ComPost Live: What does your baby's name say about you? (Hint: Nothing good)

May 15, 2012

The Social Security Administration released the top 10 baby names for 2011, and it turns out to be a great list of what not to name your baby. Alex Petri chatted about the worst possible baby names.

Other topics included the Mayan Apocolypse FAIL, Mark Zuckerberg's (belated) birthday and Newsweek's bizarre Obama cover.

Join us every Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. ET to laugh, cry, and dish about the moments that amused you, shocked you, or caused you to yell things that frightened the other people on the subway.

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Welcome to the chat!

Has it ever happened to you that someone approached you and murmured, "Great skin" in exactly the tone that implies that he thinks your skin will look excellent on a human-sized mannequin in his dank basement apartment? Because that happened to me this morning. If I disappear mid-chat, please, send Jodie Foster after me with adequate night-vision equipment.

What do I do with my Bolon Yokte Halloween costume? Gluing on all those feathers wasn't easy, you know.

What's Harold Camping up to these days? I bet he'd appreciate a feathered friend.

You say the only thing worse than naming your daughter "Isabella" is naming your son "Anakin" or "Obi Wan," but I'm willing to bet you're deciding between "Boba" and "Lando." Or do you have something ever more clever/nerdier figured out?

Durn, you've found me out!

Lando is so classy, though, right? You can always pretend it's short for Orlando. "And that's better than Tampa!" you can conclude, glowering.

The number of small Lukes and Leias running around is non-negligible, but I don't think I'd go that route.

There's always George, but not after the prequels.

Mon Mothma? Miss one letter, and she's ravaging a large city and battling Godzilla.

Ackbar? Well --

No. I've been informed "No."

There's always Lars. Or Jabba.

I have two sons whose wives are expecting babies this summer; one a boy and the other as yet of undetermined gender. Hearing some of the potential name choices has been cringe-inducing. Apparently there is a website where there are charts showing the use of various names over the last century so you can be sure not to select something that has been too popular--which leaves you with some exceedingly odd choices. Aristotle? Galileo? Ampersand? How did your parents choose your name?

Ampersand's a classic!

My folks discovered through genealogy that there was somebody in my mother's family tree named Alexander Attkisson and liked the sound of it.This had the fun corollary of a functionally unspellable middle name which even I kept giving too few or too many S's or a rogue N. I narrowly dodged Ida (born on the Ides of March) and Bergliot (I think someone had an Aunt Bergie) or Dockfin (if I were a boy...) I've always been fond of Alexandra because literally everyone within a few mile radius of DC is named Alex or Alexandra and so you can wander into bars and feel acclaimed.

I have a workplace question that maybe someone else has been through and maybe they can give me some advice. I worked for a company, let's just call is JPM, and somehow, I have no idea, I misplaced $2 billion. I swear I had it in my desk drawer and now I can't find it. I went through the trash and all my files. I thought maybe one of my friends was pulling a prank but they all insist they haven't seen it. What should I do? I fear the boss may eventually notice the money is missing, although I believe I may be able to hold him off for awhile. Does anyone have any advice?

What a silly mistake!

Any thoughts, chatters?

I have mixed feelings about the discovery of the earlier Mayan calendars: on the one hand, it's a marvelous discovery and a boon to history, and it's fun to see the apocalypse FAIL, but it would have been just as much fun to watch the apocalyptics' faces as they woke up on Christmas 2012 to realize they had been idiots.

But we have the option to do that so often! People are always predicting apocalypses. Consider the historic Legislative Realignment of 2012 that is due any time, and will solve all our gridlock problems.

Centuries ago, a Native American asked a wise elder whose job it was to pick the names of village residents how the names were chosen. The wise elder responded "when the child is born, I look for a sign and I pick a name according to that sign. When Flying Eagle was born, an eagle had flown over. When Howling Wolf was born, I heard a wolf howling in the distance. So, why are you curious about how names are selected, Two Dogs Humping?"


Speaking of this level of humor, I'm competing in the O. Henry Pun-Off this weekend! Trying to decide if I should base my routine on cats or philosophers...

We will never choose and will end up crying in the hospital. We have 6 months left to worry over this, so won't you choose for us? Baby = half white/half asian. Girl - Charlotte, Clara, Elinor, Louisa. Boy - Felix, Henry, Evan, Leo

Kittens I can do. Babies, that's a level up. I love all the names you have lined up -- I really don't think you can go wrong. I'm sort of partial to Felix because my family always used to listen to tapes about famous composers in the car on long trips. Here is my impresssion of how this went.

