Sunday, May 31, 2009

Your name won’t be mud. Or Louis.

"Memphis is such an awesome name and we wasted it on the dog,” I said as Memphis, sitting on my foot, opened her mouth wide to let out a high-pitched dog yawn. Sensing an opportunity, I stuck a finger in her mouth and waggled it up and down against her teeth like I was playing a triangle.

Incidentally, you don’t see too many triangle players these days, which is strange because it’s the only instrument that says, “you can master every nuance of me during a commercial break” and “it’s time for dinner” simultaneously.

With a baby on the way, we’re working on acclimating the dog to little annoying surprises. She didn’t look annoyed at all after her interrupted yawn, just a little confused, which bodes well for her future. She’s a very patient animal. When our friends’ two-year-old decided that she wanted Memphis to come closer during a recent visit, the little girl grabbed Memphis by her eyebrows and tugged with all her might. As I ran over to help, Memphis calmly looked up past her outstretched forehead as if to say, “Don’t worry, it’s cool. But I think I deserve a biscuit now.” In any event, she handles the yawning mouth-triangle thing much better than my wife Kara does.

“Dude, we weren’t going to name our son Memphis anyway,” Kara replied. “That name only works for dogs and strippers.”

She had a point, but people these days go out of their way to give their kids unique names. When I was a kid, there were only three boy names to choose from: Mike, Chris and John. If a family had four boys, they either had to give two of them the same name or give one of them a girl’s name, of which the choices were Jenny, Amy and Sarah. Now there are little Logans and Madisons hanging from every Baby Bjorn.

The Social Security database lets you browse the most popular baby names in any given year. See if you can spot the pattern in this sample of eight of the top 100 boy names listed for 2008: Jayden, Brayden, Aiden, Jaden, Kaden, Ayden, Hayden and Caden.

“Wow, there are a lot of aden-sounding names,” Kara said as we browsed the list for inspiration.

“Raiden was my favorite character in Mortal Kombat,” I suggested. “He could make a person’s head explode by filling it with lightning bolts from his fingertips.”

“What about Tom?” Kara said. “Toms are nice people.”

“I like Toms, too,” I said, “but Tom Todd’s too alliterative. Sounds like the main character of a tongue twister.”

Since we’ve started having these discussions, we’ve found it impossible to consider a name without loading each one down with the attributes of everyone we’ve ever known who possessed that name before, especially those people we went to high school with.

Toms are nice people who help the science teacher operate the LaserDisc player that will be obsolete in three years. Louises (Louisi?) grow armpit hair at age eight and spend the next decade punching you in the arm and being the only naked person in the locker room after gym class. If you make eye contact with a Louis, you are likely to spend the next minute of your life in a headlock with a terrible view. Steves chew tobacco in computer class and spit on the carpet when the teacher has her back turned, leaving a puddle-shaped discoloration by the end of the marking period. Kirks try to stuff your head into the toilet when Mr. Hagen has his office door closed. And on and on.

It’s too bad “I’m never going to name my baby after you!” isn’t a better defense against bullies. Kids can be so short-sighted when they’re cramming you into a trash can.

You can play the castanets on Mike Todd’s head at


  1. How about Hagen - I bet that will be popular soon. You can teach him how to play murder and dodgeball.

    Everybody gives their kid last names now. You're keepin' it real with two first names. You have to keep up the tradition.

  2. I was in elementary school and there was this jerk of a kid named Neil. At the age of nine, I can clearly remember thinking "If I ever have a kid, I will never name him Neil".

    There was a bit on Family Guy where the password to a vault was "the most unattractive male first name in the English language". Answer: Keith

    If I might recommend two names to avoid: Neil and Keith.

  3. First of all, Memphis is not a cool name. It reminds me of Baby Back Ribs. Secondly, Lou is a very cool name for babies or dogs. Thirdly, you should really be considering the name Josh. Josh is your friend. Josh is your buddy. Josh is always there for you. Josh does the dishes and cleans his room. Josh gets the hi scores in Galaga. Plus, you can make cute pet names with a name like Josh....Osh Kosh B'Josh.

  4. I just closed on a refinancing on our house yesterday and I had this big separate pile of papers to sign because I have such a common name: Joseph E. Brown. Apparently there are like 5 "Joseph E. Brown's" in the same city - and I might be the only one without an outstanding warrant. So... to eliminate hand cramping - name him "Flannery".

  5. Actually, Josh may BE there for you, however, I do not remember him ever cleaning his room-the door was always closed. And as for the meaning to "josh"....always reminds me of silliness-as in"always joshing"....need a much stronger name than Josh!
    Also, I agree with this Josh-Memphis does remind me of ribs...and who'll look up the baby or the dog?

  6.'s infiltrated your facebook world and now your blog. I'm packing up and moving to Canada. It was nice knowing you. Good luck with you kid.

  7. JP -- You're right. Maybe we should give the kid a last name for a first name to balance it out.

    Chris -- Ha, that's good stuff. For me, Neil is the guy from my boy scout troop who kept getting his underwear flown on the flagpole. That Neil was actually cool though. He should beat your Neil up.

    Perlson -- The dog's name is Memphis, not Chili's. But Josh is a pretty awesome name. For like a gecko or something.

    Joe Brown -- Remember that picture from Newsweek of "Joe Brown" on the mailbox next to the Unabomber's mailbox? That was awesome.

    Wendi -- Hey, dude! Thanks for stopping by. And I think we all know what Josh was doing in there with the door closed.

    Perlson -- I think they have the Internet in Canada, too. There's no escape.

  8. Heh. I can't tell you how many names we crossed off our list because of past affiliations. :) When we threw in the added degree of difficulty of my husband's family tradition of a specific set of initials, I despaired of ever finding a name for my first born. But I refused to give into my husband's suggestion that "Ra" and "Ramses" were both good strong names.

    Though, now that we are done making babies, I may have to name the next dog Rowan. Because I really liked that one. :)

  9. Enjoyable post.

    I think you should be able to reuse Memphis. We have a cat named Bob and if it weren't for the facts I am not having any more kids and don't like the name I wouldn't hesitate using it.

    I kinda like Memphis, Derreck Rose cheated on his SAT there and wouldn't it be a bizarro worldish reverse eponymy?

    Speaking of names, check this link out. Local high school player named Townshend Peters. (middle name Tommy? - ha) - or google the name and “Woodstock” (Illinois),-il)/boxscore.aspx?contestid=7918ed82-be13-40eb-a2b1-a51d49dfc85d&ssid=08e31156-1f2d-4c08-b687-afb41d9f9601&urpath=,local,stats

  10. Josh's tend to pass lots of gas and have growth issues. And I won't suggest my name because I like it's limited use - I'm more unique that way. How many Jereds/Jareds/Jarrods do you know? May I suggest "Thane"? I really like that name.

  11. Buster -- Who is he? Who, who. Who, who.

    Jered -- I picture a Thane being born in gold-plated armor with a battle axe in his hands. No? I might not use that name for our kid, but I'll definitely keep it in mind for my next game of Dungeons and Dragons.

  12. P.S. Which will be never. I should have said Elder Scrolls 3: Oblivion instead. And then I should have specified the Shivering Isles expansion pack. But nobody would understand what the hell I was talking about, and nobody will ever read this comment anyway, so I guess we can stick with D&D.

  13. Mike- based on your post, I think you already have the perfect name: BABY BJORN!