Monday, May 11, 2009

Smell that rose a mile away

Let’s make a small wager: Four canines named Molly live within a mile of your house.

Do you know why half the dog population answers to Molly? I have a trickle-down theory --After five or ten years, popular baby names make a downward spiral to the wet nose trade. For example, recently I’ve shaken as many hands of golden labs as college grads named Megan.

Apparently, for the next decade when we meet a child, an educated guess should pin it with an Emily or a Jacob. Call either name twenty years from now and you’ll be looking at the business end of a Labrador with a tennis ball.

It’s funny how most parents think their child is special, yet insist on labeling it with the most currently common name. Baby-name books are huge sellers, we all give them at showers, but apparently never bothered to open the cover and discover there’s only one page. “Great Baby Names 2004. Page 1: Emma.”

Want your kid to stand out at birth? How about Mortimer. Gertie. Dudley.

When I was in grade school, the teacher finished half our roll call with “Lynne,” and the other half with “Jim.” (Digression: The leader of our fourth grade gang was a Lynne – I staged coups to topple her reign, but these were only temporarily successful at best. Lynne had white-blond hair in a high pony tail, and she was the fastest runner in school. I would have died to have that pony tail. Unbeknownst to her, we were fierce rivals. That all ended when we became best friends a year later.)

“Karin,” was singular state-side, but still, I thought it frightfully dull, especially since no one pronounced it correctly, and my severe speech impediment didn’t help to clear things up. “Did you say Kaylo, dear? Perhaps you meant Carol?” I wanted something with at least three syllables, I guess so I could really mangle it. Claudia and Stephanie were appealing.

In the hopes of allying myself with a famous Karin, I discovered Isak Dennison (Karen Von Blixsen). No, she didn’t spell it right, but it kind of made the whole odyssey of my name worthwhile all the same.

Martin Amis wrote that Tim Henman never had a chance at winning Wimbledon because of the “Tim” curse -- no Tim had ever done anything of historical significance. Amis was no dummy (“Martin” sports a decent history). Mexicans, particularly, are mindful of the importance of a significant moniker. Don’t tell me you’re not expecting impressive results from a Jesus or an Angel.

African Americans took a lot of comedic heat when some children were given brand -spanking new names. Initially I thought, “Well, that can’t be legal.” It seemed the equivalent of making up your own numbers or counterfeiting money. But then I warmed to the idea. You created that kid, you can call it any damned thing that crosses your mind.

Which might lead to another trend. Why not name your child after a favorite craft, or hobby or food? You know, Wainscoting, Tune-up, Pomme-frites.

Anything, anything but Emily and Jacob.

I’d like to continue this train of thought, but I have to turn my attention to Christopher and Michele. They need worming.


  1. Immensely entertaining, m'dear and not badly written to boot!

    I know a chap christened Paul Merlin Whatever, who hid behind the Paul part until part-way through High School he realised the spotlight provided by the Merlin part. It also by then wonderfully fitted his geeky, eccentric character.

    Spare a thought to all those River, Tree and Rainbow names that have blighted futures. And then we have the offspring of Geldoff and Hutchence ... no wonder they go off the rails.

  2. Speaking of weird names, what about Brideshead, from BR? I think in the book he was known as Bridey. Didn't make it's way to the canines.


  3. Voldemort (oops I shouldn't have said that out loud)


  4. In the moth balls:


  5. I think there definitely is trickle down. Plus, there's re-discovery of once very common names. Frequently quaint names for children refer back to their great-grandparent's era, with dogs' names lagging not too far behind. Molly and also Max, very popular dog names, are also very popular late Victorian names, I think.

  6. FYI #1 I just checked on the Internet and confirmed that no one named "Jacob" has ever named his dog "Jacob."

    FYI #2 - 5:00pm TCM "The Hucksters"


    Dudley Mortimer

  7. Your trickle down naming theory is SO true. We once had a dog named Molly, a gentle spiit we rescued and brought to the Humane Society, only to be told she was "unadoptable." We showed them.