Tape: Beethoven, poor little Beethoven, had to practice piano long into the night as his alcoholic father yelled at him. Later he went deaf.

Tape: Mozart, poor little Mozart, traveled the courts of Europe being forced to entertain as a virtuoso.

Tape: Chopin suffered miserably from a weak constitution. As a child, he used to sit under the piano and listen to its dulcet tones.

Tape: Little Felix Mendelssohn led a joyous existence, surrounded by no hardship whatsoever. His parents were happy to sponsor his first concert at the age of four, or something, and he was more than delighted to perform his joyous and delightful array of cheery and outstanding music. Happy Little Felix!

It was just such a contrast to all the other miserable composers barely straggling along, and then there was little Felix Mendelssohn leading a charmed life. Until his untimely death, of course.

I expect that next year it will shoot to the top of the lists.

I like this. Middle names, people. That's the next frontier!

Avoid Shmi, which sounds like a sneeze.

Or a Captain Hook lackey.

I always thought Alexandra is a lovely name. What do you think? Unfortunately, my son doesn't like it.

Hahaha, I see what you did there.

I'm a fan of Alex, because if you want to go somewhere and surprise people with your gender, it does the trick pretty nicely.

My parents were big into "Star Wars". They named me after one of the characters, "Third Droid on the Left."

You and my friend That Blue Elephant On Jabba's Sail Barge should go out for drinks sometime.

*yes I know his name is Max Rebo

Don't jump to conclusions. How do you know that it was not a comment on its tastiness?

*shudders uncomfortably*

The links on your chat page to todays other chats read: Friday's Sessions • Sports: Boswell, 11 • Travel: Talk about Travel, 12 • Traffic: Dr. Gridlock, 12 • Advice: Dear Prudence, 1 • Five Myths: Gay marriage, 1:30 I woke up today and thought it was Thursday. Apparently it isn't, but it is Tuesday and also Friday and Monday.

Chat tomorrow! Chat yesterday! But never ever chat today!

We take a sort of Alice in Wonderland approach to chat scheduling.

Not to worry. You can blame it on the corrupt accounting company that's supposed to prevent things like this. After all, if they don't do their job, how can you do yours?

Yeah! Who accounts for the accountants?

More than a Secret Service party, less than a GSA party?


Why not blame your boss and get him fired?

Another approach!

There was much discussion btw my wife and I over my son's name. I wanted to use an old family name "Hill" as a middle name, thinking it would be unique, traditional, and interesting. My wife thought it was stupid.

I'm assuming your wife won?

I think this is one of those cases where it depends heavily on the first name. If the first name were A. P., then everyone would think, "Ah, sounds like that confederate general who had gonorrhea!" Well, maybe not everyone. But I've shed all facts about A. P. Hill beyond his unfortunate condition.

If his name were Mole, I might be more sympathetic to your case.

If the north and south pole magnet fields shift, what exactly will that mean other than my compass will be backwards? Will I still be able to get HBO?

I'm going to farm this question out to the rest of the chat, since I don't want to misle you.

I think it's safe to say that you won't be able to get HBO.

My parents named me Ivy. What is that supposed to say about me? Mom's a gardener? Dad does a lot of forest hiking?

Are there a lot of brick walls in your life? Do you have a sister named Holly? Does your touch cause some people to burst out in terrible rashes?

Who's Mon Mothma?

She's that lady in Return of the Jedi who says, "The empire has made a critical error and the time for our attack has come." She wears all white? Looks sort of like a contented lemon?

I've got a cousin who named his girl Alaska.... his girlfriend and mother of the child is from Alaska...and they are moving to Alaska next month. I feel kinda bad for this kid

"Where's she from?" "Alaska?" "Yes." "Alaska." "I was hoping you would know."

(or some equally time-worn series of Alaska-based misdirection questions)

Bandersnatches after your colleague, Ms. Moraes, little tweet/chat "thing" happened last week.

I love that name, actually. I think it captures Mr. Cumberbatch's absurd essence.The next stage after we have little frumious bandersnatches roaming around will be to reintroduce "slithy tove" as a term in conversation. Think about it. If you say, "He seems like a real slithy tove," I know exactly what you mean.

How funny. I'm glad I'm not the only one. Here's what I did: First I collected all the paper in my office into a big pile. Next I lit a match and set the office on fire. Then I ran out of the building but made sure to pull the fire alarm first. I didn't want to kill anyone! Everyone came running out of the burning building. Well, the firemen came and put the fire out but my office was burnt to a crisp. I was so relieved. Now I could tell my boss that the $2 billion burned with the rest of my stuff. You should try it.

It makes a lovely fire!

