Friday, July 18, 2003

Infantile Nomenclature

If you are a virile man like me with dashing good looks and inexhaustible stamina, it’s probable that you’ve impregnated many women all over town and even some in far away places. Or you may be a pregnant woman yourself, or perhaps the husband/ boyfriend/ life partner of someone who is expecting, or, possibly, you are currently waiting for your adopted overseas child to clear U.S. customs. In any of these circumstances, you are likely to be suffering fitful, frantic, sleepless nights as you decide what to name your progeny. And of course, if, like me, you have numerous buns in numerous ovens, the anxiety owing to the baby-naming dilemma increases exponentially.

Selecting the proper name for your child is no easy task. One must search through the Yellow Pages line by line, crossing out names until only a small, manageable collection remains. Then, one must dissect each name for flaws: the etymology must be researched; the local seer or telephone psychic must be consulted to determine the numerological and astrological value of potential names; and, finally, the name must be checked with rhyming and alliterative words to predict eventual childhood taunts and jeers.

It’s likely you’ve selected Zoe, Chloe, Emma, Emily, or Abby for your daughter’s name. This is terrible.

In the end, it is likely you’ve selected Zoe, Chloe, Emma, Emily, or Abby for your daughter. This is terrible. Your daughter, Mia, will be one of fifty-six other Mias in her kindergarten class because every parent-to-be is picking the same “unique” name.

Baby-naming trends are as impossible to predict as the stock market. Witness the recent wave of geographic places as names: first came the Madisons and Dakotas and Parises; most recently every newborn seemed to be a Trenton, Detroit, Schenectady, or Uganda. This fad probably peaked when hot celebrity couple Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe announced the name of their baby on the way: Des Moines.

Hollywood has always been a great source of names. In my daughter Keanu’s first-grade class, there are three Oprahs, two Ashtons, one Kutcher, and both a male and a female Mr. T. So if you’re thinking of naming your child J.Lo or Gilligan, better keep looking, pal!

Going with biblical names would seem a safe bet, but in this year’s official ESPN Top Baby Names List (brought to you by Dodge/Chrysler), Methuselah, Lot, and Lucifer all cracked the top 10, and even Nebuchadnezzar made it to the top 100. Out with the Good Book. Have you checked the Koran? Mohamed, Muhammad, Mohammad, and Mo are all up there in the top 50.

And, off course, names are cyclical, which is why our grandparents’ names are all coming back. There’s a whole new generation of Gladyses, Beatrices, and Ethels going on play dates with Horaces, Eugenes, and Rutherfords. Quaint and retro, sure, but if you haven’t already given your child an obsolete name, you’ve missed the boat. You don’t want your kid growing up with an old-fashioned name that’s expired twice over!

So what should we name our babies of tomorrow? How do we stay ahead of the curve? One new fad that’s very slowly catching on: fancy foods. In the hospital nursery, there are some newborn Pâtés, Foi Grases, and Abalones. But you better claim your delicious baby A.S.A.P., before the edible thing becomes passé: Kate Hudson and her husband—you know, that rocker guy from whatever band he’s in—have already announced their intentions of Pilaf if it’s a boy and Kobe Beef if it’s a girl.

Other name sources on the horizon are atomic elements. Carbon, Boron, Lanthanum, and Manganese are all great up-and-coming baby names. Very hot are gender-neutral noble gases: Neon, Argon, Xenon, and Radon. Also in vogue are game-show hosts (Sajak, Trebek, Martindale, etc.) and chic prescription drugs (Vicodin, Paxil, Zoloft)—but those too are in danger of becoming old-hat very fast.

Well, I’ve got my baby names picked out, and I ain’t tellin’. I’ll give you a hint, though: metamorphic rock.

Ray Stillman once killed a man with his bare hands, although he is not one to brag about such things. He is an aspiring screenwriter, an inspiring poet, and a perspiring photographer. Mr. Stillman is an ex-New Yorker who now lives in scenic, sunny, star-saturated Los Angeles, in an apartment building between a bowling alley and a tattoo parlor. He often finds it difficult to resist the urge to ink “Gutter balls” across the knuckles of his left hand. He has made sweet, sweet love with supermodel Heidi Klum many, many times but, again, is not one to brag.

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