    When I was a kid, I went through a brief stage of telling people my name was Apple. Gwyneth stole her child's name from me.

    Family tree on my dad's side is nothing but bargain bin names. (Dad - Clyde, Grandma - Opal, Grandpa - Cecil, Uncle - Alden)

  8. I would take issue with your theory, if my sister (46) were not named Lynne.

  9. I was named for my mother's two cousins with whom she was raised: Martha and Ann. Ann is actually my middle name but it's what I've always been called since the day I was born (Annie to family and close friends.) I suppose my parents figured Ann Martha sounded odd. Martha Ann remains my legal name.

    When I was in about fourth of fifth grade it was my secret wish for my name to be Wendy. I thought that was just beautiful.

    Then in sixth grade a girl named Crystal moved to our town and was in my class. I had never heard of a person with that name before. Lovely.

    Childhood neighbor girls in one household were named after gemstones: Pearl, Ruby and Opal.

    I also grew up with identical triplets in the neighborhood named Hope, Faith and Charity.

    For years we had a maid whose first name was Arthur. Arthur Rollison. I loved that woman.

    I had a great-aunt named Beulah. That's truly a name you don't hear anymore.

    Alice is a name that runs in my family: my mother, my aunt and my cousin.

    As for male names, my two grandfathers were Clifford and Jess.

    My daughters are Rebecca and Jessica, my sons-in-law are John and Mario, and my grandchildren are Kimberly, Phillip, David and Steven. Nothing unusual about any of those names.

    As for pooches, my childhood Boxer was named Missy. My children's dogs, whom I inherited when my kids moved away, were Allie and Katie.

    When my children were growing up in the '70s and '80s they had girlfriends with names such as Cheyenne, Dakota and Sage. I always felt sorry for those girls.

    And now girls are being given first names that are the last names of presidents, like Madison and Tyler. I never quite got that.

    Thanks for the fun post -- it took me down Memory Lane!

  10. I'm getting very hungry all of a sudden. So, I'll come bak for comments later, Car in.

  11. In the third grade I tried changing my name at school from Virginia to Ginger. The only person that bought into it was the Handwriting Teacher that visited maybe twice a year and didn't know me from Adam. I also went round and round with my mother when she refused to change my name to Debbie after Debbie Reynolds for Pete's sake! Sometimes cooler heads prevail. Thank goodness.

    I'd like to bring up Sarah Palin's unique gift for naming children, but I'm just not up to it.

  12. This post is funny, but on Emily and Jacob, those names are already here. I already know three kids named Emily and one named Jacob... so if they trickle down fast enough they'll be canine names tomorrow.

    There just has to be a dog named Ronny someplace out there. Named after the supply-side "trickle-down" theory of Ronald Reagan. But the supply-side of names has no ending like Reagan's idiotic theory.

    One the other hand, who would have ever guessed there would be a dog named Cafe Observer running around off leash out there. HA!

    Vanda, those names are not quite in mothballs, 9 out of the 22 names you listed are friends of mine, but that list made it even funnier.

    From what I understand from dog trainers, the best name for a dog has two syllables, it's supposedly easier for the dog to member.

    I still know a woman name Molly, but no dogs I know have that name. The dogs names I know in our immediate vicinity are named Ziggie, Pinky, August, Raster and Muppit, and one of them is mine.

    Mid-Town G

    I'm sorta found of the VW name: Hoopoter (wink)

  13. Hey, these are some great stories! Ah yes, Julie, the nature names, including Summer.
    Well thought-out list Vanda, I was going to add Lionel, but damn, there it is. No one under 30 has any of those names.
    Yes Jean, I think Lily is pretty high on the charts, and Sarah.

    Susan, those are keepers. Clyde, for real? My grandad's name was Torvald. Always like that.

    Ann, as a little girl I would have pined for the name Crystal. Many of those names sound Southern, but you're not are you?

