film of "Can you believe how stupid someone is to name their kid that!?" to such humor.
posted by meese at 8:15 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


One of my high-school buddies had sisters named Charity and Trinity (and, uh, Mia). Their folks were evangelical-leaning Catholics. Trinity went by 'Trini.'
posted by box at 8:17 PM on November 29, 2011


I also don't really get the giggles at hippie names.

Well, it was grins, if that makes a difference. I'm not mocking hippie names, I think they are generally sweet, and it's usually a bit of a surprise, and I'd characterize it as a good-natured sort of response. I think that lands on the ok side of things. But I'd certainly agree with Jessamyn in that they're not for everyone.

Wait. Am I a brown noser now, or do I have to agree with a mod repeatedly?
posted by Glinn at 8:28 PM on November 29, 2011


My middle name is Edward, which the internet tells me translates literally as something like "guardian of wealth/prosperity", so I may in fact be a rogue agent for the 1%. Sorry about that, almost everybody.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:28 PM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Look. I work with a dude named Pony Wang. You can't tell me not to laugh at that.

On the other hand, occasionally I will stop to chuckle at every single person I know named Richard, Randolph, Harold, or William, so maybe I'm not the best person to judge.
posted by darksasami at 8:34 PM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of my high-school buddies had sisters named Charity and Trinity (and, uh, Mia). Their folks were evangelical-leaning Catholics. Trinity went by 'Trini.'

The only thing "Trini" says to me is "Power Ranger."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:44 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the world's top 3-day eventers is named Pippa Funnell. This has always made me chuckle (especially since Funnell is her married name).
posted by rtha at 9:02 PM on November 29, 2011




It's funny to me that one would find it more acceptable to mock names given by members of an advantaged culture. I'd love to know your reasoning there.

Didn't say anything about mocking anyone being acceptable. Sort of what I think meese is saying, to be amused by something doesn't mean that you're mocking it. It's when this sort of thing is portrayed as a particular trope or kind of tone deafness inherent in or particular to black culture, for example, that seems racist and mocking to me - when in fact as people have pointed out in this thread and the original one the occurrence of these sorts of names pretty universal.
posted by XMLicious at 9:36 PM on November 29, 2011


Thankfully I've already got my future first-born's name all set and ready to go.

But seriously, folks, I think it's natural to get a little eye-roll at certain names. The old puritan ones are a great example, as "Increase Mather" is intrinsically funny to me in a way I can't quite describe. Modern African-American names (I don't know if there's a neologism for the concept we're discussing) don't fit this bill to me, though. They sound nice, to me, and speak to a cultural pride which I'd think we can agree is a positive thing. And it's a tragic shame that someone named Tyree or LaShonda won't get as much of a chance with their resume as someone named Carter or Madison, but that's not Tyree or LaShonda's fault, nor that of their parents, and when those studies get mentioned there always seems to be a hint of blaming the victim, like they should have known better than to send out resumes with such obviously non-European names on them, or that their parents should have considered that. Fuck that noise.

But there's more to the urban legend stories of Shithead and La-a and Lemonjello than just ignorance and haha-foreign-different-weird! At least when I've heard these stories, there's almost always the explicit or implicit aspect to the story that the mother thought up the name at the hospital. To me, this is trying to promote the idea of this marginalized subsection of society having a very blase and casual attitude towards having children. Like, "Oh, yeah, this kid I gotta have. My water broke so I guess I better think up a name for it." There's a lot of pernicious nonsense in those stories, but that's an aspect I haven't seen addressed before.

Meanwhile... my brother and sister-in-law are awesome hippies, and have a lovely daughter named Skye. They knew they wanted to name her Skye but also knew that it was going to be her middle name. As she was to be born in 2003, they wanted her first name to be Trouble. As in, she was born under a troubled sky. The rest of my family, with the exception of me, HATED this idea. I believe my mom's words were, "she's not a fucking dog."

I still love the name, which they were eventually talked out of. Because come on. A kid named Trouble is going to be AWESOME. And when she doesn't want to go by it, well, the family has always been calling her "Skye" anyway.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:01 PM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


One of my guests at Thanksgiving started repeating the "She said her name was Chlamydia" story, and I just didn't have the guts to call that shit out there. Reasonable skepticism can be a real conversational bummer. But I felt dirty about not calling it out, since it led to more fakety names being bantered about like that, and it felt like that racism-lite that I like to pretend that my regular friends don't fall into.

