You will be mocked if you fail to conform

Abcde Redford should not be ashamed of her name, but Southwest Airlines should be ashamed of their employee’s behavior. Every child should have a name that is unique, or has a strong history, or reflects something about their family. Unfortunately, there is an annoying strain of conformity that says everyone should have a name that is familiar and belongs to a limited repertoire of common names, just because.

I was interested to learn, though, that Abcde is not totally unique.

Although Abcde is an unusual name, it’s not unheard of. In 2014, Vocativ reported that over the past three decades, 328 baby girls have been given that name, 32 of whom were born in 2009. But when the name is entered into the Social Security Administration’s database of popular baby names, it states that “Abcde is not in the top 1000 names for any year of birth beginning with 2000.”

I think it’s a very nice name. It’ll also be incredibly popular when Abcde grows up and is so pissed off at the mockery that she shatters the status quo.


  1. Ed Seedhouse says

    I have never had the opportunity, but if I had I would have been sorely tempted to name an offspring “Lmnopq”, which is the answer to a childhood puzzle. Hint, pronounce the letters individually but quickly.

  2. says

    I named my eldest ‘Rædwald’ (after the most successful king of my part of England, when my part of England actually was a kingdom) and to be honest was a bit worried about teasing in school. He lucked out though and got the nickname ‘Rad’, which happened to be a term of high approbation (short for ‘radical’) used amongst his peers.

  3. brucegee1962 says

    One of the first things I learned as a teacher was to never comment on kids’ names the first time you call the roll, no matter how unusual they may be. There is literally nothing you can say that they won’t have heard before, and also nothing that will be in the least way amusing.

  4. says

    I’m going to have to disagree. Mindless conformity is bad, but for once I’m on the side of “you can’t name a child ‘Abcde’ and not expect her to make it through life without comment.” People also like to give their babies cute names but have to realize that if everything goes well, they are name someone who will spend the majority of their life as an adult, and those few years as a child can be bad enough without giving the other kids something to mock.

    I’m honestly surprised by how strong my feelings are on this subject, but I think it ties in to my hatred of the concept of children as property (“It’s my child, I can do what I want!”) Abcde was given no choice in her ridiculously spelled name and what her mother experienced what her child is going to be going through as she makes her way through school and then into the adult world.

    Life is hard enough. Parents who value “uniqueness” over all else should not be foisting additional hardships upon their children.

    And considering the blowback I expect to get from this, I probably shouldn’t voice my feelings on “<url=>levidrome”.

  5. starfleetdude says

    My stepson had difficulties with his first name sometimes while growing up, but then Barack Obama became President and now it’s a bit easier for him.

  6. Zeppelin says

    I agree with Tabby Lavalamp. Don’t give your child a “unique” name, give them a sensible, normal name. If they want to be wacky and stand out they can change it to ABCEF Moon Warrior Smith at 18.
    You’re not expressing your child’s individuality (how would you know what they’re going to be like when they’ve only just been born?), you’re expressing your own individuality at their expense. It’s like tattooing them.
    It’s not just about bullying (where you could make the argument that enough people giving their kids nonsense names will eventually normalise it and stop the bullying), it’s about everyday inconveniences like clerks misspelling their name/having to spell it out all the time.

  7. Becca Stareyes says

    It also strikes me as extra cruel to make fun of a 5-year-old’s name. I’m an adult and can change my legal name to whatever strikes my fancy, so if I decide to become Abcde Stareyes (or to use Becca Stareyes as my legal name as well as an online handle), well, that was my decision and it only reflects on me. Little Abcde is given a name by her parents, and can at best ask to be called by a nickname or other name, and hope others respect her choice — at this point, it’s not like she can change her name if she hates it.

  8. says


    And those are from face-to-face meetings. No point trying to remember all the weird-ass print variants, or people asking if it’s “my real name.”

  9. Artor says

    I named my son Cian specifically so he’d be relatively unique in the US. His 2nd grade class had Cian, Kian, and Keenan sitting next to each other. It’s also why I go by Artor, to distinguish me from the myriad of other Arthurs in the world.

