Thursday, July 01, 2004

The name game

I remember when we brought our kids home from Russia almost ten years ago now, one of our biggest concerns was giving them "American" names. We imagined that having names outside the normal range of Jennifers and Michaels would cause them to suffer schoolyard ridicule and constant nagging mispronunciation. Fortunately, their Russian names were easy to Americanize -- dropping the first letter for one, changing a last letter for the other -- and so we didn't have to risk confusion by dropping completely new and different-sounding monikers on them.

At any rate, it seemed like a good idea at the time. But in the years since, as I've seen them go through school with children whose names diverged wildly from what I'd considered the norm -- ethnic names, made-up names, everyday names transformed into unique creations by aggressively idiosyncratic spelling -- I've often wondered if we shouldn't have let them keep their slightly exotic Russian names. American birthparents, it seems, are a lot less concerned with giving their offspring fit-in names than parents adopting from overseas.

And here's the perfect piece of evidence: According to recent news reports, not one, not two, but at least three families have named their baby sons ESPN, after the cable channel. (Alright: One family named their child ESPN, one Espn, and one Espen; they're all nuts in my book.) Now that sort of thing might be fine when your child's just a babe in arms, but you just know that when those boys get to be teenagers, they're going to moan to their parents: "Why couldn't you have named me MTV?"

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