"It's funny to me that one would find it more acceptable to mock names given by members of an advantaged culture. I'd love to know your reasoning there."

There are two pretty simple reasons: First off, there's less likely to be accidental (or even intentional harm); advantaged cultures pretty much automatically have an advantage in being able to defend themselves. Second, it's much more likely that I'm a part of that advantaged culture and understand its shibboleths.

(Oh, and I work with a girl who's named Charity; her sister's named Chastity, and I really think that she got the raw deal.)
posted by klangklangston at 11:44 PM on November 29, 2011


When I visit foreign countries I usually buy a phrasebook so I can talk to the locals a little. When I was in Thailand I noticed that my name, Joe, looked as though it should be really easy for them to pronounce so I learned how to say "My name's Joe, what's yours?" They cracked up. Every time.

I have a very strong feeling that "Joe" means something rude in Thai, but I've never figured out what.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:15 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never understood why Native American names are translated, but no other country/culture names are. When I meet someone from Japan named Tomoko, I don't start calling them Moon Child. I call them Tomoko. When I meet someone named Gary, I never call them Spear Carrier. When someone addresses me, it's always as Derrick, not as Ruler (unfortunately).
posted by BurnChao at 1:41 AM on November 30, 2011


I laugh (privately) at all names I find ridiculous (be they Leaf, Fanny, Plexico (this is actually an awesome, consonant rich name), Snezhanjah ((not spelled correctly) a woman I took a language course with - there was nothing more beautiful than hearing her say her own name (she was/is Croatian) but out of anyone else's mouth it was a train wreck of fricatives and sibilants all vying for position). I gave my sister grief for a good week or the choice of her first child's name (her husband's choice). And there was my grandmother's name, or the name of her sisters -hoo boy!

We chose our children's names with a mind to keeping them pretty language and (western)culture neutral, though I lobbied hard to name the first one 'Werner'. I was voted down, often and vigorously.
posted by From Bklyn at 3:47 AM on November 30, 2011


I used to teach preschool and seriously, SERIOUSLY knew a family wherein the girls were named QuessSymphonee, Quessonthyme, and QuessSadde. Their brother's name was Patrick. (Confusingly, the elder two both went by "Quess." Thankfully, the youngest was just "Sadde" [Say-dee] most of the time.) The mom, when asked about the names (not by me - I just happened to be in the room) pointed out that she totally made them up because she wanted her daughters to have unique names. And Patrick was named such because he was a Patrick Junior.

Also in that school: Nyquilla.

Not making that up.

We gave our son a Portuguese name - one which is relatively common in Portugual, but most Americans scratch their heads at and need repeated a few times before they get it. (Though seriously, guys? Paulo? Man, I might as well name the next one João for the times I have to spell it out despite my efforts to find an English-Speaker-Friendly name.) What I find hilarious is that his name translates to "small" and... he's almost off of the charts in terms of height.

(My own name means "wisdom" to which I would like to say that my parents had some serious wishful thinking.)
posted by sonika at 4:01 AM on November 30, 2011


I have a very strong feeling that "Joe" means something rude in Thai, but I've never figured out what.

My mom's friendly neighborhood chimney sweep is Thai and he just goes by his first name - Singh. Because his last name doesn't really translate so well...

Maeksumporn.
posted by sonika at 4:04 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pleased to be an American black male with an decidedly English name that comes from thorny evergreen shrubs that "readily becomes dominant in suitable conditions".

I WILL MASS ON YOUR BORDER, IF THE TEMPERATURE IS RIGHT.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:14 AM on November 30, 2011 [16 favorites]


Chimney sweep is still a job?
posted by harriet vane at 4:44 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Chimney sweep is still a job?

In Vermont where - if not the majority, at least a sizeable plurality of people still use woodstoves for heating - yep. The chimney sweep is not only still a job, but one in high demand.
posted by sonika at 5:16 AM on November 30, 2011


I never understood why Native American names are translated, but no other country/culture names are.