  10. Saad says

    Funny how she didn’t change her name to abcde.

    She seemed to have thought Traci with an “i” was as contrarian as she could be.

  11. Larry says

    Like many Irish names, Aoife and Siobhan, for example, that non-speakers of Gaelic will initially mispronounce because they have no idea how those letters sound together, a name like Abcde would be unpronounceable to just about any English speaker. It’s unfair to saddle a child with Abcde because they are going to be having to pronounce that name every time they interact with somebody new. I have a relatively uncommon last name that can be pronounced in many different ways. My family chose to use a pronunciation that isn’t the obvious one. As a result, it is constantly mispronounced to my ear. I finally got tired of always correcting the person so I decided to stop correcting those whom I’ll probably never see again.

  12. microraptor says

    Tabby Lavalamp @4: What counts as a “normal” name, though? How is it worse if I name my hypothetical kid Dweezil than if I had a child with an Indonesian partner who wished to give her child a traditional Indonesian name? Hasan or Megawati are easily as unusual in the US.

  13. Jimbo2K7 says

    I went to school with a guy names Jack Aulph – seriously.

    He was mocked mercilessly, continuously, and for years.

    How could you do this your child?

  14. rq says

    I would also like to know what counts as a normal, sensible name, and which language biases exactly are we appealing to. Because I might have some complaints.

  15. stormcloak says

    Germany actually has naming guidelines that prevent much of what is possible in the US. The idea is that babies can’t protect their personal rights themselves, so the civil registry does that for them. Names that could harm the well-being of the child get rejected.

    Of course, one can argue that the parents who chose a harmful name are not to blame for that harm, but that the bullies doing the harm are the culprits. The problem with that reasoning is that the parents are not the ones suffering the harm and therefore shouldn’t be the ones to make the decision. We’d have to ask the baby to make that decision which is, of course, impossible.

    I think if you want to choose an uncommon name for your child that you think could lead to bullying, you should combine it with a more common name. That gives the child a chance to decide for themselves. I object to “Abcde”, but “Claire Abcde” – sure, why not?

  16. asteraceae says

    Worth noting that names are one of the primary means by which bigots single out, ridicule and discriminate against black people. The rhetoric always goes something like, “well, if they don’t want to be discriminated against, they should pick ‘normal’ names that don’t stand out!” But everyone who’s not an idiot knows it’s just a convenient, deniable cover for bigotry. It’s not about the names at all.

  17. Zeppelin says


    I would also like to know what counts as a normal, sensible name

    Whatever sort of name won’t inconvenience your kid growing up where you’re planning on raising them? I mean, just use your best judgment. If you’re raising them in Germany, “Jürgen” is a reasonable name. In the US not so much, because people won’t know how to pronounce the umlaut, keyboards don’t have a key for the letter, and poorly-designed electronic forms or lazy clerks will screw it up.

  18. ridana says

    Zepplin @ 19:
    And if you write it with the umlaut and the clerk does not, you won’t get to vote.

  19. Zeppelin says


    Exactly, that sort of nonsense. It’s just not worth it, typically.

    Like, I see the value in giving your child a name traditional to your culture, even if it’s difficult to use where you’re currently living. There’s an argument to be made that the benefits here outweigh the inconvenience to your child. You’re passing something on. (Though even in this case I’d expect parents to at least make an effort to find a name that’s significant and useable). But “ABCDE” isn’t a mark of cultural pride and identity, it’s attention-seeking bullshit.

  20. rgmani says


    Whatever sort of name won’t inconvenience your kid growing up where you’re planning on raising them?

    It isn’t as simple as that. What if you are from a different part of the world and settled in the US? What sort of name should you give your kid? I know many people from India who got so tired of people mangling their older kids’ names (even the simple two-syllable ones) that they reluctantly decided to give their younger kids western names. Are you suggesting that people from other parts of the world conform to American naming standards just because they have moved here? In a multicultural environment like the one we live in, you are bound to run into unfamiliar names. The correct response to that isn’t to laugh at them.


