One thought ahead. Two sentences behind.

Not Cool – Names

Why is it so difficult to remember someone’s name? Why is it when I am at a social engagement buoyed by box-wine and jumbo shrimp I immediately forget someone’s name, like the name didn’t even register?

“____, I’d like to introduce you to my wife, ____.”

Is it a lack of concentration? Is there no original interest? Can I only remember so many names? Does Denise need to go in order to remember Deidre? After all, how many John’s  can Jane remember? What separates Don from Dave?

Ironically, remembering names of family members can be the most difficult. I think our brains are so tired and overwhelmed they decide to designate only one male and one female name to all family members. Have five sons? Doesn’t matter.  Maybe George Foreman was onto something when he started naming most of his children George. After all, an aging boxer is going to have better things to remember than to stare at one of his kids and say, “I could really go for a steak sandwich right now.”

To avoid confusion and out-right forgetting it’s best to have a memorable name. For example, look at this list of Russian leaders:

 

Vladimir Lenin
Nikita Khrushchev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Vladimir Putin

 

It’s not an accident that the first and last share the same first name. Vladimir isn’t stocking shelves at a Pasadena Costco. Vladimir isn’t telling you to prepay for gas at a Hoboken Conoco. Vladimir is currently looking at a 3D map of the world determining where to strike next.

If you are looking for the exact opposite of Russian names go no further than this list of United Nations Secretary Generals:

 

Gladwyn Jebb – United Kingdom
Trygue Lie – Norway
Boutros Boutros Ghali – Egypt
Ban Ki-Moon – South Korea

 

Are these even real names or something a child makes up when talking to stuffed animals? Also, having the word “secretary” in the title doesn’t quite provide an air of authority, like the leader will show up to a meeting with a notepad, pen and coffee from God knows where since you don’t want to upset the Ethiopians and Colombians.

If you want to project power and inhabit an air of leadership, do not call yourself Gladwyn. Go Russian! Even the most common Russian name is far more intriguing than  its northern neighbors. To demonstrate, let’s compare the lives of the average Russian to that of a Swede.

 

Nils Olson: Runs IT support for a local college. Plays mixed-doubles racquetball.

Dimitri Volvakov: International Arms Dealer whose hobbies include raising Bengal tigers and fencing stolen art.

Sigrid Johnson: Works as a library associate.  May try internet dating. Has no cats, seriously!

Svetlana Zakharchenko: Retired ballerina with a meager state pension. Hobbies include drinking Polish Vodka and smoking Turkish cigarettes.

 

I’ve always held an affinity with Spanish names. Instead of being stoic and bleak, there is a romantic playfulness to names like Arturo, Antonio and Alejandra. This love of the Spanish language began in high school with Spanish I. I was even in the same class as my brother, Chad and cousin, Susan. And to immerse ourselves in the culture, our teacher started calling us by our Spanish names. So Chad was Carlos and Susan, Susana. Unfortunately, my name translated into itself:  David = David

My teacher tried to add a little flavor by calling me Daaaaahveeeed, but that was like pouring store-bought salsa over a frozen burrito. The translation really didn’t take, so one of my classmates started calling me Dabid.

I didn’t much prefer his translation, but what was I going to say? Jeff was a mountain who played on our football team. Also, his Spanish name was Geronimo, which is Spanish for awesome Spanish name.

It’s a tough assignment for parents to pick the best name right out of the gate.  Still, some parents get it right.

 

Sports: Kobe Bryant, named after his parents ordered Japanese takeout

Law: Thurgood Marshall, shortened his name from Thoroughgood

Art: Pablo Picasso, really shortened his name from Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso

Film: Charlize Theron, makes Chuck sound sexy

Technology: Elon Musk, has a sister named Tosca

Business: Warren Buffett didn’t amass a fortune with the name Wally

Literature: F. Scott Fitzgerald, one way to avoid being called Francis

Politics: John Adams… Just kidding. What a snooze.

 

Yet, for every parent that got the name right, there are more than a few kids that had to change their names to match their circumstance.

 

Gordon Sumner is a guy who tries to sell you life insurance while playing racquetball. Sting is the guy you go see play at Madison Square Garden.

Lew Alcindor is the booking agent you call if you need a cover band for your son’s bar mitzvah. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the guy who takes the NBA scoring title with a legendary sky hook.

Archibald Leach works as government patent clerk. Cary Grant is the silver screen legend who gets the girl at the end of the movie, then your girl, then everybody’s girl.

Patricia Patterson Hensley is a woman at your country club who you want to avoid. Patsy Cline is the country singer with a name that aches more than her songs.

 

So what do you do as a parent when naming a child can be a 50/50 split? Well, you can play it safe and go virtuous, but I find it a little sexist that all the names below are female, as if the name itself will be a guard to keep your daughter on the path of the straight and narrow.