    Virg! You know you shouldn't have told me that story, because it will be used against you.

    Midtown: Vanda's saying you have some old friends. And what is the G for? Gustav?

  14. Another fine post indeed! Me, I wanted to be named Brandy.

    We come from the age of Pamala's, Julies, Karens, Diannes, Susans, Cathys and Debras. Our parents named our pets Boots and Blackie and kicked them outside. We grew up and brought them back in and gave them pretty names and regular check ups.

    On the plus side, I don't see a rush for Tovah and Peoples, although your uncle's name is close and I'm sure Vanda has come across a few Tebors in her day.
    Peoples? nope, Mr V's variation on Pickles.

  15. Well said, PA. We had a succession of schnauzers, named Heide 1, Heide 2 ...Well, you get the idea.

  16. Maybe the G is for Gunnar. /wink.

    I came from parents with very common name, and as a protest my mother named me Vanda. It's from Polish and supposed to mean wanderer, which is fitting. Nobody ever gets it right. I've been called Vanna, Wanda, Vonda, Amanda, Rhanda, Yolanda.

  17. PA, that's Tibor. And my father was named that.

  18. Well, Jon and I named our daughter one of those hippie unusual names that Julie thinks are going to have blighted futures. And we love how unusual it is. I was one of 5 Laurie/Lori/Lauras when I grew up and hated hated hated being so ordinary. The great thing about my daughter's generation is that for those who aren't named Emma/Emily, they've got names nobody else has.

    INcidentally, names like Apple and Summer were very popular at the turn of the last century -- as in the top 50 names. Victorian names sound very HOllywood now if you look back into geneological records.

    My kid knows a Kias a River and a Soliel. Oh, and about 6 Emilys.

  19. And actually, I'm kind of pissed at how judgmental people are about something like names. Lack of imagination, I say. As well as smallmindedness. Why name your kids one of 20 "acceptible" terms that just end up dating a kid to an era in a few years? I mean honestly, how many Dorises or Midges do you meet now that aren't over 60?

    A handful of sociological studies have shown that kids with more unusual names tend to go on to do exceptional things or be more visionary in their thinking and life choices. That was something that stuck with me when I was contemplating names for my daughter.

    I'll get off my soap box now. (And go feed my dog Molly! Seriously!)

  20. You think you're pissed Laurie? What if my brother visits this blog -- my nephew's name is Christopher.

    WV: Whoops

  21. So have I now dug Ginger OUT of the mothballs? Like I said, now I'm too old for Ginger, sigh...... and Debbie too, right? That stinks.

    Oh and KB, I guess wondering where Virg came from. Junior High school friend heard it from her college aged sister who had a sorority sister they called Virg. She brought it up a lunch on day and well you know that one stuck like glue. Half my friends still call me that after what, 75 years???

    WV: FLANGR That has a nice ring to it. " Flangr, sit! Good boy!"

  22. Southern indeed! I wasn't born in the south but my family roots are in Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. Whenever my dearly departed mother got excited or upset, the southern twang would ease into her speech patterns.

  23. Oh, and I neglected to say that up until age 12 I grew up on Navy bases in places like Pensacola, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina.

    Then my dad got stationed in San Diego and we said goodbye to the south.

  24. OK, I miscounted, 7 to be exact (from Vanda's list) and 8 if you include Molly.

    Ginger, Gary, Rosemary, Leslie and Sydney (all between the ages of 47 and 53) 
Raymond and Normand (a hell of a good published writer) are just a second or two over 60. And Molly (not listed except in the canine group) fits in the fist age category.

    If collectively that's old; I'm renting a bus and driving them all to Mexico to buy some Reverseitall !!!

    G stands for Mid-Town

    WV zatedlei (now thats an original name for man, woman or canine.

  25. Pig Flu? Just say no! Put on your riding boots and go get better.

    Mid-Town G

  26. Married to the Invisible ManMay 12, 2009 at 5:32 PM

    Skipper? Skip? Skippy? My first husband.