  21. Saad says

    Halcyon Dayz, FCD,

    The airline agent who failed to conform to the notion that they should act professionally.

    Agreed 100%.

    I was of course referring to the use of “fail to conform” in PZ’s title for this blog entry.

    A normal name would be one where an American whose native language is American English don’t give their kid the name abcde with the knowledge that the child will have to explain to people at every interaction that it’s supposed to be pronounced ab-city for some ridiculous reason. This isn’t a case of an Indonesian parent giving their child an Indonesian name. This is an English-speaking American person treating their child like property and throwing a little obstacle in their life just because. There’s no reasoning or cultural aspect to it.

    Also, if this was about not wanting to have a name that must be explained to people in your society, she would have changed her own name. The baby was suffering no negative effects from not being named abcde. What exactly did naming the child abcde accomplish? What harm was mitigated by doing that? What cause was furthered?

  22. Saad says

    Zeppelin, #22

    But “ABCDE” isn’t a mark of cultural pride and identity, it’s attention-seeking bullshit.

    Exactly. And at the expense of your child at that.

    Change your own damn name to ABCDE.

  23. antigone10 says

    My meatspace name is right in the “sweet spot” of naming conventions- common enough to be recognizable and pronounceable, but rare enough to be somewhat memorable. Easy to be made a nickname, but short enough I can insist on the full name. It’s the “wacky best friend” sort of name on TV shows. It is a “normal name” for the US.

    I still have people asking how to pronounce it. I still have people mispronouncing it. I still had kids make up terrible rhymes and slurs using it. There is no such thing as a name that cruel people won’t find a way to be cruel about.

    The problem is not people’s names. The problem is people being mean. It is true that in this society, we don’t get to pick our own name (generally)- our parents give it to us. And when they give us names, they are giving us a legacy, a hope, and a wish we didn’t choose. They are giving us a legacy of gone relatives. They are giving us a link to our past. Or they are giving us a wish- I hope this person is as creative, unique, and beautiful as this name. I hope this person is strong. And if it’s the wrong legacy and the wrong wish it can be frustrating for a child. But every child gets this.

    I hate boring, everyone-has-heard them names. It’s a unique human, give it a unique name! But my personal opinion is irrelevant because it’s not my child.

  24. square101 says

    Please let me know if I’m off target here, but I was under the impression that the people who are most often punished for having a “weird” name in the US are people of color and immigrants.

    I can understand the desire to tell silly white yuppie that giving their kind a “unique” name like Abcde is selfish and wrong and they should offer their child a chance to get through life with out being ridiculed. But by making those statements, even if you claim not have any issue with the kids name in and of itself, you are supporting a system where there are names that can be considered too “weird” for polite society and where the people with those names can be ridiculed. And while this sort of system will have splash damage on all the young Abcdes or Apples but the major payload is aimed directly at underprivileged communities.

    I agree with the idea that it is important for parents to look out for their children, to treat them like their own person not chattel that parents may do what they wish with. Personally, I would hope that children with names that other people may take issue with also have a more “normal” middle name that they could use in professional circles or if they just don’t like their first name. A lot of this, I feel, comes down more to parenting with compassion than name choice. I would hope that if a child disliked their initial given name whether it’s because it’s to unique or too boring their parent would be willing to work with them to find a moniker that they preferred.

    Finally, I will end this with the fact that I have an “unusual” name. It was my grandfather’s name and, as far as I am aware, I have not found another person with it. But the issue is, just by meeting me as a child and learning my name would not have been enough to determine if it was an important family name with tradition and history behind it (it’s not really this, but it easily could have been) and just a weird name my parents came up with because they couldn’t decide between two (the actual way my grandfather’s name was decide upon). As I said previously this gets even more prevalent with people who have a non-english language background. Because one often cannot put together the relevant information to determine whether the “weird” name in question is one of the mockable types or not it is important not to make statements about what are “acceptable” names.

