What’s in a Name?

 Names are an important key to what a society values.  Anthropologists recognize naming as ‘one of the chief methods for imposing order on perception.’  ~David S. Slawson


As a sales rep who works with customers in schools, I receive a daily e-newsletter with the latest public education news in the United States.

By all accounts, the newsletter is predictable, summarizing articles about failing schools, the question of teacher tenure, lack of funding, professional development for educators, the sad state of arts education in our schools, etc. (Stifle yawn.)

Today, I perked up a bit when I read this newsletter. In the same article, the writer mentioned New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and a financial manager at Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb.

For a moment, let’s forget about districts in the red and the mysterious thing called ADHD that is invading our schools. All I could think about was:

  • If your last name were Christie, why would you name your son Chris?
  • If your last name were Bobb, why would you name your son Robert?

No crime has been committed here. Technically (and yes, legally), parents can name their kids whatever they want. But I have always wondered why there are so many fellows in the world with names such as Chris Christie, Bob Bobb, Jeff Jeffries, Richard Richardson, and Steve Stephenson, Neil McNeil. What’s up?

Let’s look at the situation. We all have a surname. Almost invariably, we don’t choose our surname. Our parents didn’t even choose it for us. We’re just born with it and we learn to live with it.

A good way for adults to deal with a lousy last name is to procreate. When each round of breeding is complete, parents have an opportunity to neutralize any negative qualities of their surname, by choosing an appealing first name for their child. I suspect a lot of the most enduring first names have endured because they sound nice with pretty much any last name (e.g., John, Mary, Robert, Charles, Catherine). Your last name might be Crud, but doesn’t “John” dignify it somewhat?

I would like to friendlily but bluntly suggest to the parents of Robert Bobb that they might have chosen another name. Plain and simple:

“Your kid is named Bob Bobb. How about Charles Bobb? How about Warren Bobb? How about Michael Bobb?” There are lots (actually, hundreds, maybe thousands!) of first names that would sound dang nice with a nondescript (albeit abrupt) last name such as Bobb.

“Bob” is not one of them.

Mr. Bobb, I’m sure you are a nice gentleman with delightful parents despite their inability to have given you a decent name. Please feel free to pick on me for writing about such a useless topic today. Just remember, “tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names.”

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This entry was posted in Just Thoughts, Ranting and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What’s in a Name?

  1. It’s great that you noticed the names in an otherwise dreary newsletter. Down here a while ago there was a court case in which a little girl sued her parents for naming her Talulah Does the Hula in Hawaii. She didn’t like it. Here’s some info on it and other crazy names: http://www.slate.com/id/2196204

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