What’s In a Name?

As we’ve seen from the Nerdfighters and the Harry Potter Alliance, the power of fandom can indeed be harnessed for the greater good. However, 2012’s most popular baby names show the ugly face of fandom gone awry. Amidst the most popular names are Anna/Ana, Anastasia, Christian, and Gray/Grey (in the form of Grayson/Greyson). As much as I want to believe the latter is an homage to Bruce Wayne’s former ward and the former a tribute to the last Grand Duchess of Imperial Russia, the sudden popularity of these names is attributed to the breakout success, 50 Shades of Grey.

And I thought it was bad when Bella/Isabella, Jacob, Edward, and Alice were topping the lists. But naming your child after 50 Shades of Grey (itself a Twilight fanfiction altered for publication) brings up a very important issue I feel I must address. All issues with writing quality, women in media, and inaccurate representations of BDSM aside, DO NOT NAME YOUR CHILD AFTER PORN. Or erotica. Whether it’s 50 Shades of Grey, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, or “The Miller’s Tale”, don’t do it. I don’t care if it’s a masterpiece that will withstand the test of time, no one wants to think about mom’s happy time bubble bath reading hour every time they sign their name.

It’s like naming your child after where they were conceived, only with the added bonus of their friends and coworkers and teachers and employers all knowing where your child got their name. How do you think little Anastasia or Grey are going to feel in middle school when their friends get a hold of your unorthodox book of baby names? How are they going to feel in high school when the bondage jokes start and never, ever stop. Boys at my high school thought “Hey, Victoria, what’s your secret?” was funny for years. How long to you think they’re going to milk this? And how are Anastasia and Grey going to fare in the job market when prospective employers see the name on their resume before anything else? No one wants a potential employer wondering about their parents’ sex life during an interview (for more information on how name choices can adversely affect your child’s job search, see the Freakonomics documentary). And face it, if you knowingly give your child a name that will get them sexually harassed, you have failed as a parent. Be a confident (wo)man. Own your sexuality. Spice up your love life. But don’t name your kid as an homage to your fictional lustbunny.

Sure, we’ve all been there: you love a book or a show or a movie and want to let your fan flag fly. I’ve known an Elora, a Chani, a Jasmine, a Trinity, an Avalon, an Oberon, and a handful of Lukes. A friend of mine once encountered a pair of siblings named Arwen and Aragorn (on a slightly different note, please, for the love of all that is good in this world, do not name siblings after lovers or a married couple; it will always be weird). And, yes, I’ve been tempted by the occasional badass heroine, spandex-clad do-gooder, or unassuming farm boy. There’s even a Facebook group for people actually named Galadriel.

There’s nothing wrong with naming your child after something or someone you love or simply borrowing a fictional character’s name because it sounds cool (see Sigourney Weaver). However, consider how this name will be received by peers, in the workforce, at a college commencement ceremony, and on a certificate or diploma on a professional’s office wall, not just how it will look in big plastic letters over a crib. You’re not just naming a baby, you’re naming a child, a teenager, and an adult. Your child will be saddled with their name for at least 18 years. Thus, I have compiled a list of things to consider before naming your child.



1. Will you still enjoy this book/movie/television series when your child is grown? Will your child enjoy it? Is it a fad or phase? Will it stand the test of time?

2. Are people familiar with this book/movie/television series? (This could be good or bad, depending)

3. What is this character most known for? For example, in your attempt to name your daughter after a willful princess in the Rebel Alliance, are you inadvertently associating her with Jabba the Hutt’s slave girls?

4. Have you masturbated to this book/movie/television series?

5. Has a large portion of the fanbase masturbated to this book/movie/television series?

6. How will people familiar with this book/movie/television series react to your child’s name? How will other parents treat them or you? How will their peers treat them or you?

7. How will people unfamiliar with this book/movie/television series react to your child’s name?

8. How will you feel when your child discovers where their name comes from? Little Luke’s parents might knit him a Yoda hat or paint stars and TIE fighters on his ceiling, but something tells me little Christian’s parents won’t be springing for handcuff emblazoned booties.

9. Would you be comfortable with your child reading or watching this book/movie/television series? At what age would it be appropriate?

10. Will this name increase your child’s likelihood of being teased/mocked/sexually harassed? In elementary school? In middle school? In high school? After?

11. Will your child appreciate this name? In elementary school? In middle school? In high school? After?

12. Does this name sound like or can it be easily changed into something sexual, pejorative, or humorous? (Poor Honor and Ofelia’s parents never realized that they were dooming their children to a lifetime of “I got on her. Did you get on her?” and “I Feel Ya” jokes).

13. Can people pronounce this name? Will your child be correcting people their entire life?

14. Can people spell this name? Will your child have to spell it every time someone takes down their name? Will their name constantly be spelled wrong by others?

15. Can you spell this name? A teacher of mine once had a girl named Chasity in her class. Chasity’s parents not only had the bad idea to name her Chastity but could not spell it and didn’t bother to double check.

16. How does this name sound with your last name?

17. What are your child’s initials? Nobody wants to be Paula Marie Smith or Sandra Olivia Becker.

18. Have you read or seen the entire series? Something you may not have read or seen yet may change your feelings about the name or other’s perception of it.

19. Google this name. Do an image search. Do it with the safety off. Given that many employers google an applicant’s name and no doubt your child will search their name at some point, it’s best to know if the first 10 pages of results are porn, anatomically implausible fanart, slash fiction, or self-insertion fanfiction. Then again, in the case of 50 Shades of Grey, the book itself is porn and fanfiction (of a woman’s self-insertion fantasy no less).

20. Do you hate your child? Will your child hate you?


Sure, some kids will be teased about their name no matter what you do. For example, my friend Stacy’s parents never could have foreseen that people would one day constantly tell her that her mom has it going on. Similarly, movies can leave negative associations with seemingly innocent names (see Willard, Clarise, and Sybil), but even though you can’t spare your child from all the merciless torments of their peers does not mean you should be trying to get them beaten up or knowingly making their life harder. For more on the pitfalls of naming your child, please enjoy this Vlogbrothers video on the matter or refer yourself to The Namesake and Spanking Shakespeare. Remember, we all love books, but name responsibly.


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About boundandgaggedbooks

Shannon is a freelance writer and folklore buff. She has a degree from Hampshire College in Creative Writing/Mythology & Religion, with an emphasis on epic/oral traditions, their anthropological implications, and their modern counterparts. Her work can be found in Fabulously Feminist, Wolf Wariors: The National Wolfwatcher Coalition Anthology, The Concord Monitor, Redhead Magazine, and The Climax.

3 responses to “What’s In a Name?”

  1. Michelle says :

    My first born is named Adam, and he did NOT get my maiden name as a middle name – deliberately – because I’m told that Adam Chandler is a character on a long-running soap opera. I’ve never watched said soap opera, but enough others have.

    When his father wouldn’t discuss names with me, I used to refer to him in utero as “Tarquavius Devantre” (actual names gleaned from the Pensacola FL newspaper’s birth announcements). A friend overheard this one time, and commented, “You know, that kid’s going to have to go to school some day!”

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