I just received an email from someone selling t-shirts that read "honey badger". I keep seeing this phrase referenced, yet I am missing the connection. I can read on google was a honey gadget is, yet I presume there is some cultural reference to this term that only those who know the reference understand. Would someone please be the bee's knees and inform me as to what this reference is?

Be warned for language, but here's the video in question.


Maybe one of the bosses' Columbian prostitutes took it after he refused to pay her.

Please, they're escorts. Especially if they make $2 billion. Then they're probably some even fancier term that you can only pronounce if born with a silver spoon in your mouth.


The baby name list shows a big resurgence in girl names that are also virtues: Patience, Temperance, Prudence, Felicity, etc. In boy names, nothing. No Manly or Upright or Assertive or even Remembersbirthdays. What's up with this? Also, although Nevaeh (heaven backwards) remains very popular as a girl name, I am sad to report that Neveah (heaven misspelled backwards) is hanging in at around 950.

Neveah! That's great. 

Dibs on Remembersbirthdays.

And whatever happened to Obstinate and Pliable? One has the impression that there were dozens of little Obstinates and Pliables roaming around in John Bunyan's day, and now you never see them.

I know it's hugely snobby (among other things), but I've always like the Supreme Court Justice test for baby names. As in "Chief Justice Tiffany" or "Chief Justice Mary." It also means I'm insanely boring, but I knew that already.

I've never heard that! That's a good test. I'm sure that's what Learned Hand's parents did.

I have an Israeli friend named, and I'm not kidding, "Shai," as in reticent, not as in the old baseball stadium in New York. When I first met him, he said to me "Hello, I'm Shai." "You don't seem it," I said. Has that wherever he goes here in the states. It's quite popular there, perhaps for the comedic effect.

That sounds burdensome! But as long as he's happy!

I feel like, in general, if your name prompts the response, "Ha ha, no you're not," it's a bad investment.

They wanted you to be clingy. Or they considered you an invasive alien that birds love.

Or maybe they thought you were a drip!

For the first time ever, in the last few years Mary has fallen out of the top 100. To e was, 1-in-8 US girls was named Mary. (see chart here: Doesn't anyone care? Should they?

Michael's out, too. Instead, we have a small galaxy of Masons and Jaydens.

Hey, it'll be funny when Mason and Jayden and Madison are what kids see as "old-fashioned" names, like Myrtle and Gladys and Beverly.

well, there are a lot of Virginias and Marilyns -- and Georgias, for that matter -- out there.

Fewer North Dakotas, though.

During a very unfortunate time when, despite my brother and I being adults, our mother insisted on getting us at least one physical present for every night of Hannukah, I think I have a pretty complete set of Star Wars bean bag toys including most of the band shoved in a bankers box somewhere. Blue guy was my favorite.

He's great! I also like conceptually that they made the elephant-looking individual the keyboard player.

...and religion. Popes really do need to get out of the old Reuse Dead Pope's Names rut. The next Pope should do something innovative that would demonstrate that the Church is interested in modernization. Maybe take the name Commodore 64.

Pope Commodore 64! I'm not even Catholic, and I'd listen to that guy!

Person employed by state department of natural resources had triplets. (true story) Named them Hunter, Fisher and Trapper.

That's so great I'm terrified it might be apocryphal!

I know a woman named Holly who named her daughter Noel. Really.


It turns out the $2 billion had fallen underneath some files in the filing cabinet. All you SEC investigators and reporters may be home now. Honest.

What a relief!

Compost Live Chat, solving everyone's problems since, er, 2011 sometime, I think!

We used to know a Dominic. My husband always called him Benedict by mistake. The hazards of a Catholic education.


Benedict seems to be making a comeback, after long toiling in the wilderness in association with eggs and traitors.

Maybe celebrities hire baby name consultants, who do focus groups and such. They're probably the same people who have provided Sean Combs with a list of backup names to use in case P. Diddy gets sullied (I think some of these may include Lipid Doody and Puddy Pie).

I stand by my initial joke about Blue Ivy, which is that it sounds like Beyonce wanted to name the kid Yale and was too tired to Google it.

Lipid Doody, though?

About a month ago, my employer told me, "Here, take this $2 billion and put it all on a hedge."

+10 for the Amelia Bedelia reference!

You'd better start making a really excellent pie!

I think you meant "It makes a lovely light!" First Fig or whatever Edna called that poem. I knew an Edna once. I don't think it is about to make a comeback as a name. Also, my great aunt Ruth's real name on her birth certificate was Bertha. Great great aunt Bertha didn't speak English very well and when they asked her what name to put on the baby's birth certificate, she thought they were asking for her name. Oops. Rumor has it that back in Lithuania, aunt Bertha was an expert with a hammer in the family box factory.