They're translated for your benefit. As far as my experience extends, most Native people have more than one name, and if you ask politely, they'll often give you a full name in the Native language (sometimes quite long as, depending on the specific culture, it comes with clan information, parentage, and the like). But because of the fluid and multicultural space that existed in the West in the 1800s and in which the dominant language of communication was basic English, and because of the \history of Native Americans being managed and tracked by the US bureaucracy, and because of the era of boarding schools with a focus on suppressing Native identity, many Native American names were translated for the official record, and it became important for those Western naming approaches to stay with the person as an official identity even as they also retain their Native names, privately. In addition, people often have more than one Native name depending on the context and also whether they are a child, an adolescent/adult, or a senior - in some cultures you go by different names at different stages.

Interestingly, if you read in early American history in the 17th and 18th century, you don't often find Native names translated. Massasoit, Tecumseh, Powhatan, Pocahontas - these aren't their English names. An interesting case is King Phillip, whose name was Metacomet, but who adopted the English name purposefully. So the translation of names into English equivalents is mostly a function of the 19th century control by US agencies of the Native population. Today, it means that your family members had more than one name, and you likely do too.

I think it's natural to get a little eye-roll at certain names. The old puritan ones are a great example, as "Increase Mather" is intrinsically funny to me in a way I can't quite describe. Modern African-American names (I don't know if there's a neologism for the concept we're discussing) don't fit this bill to me, though. They sound nice, to me, and speak to a cultural pride which I'd think we can agree is a positive thing.

Why do these get different lenses? I think the old Puritan names also sound nice and speak of a cultural pride. Just like some naming traditions in the African-American community, they were used to set members of this group apart from the majority and to communicate values (whether the values are uniqueness, creativity, and freedom or the values are temperance, peace, or charity). Many Muslim names today are based on a similar impulse to the Puritan tradition of naming people after specific values, and I think we'd probably say that this was a marker of cultural pride. "Increase" is a name that hopes for prosperity under God's oversight. That's a nice thought.

I've spent my career teaching and educating in inner-city, urban, and suburban environments and encountered every kind of name in the book. I could toss up quite a long list of names people might think are strange, and believe me, QuessSadde would fit right in. The thing is, early on you realize that naming traditions are influenced by many things, including culture, current trends and individual outlook. All names are completely arbitrary - yours, mine, anyone's. It's just as ridiculous for affluent white Americans to choose names that "sound Scottish" or reference figures from the early Hebrew Bible as it is for someone else to make up a completely new name. Names are subject to fashions and sometimes carry a weight of family expectation (naming-after, last names as first or middle names) or religious signifiers (like saints' names, preceding names with Mary or Maria). In Hawaiian tradition, the gods pick your name and send it to your family as a sign. In Elizabethan England, you were named after a 'godparent' who your parents selected because of they were wealthier than you and were sucking up. there are cultures in which you're named after the day you were born or the season or moon phase or your parents' hopes for your good behavior or eventual wealth.

I think making fun of names just indicates that naming traditions, as a broad topic, isn't something you've yet encountered a lot or given a lot of thought to. In the grand scheme of things, a name like "John Smith" or "Allyson Wright" is every bit as culturally revealing as any other name you might pick out as bizarre.

Ultimately, in a multicultural world in which you want to be respectful, I totally get being curious about name origin and naming patterns, but I don't think there's a place for laughing or mocking anyone's name, because your own name, in an anthropological perspective, is just as ridiculous, and if you're asking people to laugh with you about how bizarro some Other's name is, you're asking them to bond with you over what klangklangston rightly called a 'shibboleth' which mostly serves just to reinforce your own sense of correctness in your own place in the culture. And that doesn't align well with being respectful.
posted by Miko at 6:14 AM on November 30, 2011 [24 favorites]


In Hawaiian tradition, the gods pick your name and send it to your family as a sign.

One of my mom's regrets was that she and my (Hawaiian) dad refused his mother's offer to name me in this fashion. They were afraid that, in addition to dealing with being a half-brown kid, I'd have a very traditional compound-word Hawaiian name that was 80 letters long and impossible for non-Hawaiians to say or spell.
posted by rtha at 6:50 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, how I love you, Miko.

Gee, that was a little excessive, maybe. But comments like those are not unusual from Miko and they're just so damn good.