 

Chastity
Patience
Prudence

 

Boys’ names do not much follow the path of good and evil, but tend to be more geared towards trade and title.

 

Fisher
Hunter
Gatherer

Prince
Duke
Earl

 

Speaking of blue-bloods, you have to feel a little sorry for Donald Trump’s middle son. After all, the oldest gets the brand (Don Jr.)  and the youngest gets a name like he’s going to inherit the family fortune (Baron). And the middle son gets a name I already forgot.

Actually, Eric is a perfectly fine name. I worked with an Eric. He sold me a Celica which is a horrible name for a car. He was an attorney at our company and starting a new family with the birth of his first son, Thor.

Maybe Eric wanted to honor his Nordic heritage or give his son a leg up in a dog-eat-Darin world, but naming your child after a mythical hero can be a tricky play if you don’t provide the DNA to back it up. Sure some parents nailed it when they named their future Olympians Venus Williams and Apollo Ono. But do you really want to take the chance of having some shift supervisor at a highway diner yell out, “Number five Neptune.”

I think parents should start off simple when naming a newborn.  Let the child grow or fade without the encumbrance of a grandiose title.  If greatness comes, let a new name follow.

A perfect example would be Genghis Khan. Even if you don’t know the particulars, you know the name. Nobody would ever forget Khan’s name at a cocktail party. Nobody is going to have a conversation with her husband later that evening, sighing, “Who was that nice gentlemen we met this evening? You know the one who is currently wrecking havoc all over Asia.”

No, you are not going to forget Genghis Khan in passing or centuries later.  Even if you meet him at a random focus group, he would immediately make an impression.

 

HOST: Welcome and thank you for coming to sample a few food items we are hoping to bring to market here at Encore Entreats. But before we begin, let’s take roll call. Dale Jones?

DALE: Present.

HOST: Candy Jacobs?

CAROL: Here! And it’s Carol Jacobs. You have me in your system as Candy Jane Jacobs. Is that some kind of joke?

HOST: No, just a typo. We’ll get that corrected right now Carla.

CAROL: Carol.

HOST: Is Candy your middle name?

CAROL: I don’t have a middle name.

HOST: Then how did we get Jane?

CAROL: Exactly!

THE HOST RUNS THROUGH SEVEN MORE NAMES. THEN HE NOTICES A REMAINING PERSON. UNKEMPT, CLOTHED IN LEATHER HIDES AND A SHOCKING AMOUNT JEWELRY, THIS PERSON EMITS AN ODD COMBINATION OF MUSK, FRANKINCENSE AND FEAR.

HOST: So, it looks like we have one remaining person. May I have your name?

KHAN: Khan.

HOST: Is that your first or last name?

KHAN: Neither.

HOST: So, this name, more of a title?

KHAN: More of a declaration. My father named me Temujin.

HOST: There’s a name you don’t hear every day.

DALE: I’ve never heard of it.

HOST: So, Te… Tea… Let’s just go with Khan to avoid any butchering.

KHAN: Temujin means blacksmith, not butcher.

HOST: Good to know. Should I enter that as your profession?

KHAN: Temujin means blacksmith. Khan means King.

DALE: King Khan!

CAROL: Little rich for someone wearing road kill.

HOST: Is that still an employable profession, being a king?

KHAN REPLIES WITH A PENETRATING STARE.

DALE: Go with King.

HOST: King it is. Off hand, how did you come to join us today?

KHAN: Big fan of your Ostrich Wings.

HOST: I didn’t know we had an ostrich line. Are you sure you joined the correct group?

KHAN: Is there free food?

HOST: Yes.

KHAN: Then bring it out.

HOST: In good time. I just need to complete your profile. Age?

KHAN: Older that the dust beneath your feet.

HOST: I think the field will only accept a number.

DALE: Put my age.

HOST: Are you Dennis or Dean?

DALE: Put 35.

HOST: Okay… And Khan are you married?

CAROL: Oh, for God’s sake, anybody can look at this gentleman and see he is an unemployed plumber, divorced with three kids and a pit-bull.

HOST: I can work with that. Just give me some names.

CAROL: His ex is Lana. His three bratty boys are Cedric, Derek and for fun let’s call the last one Socrates.

HOST: Dog’s name?

CAROL: Let’s pick something out of a nursery rhyme like MoMo, Tum Tum or Lord Stuffing Ham.

KHAN: Go with the stuffed ham and bring out those Yak Burger Bites.

HOST: I don’t think we have a yak line either. Is that a problem?

DALE: Looks like you have a yak to go find.

KHAN: And don’t forget the Sherpa sauce.

HOST LEAVES TO LOOK FOR SECURITY OR A NEW JOB.

KHAN: Hey Dale.

DALE: Yes, your Eminence.

KHAN: What’s that guy’s name?

DALE: I don’t think he said.

KHAN: Hmm.

DALE: Would it matter if he did?

CAROL: Exactly!

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