So many things to unpack in this comment!

Mainly, I want to know more about this box factory.

related to Paul Bunyan?

Tell me I'm not misnoming again! I mean the Pilgrim's Progress guy. I think he and Paul were distant cousins. One dealt with the giant Indolence, the other tackled giant blue oxen.

Seems like a natural.

All I can say is it reminds me of Gherkin.

You could name a son Mason Jar Jar.

+10! Double the class!

A honey badger took the missing $2 billion. It don't care.

It was in the hedge!

Droopy McCool? What was Lucas smoking?

Salacious P. Crumb?

We recently had our first son, and we named him Charles (nickname: Charlie). Lately I've noticed when people ask me what my son's name is, the do an anticipatory wince, as though I'm going to say "briella" or "mephistopholes". When I tell them his name...they are obviously relieved. What does that tell you, all you mothers of Madisons out there?? Love ComPost, BTW!

Thank you!

My favorite side factoid about all these names is that the most popular names are still less popular than the most poular names used to be. In other words, more people than ever are trying to give their kids Totally Rad and Distinctive Names. Soon Traditional and Normal-Sounding will be the new weird and distinctive.

That is the name to pick if you absolutely hate your daughter.

Even Brunhilda is better!

My mother was born in Berkeley, California, and her parents named her Berkeley. In high school she had a (female) classmate whose given name was California. When they'd be seated alphabetically by last name in classes, California sat right after Berkeley. BTW, this was back in the 1920s.


I love the alphabetically based friendships that everyone forms in elementary school. Or height-based, depending on how your school does things.

Friends of mine seriously considered naming their son "Neil Young and Crazy Horse." They went with the last name of a recent president instead. So sad.

If you are the sort of parents who are seriously thinking of calling your son Neil Young and Crazy Horse, I feel as though you probably ought to just go for it. But Clinton or Reagan or, er, Nixon is probably glad they didn't listen to me.

Dakota Fanning, anyone?

Oh, true! I guess, fewer New Jerseys? Although Briella might count as naming your kid New Jersey.

she puts the lotion on her skin

Or else it gets the hose again!

Second person, so I think I'm safe.

My first daughter Virginia loved her name, but our second daughter Maryland did not like her name at all. I have no idea if our third daughter likes her name or not. District of Columbia ran away years ago.

I bet the lack of a meaningful vote really got to her.

She and Third Droid on the Left are no doubt very happy together now.

In his magisterial study of English folk customs, Religion and the Decline of Magic, Sir Keith Thomas discusses the rise of these names as the Puritan ethos took hold in the 17th Century. The name he described as "most felicitous" (though not a virtue) belonged to a woman dubbed Contented Bird.

I LOVE that name! That's on par with Agnes Nutter!

Only works if your last name is 'Andale'.

I was pronouncing that as "Andale! Andale!" in my head, but now I see what you did there! Ha!

That is all.

Any time!

This of course depends on the inflection of your voice: O Henry. O Martha O Henry O Martha O Henry O Elizabeth Elizabeth? Who is Elizabeth?

O Dear.

Girl: Norma, Linda, Briella, Margaret, Celeste, Angela, Edith, Edna, Maxwell, and most other names Boy: Hunter (Eewwww), Tim, Bill (William), Barney, Fred, Frank, Bob (Robert), Chris, Sam, John, Albert (sorry grandpa), Alfred (sorry grandpa) and so many others Conclusion: I'm not having kids.

I think that's probably the simplest solution to all these naming troubles.

We may not have the Mayan Apocalypse coming, but what about the Zombie Apocalypse? There's a Facebook event scheduled for this December 22. (Personally, I've replied as a "maybe," due to lack of commitment.)

Speaking of Maybe Apocalypses, I'm going to duck out!

Thank you for a delightful chat! I am a very Contented Bird. Please keep reading the Compost and feel free but unobligated to follow me on Twitter!

In This Chat
Alexandra Petri
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost, a lighter take on the news and issues of the day, and she contributes to the Post editorial page. Her work has appeared in venues such as The Huffington Post, The Week,,, Collegehumor, and The Harvard Crimson. She has appeared on Jeopardy!, Showbiz Tonight and Canadian radio, and she has performed at Boston's Comedy Studio and Comedy Connection. She would love to be on your TV show, radio show, Daily Show, HBO special, or to be an honored guest (or regular guest) at your Bar Mitzvah. She is the author of two books (unpublished, but contact her!), two screenplays, three plays, one musical, and one memoir (Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.)
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