  27. My first choice for my son's name was Malick but I was soundly defeated in the "Name Our Baby Wars". My second choice, a name that my husband approved of largely because he reasoned that no one could ever make fun of it, became baby's first name and my last name became his middle name, which I adore. When he was in the first grade Not Malick came home one day and said that all of the kids were calling him Andrea Robitussin, a clear perversion of his two stout but fairly ordinary names. I thought it was really creative and I still think of this nickname with great affection. What I really love is my son's full name, it just trips off my tongue, and it's one of the great joys of my life.

    The other great joy I feel about family names is my mother's, Lorraine and her mother's, Maude. If I had had a girl her name would have been Karen Lorraine or, in hindsight, Maude Lorraine and screw anyone who didn't like it.

    And Ginger, you've been tagged.

    wv sneog, as in, Sneog Tavish McSnorggle

  28. PJ, I love that you embraced your son's nickname. Nicknames are how we rise above the Karins and Lauries and Lynnes. Of course I had "Buggy" for most of my life, and Frenchie and Birdlegs.

  29. Try living with this nickname: from my initials, PP.
    When I started blogging I chose the nickname my husband gave me, PJ.

    wv osaysi

  30. My nicknames in grade school were Bones and Chapstick.


    I always chuckle when people trot out the "poor child, with a name like that what will he/she ever be able to do..." Like Poor Buzz Aldrin only walked on the moon. And that Ladybird Johnson was a real loser, too. Not to mention Bono. And Madonna. Stone Phillips. Rainn Wilson...

    Then again, why would anyone with as funny a name as Barack Obama become president in THIS country? HIs foolish mother should have just named him Robert.

    Oh, am I still touchy? I guess I'm still touchy. Harumph.

  31. I forgot to say that my favorite odd name of all time is one that's really common in the hills of West Virginia:

  32. Susan, guess what? I have two Uncle Cecils and a cousin Clyde. Let's see, there's a Milton, a Max and a Wayne, too. (My parents' generation.) My grandparents on my dad's side were Grace and Charlie, on my mom's: Olive and Homer. My parents were Rachael and Waldo. Waldo Wadsworth. I kid you not.

    I'm grateful to them for being imaginative about how they named their offspring. But when I was in high school I wanted to be Kelley (not Kelly--too normal).

  33. Goodnight Ginger, PP, and Chapstick.

    Love, Birdlegs.

  34. ...and Kelley and Mid Town Gerard.

  35. Good night, Kaylo. Er, Crystal.

  36. I was outta this but I have to step in to put you all to shame. In the south we can trump any name you drag up. My Big Daddy's "real" name was Vernice Gifford Claytor. TOP THAT! I also had a great aunt who we called "AUNT DICK"! ( Her given name was Marie, don't ask, cause you wouldn't understand). My sweet Momma's name was Olivia Emogene and she legally changed to it Gene in later life. You do what you gotta do. Now Olivia's are a dime a dozen.

    NIght everyone,
    Ginger Debbie
    Debbie Ginger
    Debbie Virg
    Virg Debbie Ginger

    PS Some special folks call me Ginny or Mumsie

  37. Just don't call me RIff Raff!

    wv: IMMEDICA! Sarah Palin, want that one for a backup?

  38. Another wonderful post. Why isn't anyone giving you a real job?

    Thank you for telling us about the Tim curse. I always knew there was a reason -- every year, I scan the names of MacArthur grantees, and my name never appears.

    As for Jacob -- we named my son after my grandfather and great-grandfather -- the last time anyone in my family was named Jacob was 111 years before he was born. And now every other boy his age has this name. I'm most distressed, and tell people "We had it first, name him something else."

  39. Tim, clearly Amis hadn't extended his research to the U.S. And handsome Jake should have the only rights to that name.

    (Thank you. I was going to send this one around, but there's a lot of writing on this topic right now. Still, no one has my trickle-down theory.)