  25. lotharloo says

    Isn’t it nice to be white? Because one important criteria we considered when naming our child was the consideration that the name should be a normal and familiar name where we live which automatically disqualified a lot of names from both our heritages. Being a minority or immigrant child is challenging enough so there is no need for the parents to add the extra burden of a ridiculous name just for the sake of “uniqueness”.

    But of course white people don’t even need to think about these things.

  26. square101 says

    Antigone10, #27

    Thank you! I was honestly surprised at the number of people demanding conformation to normal WASP naming conventions. I enjoy my unique name, it is me. My name actually contains the word “nerd” in it and as a child I was the epitome of a nerd and you know what, no one made fun of me for it. I got lucky that I was able to mostly stay from cruel people in my formative years and I never had any issues. Yet I am fully away that bullies will take the most innocuous of names and twist them into insults or just you regular old slurs if they aren’t bright enough to come up with something original. If I had been made fun of cause my name contained the word nerd that would not have been my parents fault for giving me my name. If would have be the fault of the cruel child in front of me and if we want to blame some parents maybe all the ones that haven’t taught their children that they should not be cruel to others.

  27. DonDueed says

    When I read the pronunciation (Ab-city), I was immediately reminded of a family name that’s fairly common among Navajos: Atcitty. So the name itself isn’t so odd — it’s the spelling.

    I fully agree that the airline agent was a jerk. As for the parent… well, I don’t have a kid but if I did I’d name her… Bill, or George, anything but Sue!

  28. Zeppelin says

    @rgmani, 23: I didn’t say it was easy, or that there’s always a satisfactory solution! I just think it’s something parents ought to seriously consider before naming their kid, and that there are some choices (like ABCDE) which are inexcusable. I also never suggested that it’s okay to laugh at people with unusual names — I don’t think anyone here believes that. They’re normally helpless victims of their parents’ decision, after all. I can recognise that someone has an unfortunate name and still respect them, same as if they had a lisp or a warty nose or some other cosmetic deficit. But I’m not going to patronise them by pretending that I enjoy their lisp, or tolerate people filing down their children’s incisors to give them lisps.

    (And yes, I have an “unusual” name myself, a foreign one at that, chosen frivolously by parents who liked its country of origin but have no other connection to it. And it was a pain in the ass growing up with it. Fortunately it is at least a “real” name, so now that I work in an international, multilingual field it’s fine.)

  29. woozy says

    EVERYbody believes their personally childhood was hell. And EVERYONE has stories of people mangling and making fun of their names. My anecdotal experience is those with distinct names are the better off in the long run.

    Now had this been a story about a gate attendant stumbling over a name and flusteringly saying “what an interesting name” and the parent getting on her high-horse to be appalled or a kid teasing her for the name (um, that’s inevitable) and the parent demanding the school have sensitivity training for everyone, I’d be dubious. But this is a case of gate attendants laughing and joking with co-workers in public view of the mother and that’s awful.

    And the gate attendant posted a photo of the boarding pass on social media. And that’s as far as I’m concerned a first time no warning firing offense.

  30. Saad says

    In a way this is a case of cultural appropriation. It’s a white American woman forcing herself (and her child, more importantly) into a situation that people of various cultural backgrounds genuinely experience in America. She’s trying to make it sound like she’s part of the “I was discriminated/mocked for my name from a different heritage” crowd. What rgmani is talking about in post #23 is a valid issue. It just happens to not be the same issue that this woman faced. But people like her try to co-opt a legitimate social justice issue by doing things like this.

  31. says

    Here in CZ the naming is regulated by law. For example the name “Ivanka” would not be allowed here. It is a diminutive of “Ivana” and diminutives, nicknames or deliberate miss-spelings are not allowed as official civic names. I always cringe inwardly when I read the word “Ivanka” with regard to a grown-up woman, it feelss creepy.

