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The Name Game

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These days many parents want distinctive names for their children. “They don’t want their child to be a cookie cutter,” Linda Murray of BabyCenter told Time. As a result, you’re more likely to be introduced to a child named Jayden or Caitlin than Edward or Susan, and you’ll meet a Liam and Chloe before you run into a John or Mary. I wonder why parents aren’t naming their kids Seven, which George Costanza, the neurotic loser of TV’s Seinfeld, was convinced had cachet? Or Soda, the name he suggested to the expectant parents who upset him by deciding to name their kid Seven?

As Murray said, parents “want their kid to have a unique identity.”

That explains Apple, the name actress Gwyneth Paltrow gave to her daughter, and Lourdes, Madonna’s kid.

I suspect that parents who choose unusual names for their children are as insecure as Seinfeld’s George, and regard their offspring as little more than extensions of their own egos. They are like the stage mother who failed in her dream of stardom and transfers her ambition to her daughter, or the father who wants his son to have the career in sports that he wanted for himself.

Too many of these names won’t remain distinctive in the long run. In the 1980s, dozens of TV characters were suddenly named Dylan, probably in imitation of the famous Bob who swiped the name from Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet. Some biographers of the former Mr. Zimmerman argue that the folk singer originally took the name “Dillen” in honor of the marshal played by James Arness on TV’s Gunsmoke. Upon discovering Dylan Thomas, he changed the spelling because a writer who died of drink was hipper than a TV cowboy. It’s a persuasive argument when you consider that the rock legend is a movie buff and western fan who appeared in Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and honored the Gregory Peck western, The Gunfighter, in his 1986 song “Brownsville Girl.”

Regardless of where Bob Zimmerman received the inspiration for his stage name, it is no longer possible to enter a classroom without meeting assorted children, boys and girls alike, named Dylan. All the parents who chose the name believing it was distinctive or hip have discovered otherwise. Dylan is now as common and mundane a name as Bob.

If you’re an expectant parent and you want to make your child or yourself feel special, you’re better off christening the kid Susan or Sam. Or Soda.

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About Brian W. Fairbanks

  • Bill Cosby once joked that his neighbor got flustered and began naming his kids after the first thing he saw at the hospital when they were born.

    I’d like you to meet my son Tylenol and my daughter Ibuprophen!

  • There was a kid in “Peanuts” named Five after his father went berserk while registering all of his children for their social security cards.

  • Those of us of a “certain age” will remember a popular song of the same name i.e.

    Cheryl-Cheryl bo barrel
    Banana fana fo farrel

    Of course school kids countered with

    Buck-buck-bo Buck
    Banana-fana fo f…

    well you get the idea…

    thanks for the walk down memory lane Brian

  • I’ve been wondering, myself, why there are so many young Dylans running around. Bob Dylan’s popularity crested decades ago.