What is in a name?

Some may have seen this on PZ’s blog. A pair of – ahem – “creative” adults named their children such things as “Aryan Nation” and “Adolf Hitler”. Outrage ensued.

Ok.

Names
It seems to have become a trend these days for people to want to pick “unique” names for their children. For example, Moxy, Apple, etc. Although my personal preference is to stick to more easily-spelled and conventional-yet-different names, ok fine, name your kid whatever you want. I can’t stop you.

I remember in junior high a substitute teacher pronounced the name Geoff (pronounced Jeff, of course) as Goouf (hard G) and he was called that for the rest of his school days. I have had to correct the spelling of my last name my entire life. And it’s not even that uncommon. My partner has a name that has 2 common spellings, yet people tend to pick the spelling that is not his 80% of the time. It’s annoying. It can make kid’s lives miserable. But, again, whatever. Name your kid whatever the fuck you want.

However, one thing I do have less of a free-wheeling attitude about are 2 things:
1) A common name spelled in some awful way even though it’s pronounced the same (Airen, Lyndzy, Marq, Karletonn, etc). If you want to name your kid something unique, then do it. Don’t pick a common name, pronounce it the same, and then have your kid spend the rest of his/her life correcting the spelling.
2) Just plain stupid names, perhaps inanimate objects (Door, Chair, Aryan Nation, etc). Your child is not a noun.

So the parents in the above story obviously fall into category #2. Why? Can’t they name their kid Adolf Hitler if they want to? It’s just a name.

On Being a Douche
Weeeeeeeell, you see it’s not just a name. It’s a symbol of human oppression, racism, white supremacy, and all that lovely stuff. Many people are not going to be able to get past that, however irrational, and this poor kid (who doesn’t get to choose his name) is going to bear the brunt of a lot of that even though this is entirely his parents’ senseless decision.

I’m usually the last to suggest that people should do something (or not do something) because of the potential reactions of other people. But in this case I feel that undue harm to a child outweighs that policy. People are irrational sometimes. And if this kid doesn’t get beat up at least once (on top of all the other crap he’s going to have to deal with) because of his name, I’ll buy his parents a Coke.

Also, they have another kid whose middle name is Aryan Nation. I might have believed their “Hitler is unique” garbage by itself, but not in combination with this. Another unique name might have been Atilla, but they went with white supremacy again? Why in the world would anyone want their children’s name to be associated with white supremacy on purpose? Twice. Unless…

Assuming they don’t change their names, these kids are going to have to fill out every job application, every tax form, and every credit card slip with that name. Ok so the parents might not care what people think, but their kids might. And let’s say the kids grow up to not care what people think and use the name to make some point about the assumptions and prejudices of other people. Why inflict a life of that automatic defense on your children for their entire lives? Lots of people become activists, but they are usually old enough to know what that means first.

All that aside, this statement from the article I linked above is what clinched my lack of tolerance for these parents:

Say he grows up and hangs out with black people. That’s fine, I don’t really care. That’s his choice.

Oh well lah ti frikkin da isn’t he just a fucking bastion of inter-race relations? If he “chooses” to “hang out” with – gasp – “black people” that’s “fine”? Why is that even a “choice”? Why wouldn’t his parents encourage him to hang out with whoever the fuck he wants regardless of skin color rather than telling him if he hangs out with other races it’s “fine”. There is a tacit implication there that there is something inherently odd about being friends with a black person, but they are willing to overlook it. Is that supposed to be progressive? Fail.

People don’t evaluate every person they see based on superficial characteristics and then make a conscious decision to spend time with them – unless they were brainwashed into thinking that was an acceptable way to live their lives. Looks do play a part in human interaction, but we largely don’t consciously choose companions based on any certain criterion. Companions choose themselves based on similar interest, compatible personalities, and general agreeableness to relationships.

The Bakery
That all being said, I think the bakeries involved in this are being fucking douchebags. It’s a kid’s birthday cake. The kid doesn’t know any better. He doesn’t know his parents are naive morons with no forethought or outward social perception. He doesn’t know he’s being used to make a point. He just wants his name on his cake. Bakers run a business. They sell cakes. They (generally) put words that people want on their cakes. Where in their bakery license does it say they get to be the morality police on what does and does not go on a cake?

We have a tradition here of putting odd things other than Happy Birthday on cakes – because that’s boring. So we and our friends try to top each other every year by putting odder and odder things, or just plain clever things, such as last year when my partner put “Help! Trapped in Bakery” on my birthday cake. Should they be allowed to tell us we’re being “inappropriate” according to their standards? Or should they shut up, take our money, and write whatever the fuck we’re paying them to write?

It’s not even like they want Hitler on there as a joke though, that’s the 3-year-old kid’s fucking REAL NAME. Put it on the cake, take the money, and shut up. You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it. It’s a frigging child’s birthday cake. Get over yourselves, you short-sighted motherfuckers.

[Can you tell I’m just a little pissed over this whole thing? When kids are involved, I get lion-y. Particularly with brainwashy, racist “oh we’re just proving a point so that makes it ok to make our kids social outcasts” crap and then going to the news to play victim because every bad thing that happens to their kid is someone else’s fault.]

Edit: I almost fucking forgot this little gem. The swastikas. Because nothing says “we are just trying to be unique and aren’t at all ironic white supremacists” like swastikas on a child’s birthday cake.

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3 responses to “What is in a name?

  1. What if they softened his name by adding “Lucifer” to it?

  2. Lol Kimbo… yes it is a horrible thing… but your use of “fuck” in this post is impressive!

    And I agree with you… yes indeed. People can really suck.

  3. Yeah, the combined elements of idiocy in this story turned my use of profanity all the way up to 11.