    Made-up words are not allowed either. There is a central register of allowed names that is constantly updated according to how the society and language evolve.There is a process for allowing names from other cultures, so for immigrant parents it is possible to name their children with names that are culturally significant for them – all they have to do is provide evidence that the used word is actually a human name and not a kitchen utensil. Once such name is allowed once, it is entered into the register.

    I bet our system is not perfect, but like with many things, I think a total lack of regulations is not perfect in this regard as well. The girl has no benefit whatsoever from being named Abcde, and most likely her whole life she will be stuck with having to explain to every single person she meets how to pronounce it (there is enough of that with standard names, especially across languages, I can tell you). All in the name of fake diversity.

    The agent is a jerk, but so are the parents for naming their children in this way.

  32. Zeppelin says

    @woozy, 33: Not sure if that first bit is in response to me, but I don’t believe my childhood was hell. It was mostly fine, and my parents loved me very much and took good care of me. They just gave me a dumb name that made some things harder for no good reason, and so I don’t appreciate it when other parents inflict the same nonsense on their children. I mentioned that I have a “weird” name mainly to pre-empt charges of being a selfish promoter of Mainstream Name Privilege, not to ask for sympathy.

  33. says

    I remember when someone in one of my apas said she was going to name her daughter Macrina, after an old nun she knew. I begged her to think of the child. Same with a relative (surnamed Day) who gave his first child a name which, combined with the surname, made a -funny joke- (term of art: not literal). We all have enough problems already without our parents shoveling a completely unnecessary load onto the pile we’re lugging.

  34. Edward Bosnar says

    Charly @35: wow, I did not know that CZ is restrictive with diminutives. Here in (fellow Slavic country) Croatia, diminutives as given names are par for the course, and nobody even bats an eye at the practice. For example, in the early ’00s the prime minister was named Ivica (normally the diminutive for Ivan) and in the mid-1990s one of the PMs was named Nikica (the diminutive for Nikola, i.e. Nicholas). I should note, those were their given names, not nicknames. Also, I know plenty of adult women named Ivanka, both here and back home in the US among emigres, and find nothing remotely cringe-inducing about it – and yes, in Croatian, as in Czech, it’s also a diminutive for Ivana.

  35. Michael says

    It’s a challenge naming kids. I teach high school, so I have bad associations with a lot of names (eg. somehow naming your kid Ryan, Tyson, Tyler, etc. seems to invite behaviour problems in school), so I vetoed a lot of possible names when it came to naming our kids. We tried to find something uncommon, but not too unusual (eg. my suggestion of Azazel was vetoed). So we eventually selected from a pool of names we liked, including Julian, Julius, Darien, Darius, Tristan, Amelie, Aurora, and Diara (I said kids). However in retrospect, kids can suffer from having rare names. So far no problems with teasing, but the kids do lament that while you may find the odd named item with Julian on it (eg. pen, jackknife, bedroom door sign, placemat, etc.) you are extremely unlikely to find any of the other names. Then of course there is always having to repeat their name to strangers, who will mishear or misspell it, eg. Amelie would be mistaken for Emily.

  36. rgmani says


    In a way this is a case of cultural appropriation. It’s a white American woman forcing herself (and her child, more importantly) into a situation that people of various cultural backgrounds genuinely experience in America.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call it cultural appropriation. The urge to give your kid an unusual name is (as far as I can tell) universal. There is no shortage of Indians giving their kids these unheard-of names and then getting upset when fellow Indians mispronounce or make some innocuous comment about them.

    Anyway, I don’t think appropriating names from other cultures is such a bad thing either. No Indian that I know considers the actress Uma Thurman’s name to be objectionable in any way – FYI, Uma is the name of a goddess in Hindu mythology and her middle name Karuna is a Sanskrit word that means compassion. Among Indians, the name Anoushka seems to have suddenly become very popular (the most famous Indian with that name is Anoushka Shankar – Ravi Shankar’s daughter). The name is, as best as I can tell, Russian in origin and has no connection whatsoever to either Hinduism or India.


  37. Rob Grigjanis says

    rgmani @40: I’m guessing Anoushka is sticking the Russian diminutive “ka” on an Indian name.

