Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Zamboni By Any Other Name

Having a common last name certainly has its advantages. People rarely mispronounce Jones or Young. And how many ways can you spell Brown or Jackson? There must be a type of serenity imbued in those who stride through life as Smiths, Rogerses or Hamiltons (or even Levys). Their teachers likely never stumbled on their names when calling roll and they probably got made fun of a lot less.

Of course, the downside of a well-worn last name comes when it's paired with an equally popular first name. I've heard stories of Brian Johnson's within the same university getting someone else's transcripts and such people are incredibly hard to Google. So it should come as no surprise that plenty of parents decide to give their kids rather unusual first names to balance things out.

Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon can be seen in Vice Presidental candidate Sarah Palin's own brood of bizarrely moniked kids. According to the Washington Post, the mother of Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper and Trig always wanted another son named Zamboni. Maybe if Obama wins, the governor can go back to Alaska and conceive at the Wasilla ice rink.

But it's not just politicians or celebrities (they're a whole other category). I've seen startling evidence of what I hereby dub the "Kooky McDonald Syndrome" among my spawning peers. The last few months I have encountered an Ender, Jaxon, Finley, Lake, Stratton and Broc (and these are just the boys!).

What is it about human nature that leads to the Kooky McDonald Syndrome? Is it our deep desire to forge a unique idenity - schoolyard taunts be damned? With a one-of-a-kind name perhaps a person has a greater likelihood of making something of him/herself simply because he/she has had to overcome obstacles stemming from the name itself. Or is it because we just love to be the first ones to do something, i.e. the Christopher Columbus Corollary.

Though I have no idea what last name my own kids will have to endure (I'm not cruel enough to force hyphenation on them), I know my mother would disown me if I gave them any vocabulary words as appellations. Besides, with me as a parent I doubt they will need a name like Zamboni to be unique.

3 comments:

Josh said...

Two things:
One, I met someone named Dejavu (don't know the spelling) yesterday.
Two, there's a chapter in Freakonomics about names. Interesting stuff, and of course the book as a whole is highly recommended.

Stacy said...

Here are just some of the names I have encountered over the years: BriAndee, Craven, March, Qiana, Kolton, Teegan, Ranch, Blessing, Baby Girl, Princess, Bowie (as in David, no doubt), Jester, Blaze, Cage, and Maverick (and yes, little Maverick was named after Tom Cruise's character in "Top Gun").

...And I thought that my parents screwed me over by not giving me a middle name.

SaraK said...

I've always loved having a common name, although I do like names that are not exactly the typical, but still mainstream. My cousins in Israel give their kids the most interesting first names, but that is a pretty common occurrence in Israel. Any Hebrew word is fair game :)