It's nice to see that Angus's predictions about how funny names threads go (my quote) was proven wrong on MeTa. Though I think that it would have been different on MeFi. We stayed away from the racist stuff and although there was some indulgence in "look at those more-acceptable-to-mock-people's funny names" it included a lot of thoughtful discussion and some push-back, like Miko's.

Yeah, there's an important distinction between mocking and just finding something humorous. But the latter can become the former and, really, the latter has an important relationship with the former. They are not entirely different in quality.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned, which is interesting given the non-North Americans present on MeFi, is that in some countries there are legal limits to what names can be given children. This is true in northern Europe, some countries have lists of acceptable names. And the point of this is that it's thought to be a kind of child abuse to give a child a name that will make them the object of the sort of scrutiny and ridicule that is discussed above. This seems like a good argument, but it relies upon a pre-existing cultural uniformity and, more to the point, it's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn't it?

My sister and her husband, both professional evangelists, have named their two boys very Old Testament style: Noah and Ephraim. I'm not completely comfortable with that, but everything Miko wrote is just as germane in their case as in any other, and there you go.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:57 AM on November 30, 2011


A while ago, someone I knew (not someone with whom I am friends) commented on how they love how those silly Hispanics name their kids Jesus, it's just so ridiculous!

To which I said: Yeah, why don't they name their kids something normal, like Joshua?
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:00 AM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


My middle name is Charity which I lump in with all those other names.

I have a friend named Charity. Her last name is Counts. Really.

Yes, the parents were/are religious. Charity married my friend J a few years ago and kept her maiden name. She's possibly the nicest person I've ever known, incidentally.
posted by cooker girl at 7:09 AM on November 30, 2011


This is as good a time as any to revisit my fellow Wisconsinite Marijuana Pepsi Jackson. (Great article from the weird-named person's point of view, too!)
posted by Madamina at 7:46 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ivan Fyodorovich: " My sister and her husband, both professional evangelists, have named their two boys very Old Testament style: Noah and Ephraim. I'm not completely comfortable with that, but everything Miko wrote is just as germane in their case as in any other, and there you go."

Both of my kids have common English names that are in the Torah. They also, as per American Conservative Jewish religious tradition, have been given alternative names in Hebrew, their "Hebrew Names." So they each have been given a first and middle name in English and Hebrew. As was I, and as was my wife when she was born.

Neither of us ever use or mention our Hebrew names except when needed for religious services. We go by our English names, and so do our children. However, if when my daughter grows up (for example) she ever decides she wants to go by Shira Liora, which is her Hebrew name, rather than the English one she was given, neither of us would bat an eye. Same with my son.
posted by zarq at 7:55 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think making fun of names just indicates that naming traditions, as a broad topic, isn't something you've yet encountered a lot or given a lot of thought to.

I'll cop to that. As I think about it, I think what was bugging me is that because some of these names involve bits from entirely different language traditions, the result can be a name which doesn't look like it's part of a naming tradition at all. That, more than anything, strikes me as weird. The conversation here has showed me how that's not the case, and I'm appreciative of the correction. The next time I see someone making fun of one of those names, I'll be able to explain how there is actually a tradition at work there, and it's something worth taking seriously.
posted by valkyryn at 8:22 AM on November 30, 2011 [3 favorites]


Neither of us ever use or mention our Hebrew names except when needed for religious services.

My uncle has a Hebrew name [as does my mom] and he's in Wikipedia and there was an ongoing little Wikipedia tiff about whether to list his Hebrew name as his "given" name on his Wikipedia page when it's a name basically known only to the old guard folks in my family and he's not particularly known in the Jewish religious community. It's odd what people will stick to, but folks on Wikipedia are sometimes a little aggressive about the name thing.

