Names: great equalizers in a world where none of us start with the same talents or resources. But all of us know hundreds of names — names we love, hate, or don’t even understand. When it comes to naming our own children, we shouldn’t need much help, right?
Wrong, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Alexandra Alter, “The Baby-Name Business,” which provides the latest evidence that Americans are slowly going mad. It describes the emergence of baby-name “consultants,” who charge fees to addled couples whose personalities have shrunken to the point that they can no longer perform one of the most personal acts in life without assistance. Instead, they do what every good business does when it has a problem: call the experts!
It’s not clear how many parents are using such services, but judging by the popularity of baby-name websites and books — over 80 of the latter have appeared, Alter says, just in the last three years — there is a market out there. And besides, she notes, “sociologists and name researchers” are seeing “unprecedented levels of angst among parents trying to choose names for their children.”
There is plenty of angst in Alter’s piece. “‘It’s so overwhelming, it’s hard to know where to start,’ says Patricia Martin of Williston, Vt., who is expecting a baby in September.” Good lord. She’s overwhelmed already!
Most people, I’d guess, consult a source or two when a child is on the way. I’ve looked at some lists on the web myself. There are lots to choose from — Biblical names, traditional ethnic names, historical names, names from literature and the arts, newfangled names, and more. What’s new is that some parents are actually paying strangers to help them make this decision, instead of arriving themselves at the name that seems right, and that likely has meaning for that reason. You wonder if they understand that naming the kid is the easy part.
Alter’s article is worth quoting at length, if only to remind yourself that there are people like this in the world, and that you are not one of them. For example:
— “Madeline Dziallo, 36, a beautician and mother of two in LaGrange, Ill.,” hired a “nameologist” who charged “up to $350 for a package including three half-hour phone calls and a personalized manual describing the name’s history, linguistic origins and personality traits.” Said Mrs. Dziallo: “She was an objective person for me to obsess about it with rather than driving my husband crazy,” which assumes her husband didn’t defenestrate when he saw the cost, or that he hasn’t already been separated from his wits by a woman who worried that she might call the nameologist “from the delivery room.”
— “Lisa and Jon Stone of Lynnwood, Wash., turned to a name consultant because they didn’t want their son to be ‘one of five Ashtons in the class,’ says Mrs. Stone, 36, a graphic designer. For Mr. Stone, 37, a production director for a nonprofit arts organization, the challenge was to find a ‘cool’ name that would help his son stand out. ‘An unusual name gets people’s attention when you’re searching for a job or you’re one in a field of many,’ he says.”
He sounds like he’ll be a cracker barrel of laughs as a father. He’s already thinking about the kid’s job interviews.
The consultant unveiled a perfectly insane choice: Evander Jet. The Stones say that friends and family were surprised, which is not surprising. “Everybody was like, ‘Oh, you named him after the boxer,’ when actually it’s a really old name,” Mrs. Stone said. It’s unlikely that there will be five Evander Jets in the class, though betting on that would be foolish.
— “As one of the founders of Catchword, a corporate naming firm with offices in New York and Oakland, Calif., Burt Alper says he and his wife, Jennifer, who also works in marketing, felt ‘tons of pressure’ to come up with something grabby….They chose Beckett for their six-month-old son, a name the Alpers thought sounded reliable and stable.
“‘That C-K sound is very well regarded in corporate circles,’ Mr. Alper says, giving Kodak and Coca-Cola as examples.”
Well, what’s good enough for the Board is good enough for the baby! Little Beckett seems destined for existentialism with a father who thinks like this.
But then, as Alter writes, “even parents who are professional name consultants say the decision can be wrenching.” Naturally. After all, even doctors and therapists have to go for treatment.
“THE CHIEF REASON FOR the paralysis,” Alter writes, “is too much information.” But that confuses the symptom with the cause, and assumes these parents would somehow be normal if there were fewer baby-name books, no consultants, and no Internet (which gets blamed for pretty much everything). Other forces are at work, though.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online