But this is just a lead in to saying I met a kid with the BEST NAME last night, a local kid helping me out in computer classes and his name is Bill Ix. Just like that [he says it's German] and he's never heard of Bill Hicks. Better yet, he's got the same name as his dad and granddad and great-granddad, making him Bill Ix IV. I can not talk about it without getting a big goofy grin on my face. Fortunately, he also thinks this is terrific, so a good part of our get-to-know-you conversation was me being like "Dude that name is AWESOME" and him being "I know, right?" My entire interview with him [for what I think is an unpaid internship anyhow] was "Okay, you know computers, will you laugh at my keyboard cat jokes? No one around here gets them and I am lonely." He cracked up at that and now we are fast friends.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:41 AM on November 30, 2011 [14 favorites]


If I knew Bill Ix he would get sick of my Dune jokes really quickly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:44 AM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not before he'd get sick of me asking him what a hrung is.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:47 AM on November 30, 2011


You know that show 19 Kids and Counting? All the kids' names start with J. But there's one name that just sticks out as extra special. Let's see if you can spot it:

Joshua
Jana
John-David
Jill
Jessa
Jinger
Joseph
Josiah
Joy-Anna
Jedidiah
Jeremiah
Jason
James
Justin
Jackson
Johannah
Jennifer
Jordyn-Grace
Josie

I mean, come on now: Jinger??? Ginger with a J? That's cheating!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:51 AM on November 30, 2011


Some of my favorite names are the English names of Taiwanese kids. A lot of the girls are given vaguely stripperish names, but the boy names tend to be a little more free form go nuts: Achilles, Triplestone, Darwin, but nothing comes close to my favorite, the kid named If.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:53 AM on November 30, 2011


Both of my kids have common English names that are in the Torah. They also, as per American Conservative Jewish religious tradition, have been given alternative names in Hebrew, their "Hebrew Names." So they each have been given a first and middle name in English and Hebrew. As was I, and as was my wife when she was born.

I'm a half-Jew of murky religious identification, and my mother wasn't particularly observant when I was born and "forgot" to give me a Hebrew name, then decided, when I was twelve, that I needed one. She came thisclose to giving me the name "Feygele." Luckily, when we were in a Barnes & Noble researching names, that suggestion made some guy in the Jewish books section crack up. For good reason.

We went with Lavana, which is pretty. And, uh, I guess more appropriate.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:59 AM on November 30, 2011


All clothing styles are made up too but sometimes the way people dress just looks ridiculous. I don't think it's simply a matter of a name obviously having been made up: it's the case where someone has sat down, solemnly contemplated the name that may identify their child for that child's entire life, and arrived at the equivalent of a Lady Gaga outfit.

The thing is, though, that which outfit "looks ridiculous" depends on who you're asking. I mean, I'm sure you think these guys just "look ridiculous." But to them, this guy is the one who looks weird. So who's right?

Neither one. And that's why it's rude to make fun of those traditional Nigerian men for wearing what they wear, and it's why it'd be rude for them to make fun of your chinos and t-shirt.

Same thing with names.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:06 AM on November 30, 2011


Sys Rq: " I mean, come on now: Jinger??? Ginger with a J? That's cheating!"

I made the mistake of googling that. Urban Dictionary has an entry.

PhoBWanKenobi: "She came thisclose to giving me the name "Feygele."

My wife actually knows someone with the first name of Feygele. I'm guessing it's not a popular choice. :)

We went with Lavana, which is pretty. And, uh, I guess more appropriate."

It is pretty!
posted by zarq at 9:10 AM on November 30, 2011


That said, though -- there are people who have accepted that they have unusual names, and are okay with affectionate fun being poked at them; and in fact, they often start the teasing themselves. I knew a family when I was a kid who named their three kids Krishna, Guinnevere, and Theoden -- and yes, Theoden was named after the King of Rohan. Krishna would often joke after introducing herself that "Yeah, I'm the one who gets all the money after the guys in the airports." I also met a guy in college whose name was, I kid you not, "Cantad Hoopachu Svensgaard"; he would joke, with a grin, after introducing himself that "yeah, my parents were hippies, what can you do."

They both accepted they had weird names and opened the jokes first, and in that case it was okay to kid around WITH them about their names. But anyone jumping in and poking fun at their names before meeting them? That's just tacky.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:10 AM on November 30, 2011


I halfway considered naming my daughter Hepzibah, because I think it's awesome, until my husband pointed out that 1) we're not Jewish and 2) her last name was going to be Heino, pronounced "hey-no," and Hepzibah Heino isn't a name, it's a punch line.

This same man argued for naming our son Corran Aidan Victor Oneiros Tewson Heino, without a shred of irony. I pointed out that while a name can tell a story, it shouldn't tell a damn novel. (Our daughter is named Lillian and our son is named Alden.)
posted by KathrynT at 9:12 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know a girl whose parents fell in with some hippy crowd that liked to let a particular person, sort of a guru, who led the group do the naming of their children. The guy was (I think) Indonesian, and he tended to give people Indonesian names, while telling the parents that the name meant something grand, like "Mighty Warrior" or whatever.

Naturally, when this secular Jewish couple presents their child to him to be named, he comes up with...Sara.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:45 AM on November 30, 2011


I know a woman whose name is Chasity. Yes, spelled like that. I think it's hilarious, does that make me a bad person?
posted by radioamy at 10:01 AM on November 30, 2011


in that case it was okay to kid around WITH them about their names

I think this (and intent) is the key to this whole thing. I know people who have no problem with a little ribbing like my aunt Rose Busch - though she married into that. There are other cases where I will never bring it up. I know a Richard Peter Johnson Jr. He goes by Rick, but Sr. goes by Dick which would not be my choice. I would also not ever carry that name on to the next generation, but I have the sense not to bring it up or laugh at them.

I really wanted to name our third son Newton which my wife disliked for many reasons, but it was my dad who pointed out that I already had kids named Olivia and John - the connection never even dawned on me and I could have ended up on one of these lists and laughed at without even intending it. I assume that most of the time the people doing the naming just didn't notice whatever is supposed to be so funny about these names - at least the ones that aren't obviously being 'creative.'

If anyone out there is named Olivia Benjamin John please don't become a pop star because I already dodged that bullet once.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 10:17 AM on November 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


I know people who have no problem with a little ribbing like my aunt Rose Busch - though she married into that.

I know I"ve mentioned this before -- my parent's names are Richard and Jane. My father prefers being called "Dick."

Yep.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:27 AM on November 30, 2011


my parent's names are Richard and Jane. My father prefers being called "Dick."

My grandparents are Dick and Jane and have a daughter Mary Jane who grew up in the 70s and heard plenty about her name but she has always said she's thrilled with it because Mary is a nice name and Jane is her mom's name. She'd rather have her mom's name and the jokes that come with it.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 10:30 AM on November 30, 2011


My grandparents are Dick and Jane and have a daughter Mary Jane who grew up in the 70s and heard plenty about her name but she has always said she's thrilled with it because Mary is a nice name and Jane is her mom's name.

See, I grew up with my parents introducing themselves at parties, and then pointing to me and joking "and this is our daughter Spot."

That got old.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:37 AM on November 30, 2011 [6 favorites]


My SIL, growing up, was friends with Rick White. Back then, he went by Rich. He changed his nickname when he went into politics, because otherwise he would have literally appeared on the ballot as "Rich White (Republican)" and it seemed like a bad PR move.
posted by KathrynT at 10:38 AM on November 30, 2011 [25 favorites]


I used to work in a call centre that required me to use the customer's name at least once per call; they recorded us and you'd get a disproportionately stern talking-to if you missed too many checkmarks.

One day a customer called in and gave me his ID number. I pulled up his account and, lo and behold, his name was Richard Boner.

Dick Boner. That was his name.

I couldn't say it. I had to say it. I couldn't say it. I was 20 years old, my sense of humour hadn't progressed since puberty, I'd probably smoked a little weed on my lunch break—no way in hell could I say this guy's name without losing my shit.

But I had to. So we finished his business, and I asked if there was anything else he needed, and he said no, and I figured, fuck it, let's do this plausible-deniability style. "Thank you very much for calling," I said, and with fingers crossed I went for the short vowel: "...Mr. Bonner."

"It's, uh, it's pronounced 'boner,'" he said. Yup. Like the erection.

"Oh, sorry," I said, trying to take shallow breaths. "Thank you for calling, Mr. Boner."

Then I hung up and held my calls for a minute and I laughed and laughed and laughed.
posted by Zozo at 12:18 PM on November 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


My middle name is Edward, which the internet tells me translates literally as something like "guardian of wealth/prosperity", so I may in fact be a rogue agent for the 1%. Sorry about that, almost everybody.

In one context, my name can be translated as "victorious landlord's cry of triumph". So, uh, yeah. Back to work, serfs, those taxes aren't going to raise themselves.
posted by Errant at 1:45 PM on November 30, 2011 [5 favorites]


I visited my grandparents in the old folks home recently. The residents all have their names on the doors. One of them was Harry Nutt.
posted by desjardins at 4:59 PM on November 30, 2011


My wife's great-aunt had the surname Tester. Her first name was Ida.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:05 PM on November 30, 2011


I had a professor in college named Richard Groper. He mentioned in class that he'd asked his parents why they'd named him such. "We didn't think about it! We just thought Richard was a nice name!"
posted by kagredon at 6:04 PM on November 30, 2011


> My middle name is Edward, which the internet tells me translates literally as something like "guardian of wealth/prosperity", so I may in fact be a rogue agent for the 1%. Sorry about that, almost everybody.

In one context, my name can be translated as "victorious landlord's cry of triumph".


My ex spoke Cantonese, and told me once that my actual surname could loosely be translated into Cantonese as "Fist Full of Dollars."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:25 PM on November 30, 2011


My ex spoke Cantonese, and told me once that my actual surname could loosely be translated into Cantonese as "Fist Full of Dollars."

My mother used to be an adult ESL teacher in Hong Kong. Her students would choose English names as part of the course. I used to read the names on the students' papers. They included:

Satan Wu
Hitler Chan
Windmill Wong

If you don't think that's funny, I feel sad for you.

Then again, the Cantonese names that westerners chose for themselves were much sillier, .e.g., 'Silver Magnificent Oak Tree'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:50 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


I make fun of bogan names.

I'll stop now.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:08 PM on November 30, 2011


I know two sisters (family friends) named Cinnamon and Ginger. I suppose they're lucky their mom didn't have a third daughter and name her Nutmeg. They are as old as I am so this happened way before the Spice Girls came onto the scene.
posted by bad grammar at 9:19 PM on November 30, 2011


I had a professor in college named Richard Groper

Similarly, there is a professor named Richard Handler at UVA - I am told he goes by Dick, but that part may be too good to be true. My other favorites are Shepard Fairey's dad, Strait (true story, look it up) and a woman I once encountered named Phyllistine.
posted by naoko at 10:21 PM on November 30, 2011


I must have mentioned this here before, but I went to middle school with a girl named Wendy Weathers. She was cool and took the obvious immediate jokes in stride. But what made this so weird to me was that she was a twin. Her sister was Beth Weathers. So, given identical twins at birth, their parents apparently decided that one girl would get an immediately forgettable name, whereas the other would be a recurring comic book character.

I just don't understand the thought process there.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:18 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


You mean Wendy weathers the obvious jokes? BA HAH AHAHAHAHA i'm sorry
posted by neuromodulator at 12:33 PM on December 1, 2011


I must have mentioned this here before, but I went to middle school with a girl named Wendy Weathers. She was cool and took the obvious immediate jokes in stride. But what made this so weird to me was that she was a twin. Her sister was Beth Weathers.

What, no Heather? Opportunity missed!
posted by Sys Rq at 2:57 PM on December 1, 2011


Cantonese names that westerners chose for themselves were much sillier, .e.g., 'Silver Magnificent Oak Tree'.

Ha! My Cantonese family converts Christopher to Kay-to-fa which apparently means "Praying Flower". Much hilarity ensues.
posted by arcticseal at 8:37 PM on December 1, 2011


These aren't "wacky" names, their people mispronouncing things with the obvious implication that they're illiterate or stupid. It's always in bad taste, but making it about the parent's intelligence, rather than simple bad taste, highlights the racism.

Someone on a British parenting-focused forum I was looking at swore blind that they had a Spanish couple in who named their daughter after the 'pretty word the doctors kept saying' - Vagina. Because, clearly, in Spanish the word for 'vagina' must be 'fanjoinero' or something. Those crazy Spaniards, eh?

I find the American convention of adding 'Jr', 'III' or a middle name to their name very odd, and many 'stereotypical' American characters in British tropes will be called things like 'Buck J Strickland Jr III'.
posted by mippy at 6:32 AM on December 5, 2011


Names with Jr. or III (but never IV or higher) are generally used in American pop culture to signify the full spectrum of the Deep South, from Southern Gentleman to Hayseed to Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:24 PM on December 5, 2011


Unless the first name is something like Vance, or Chip, or Yancey, in which case you're dealing with old-money WASPs.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:28 PM on December 5, 2011


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