  38. Jazzlet says

    I think there is a profound difference between giving your child an unusual name and calling her an alphabetical string. It’s made worse by declaring that string is pronounced Ab-City, you are not giving anyone a chance a pronouncing the name correctly before they have heard it out loud. Is she going to have a second child called Fghij?

  39. rgmani says

    @Rob Grigjanis

    There is an Indian name that is quite similar to Anoushka – Anusha which means ‘beautiful morning’. However, I don’t believe anyone decided to stick a Russian diminutive on an Indian name. In all the cases I am familiar with, the parents picked the name because they thought it sounded nice.


  40. gijoel says

    The kid didn’t get a choice in picking her name. Mocking said child is like mocking someone who wears glasses, or has a wheelchair.

  41. says

    @#6, Marcus Ranum:

    The “Johnny Tables” XKCD strip always bugs me, because it’s both smug and still wrong. You shouldn’t sanitize your database inputs, you should parameterize your database queries, and then you are totally immune to injection attacks. Trying to “sanitize” your inputs involves making the assumption that you have figured out all possible ways to perform a database injection attack and adequately protected against all of them, which is like the old Dilbert strip where Dilbert builds an Internet porn filter and says something along the lines of “my technical skills are obviously capable of triumphing over horny teenagers” and behind him a kid obviously sees something and he says “I hope that wasn’t the sound of eyes getting really big”. Parameterized queries not only are uninjectable but let the database optimize better by not creating a new query for every search. (Sorry for going off-topic.)

  42. archangelospumoni says

    I am from Tejas, a confirmed nasty, filthy, ugly, backward, stinky, rotten, fetid, putrid, brown, flat, barren, polluted, racist state, but I escaped in the ’60s.

    A former governor of theirs named James Hogg (governor in about 1895, died in about 1905, named a daughter Ima. Fact. True. There is always the untrue story that she had a sister named Ura, but the true part is the Ima name.
    As it turned out, while he wasn’t all that rich during his lifetime, his land had rich petroleum deposits and Ima Hogg became quite the philanthropist. She was widely respected in Tejas and died in about 1975.
    She donated a bunch of art;supported a Child Guidance Center for kids with mental health issues; established a foundation for University of Texas at Austin for mental health, etc.
    A great woman greatly respected across the spectrum. Once you get used to the name, the overpowering good that she did is what remains.

  43. mmfwmc says

    What does your name say about you? Nothing.
    What does your name say about your parents? Quite a bit.

    I have a long surname that is hard to pronounce and hard to spell. I can tell you the following things:
    1) I get bored spelling my own last name. Literally, halfway through, I’m bored. It’s that long.
    2) No one can pronounce it or spell it. I grew up learning to respond to “Confused pause”.
    3) 2 is actually not true. Someone pronounced it correctly on the first go three weeks ago. I’m almost 40. That’s the first time I can remember.
    4) I would kill for the name Smith.
    5) I got bullied for it at school, but that would have happened even with the name Smith.
    6) I have heard every version of joke about my name. It is impossible to be funny about it.
    7) My wife didn’t take my last name, so at least my kids aren’t going to have to suffer it.

    My complaints about the woman above are not that the kid was mocked – that’s the airline person’s fault and shame on them. My problem is, as many have pointed out, that the woman is taking a decision that will have problems 1-4 above occur to her child. Seriously, it’s just a constant source of annoyance and inconvenience. It’s not funny, witty or insightful or individual. It’s just dumb attention seeking. It’s treating a kid as property, and it’s wrong. There are justifications for unique names – as people above have demonstrated. But this wasn’t one of them. Should it be illegal? No – it’s not actual child abuse. But inflicting a name like this is wrong.

    And how do I judge the difference between a name that’s morally wrong and an acceptable variant on a common name, or an ethnic name? Easy. I’m a functioning adult and can tell the difference between someone from another country, someone whose parents were unusual and someone whose parents were fucking morons.

    So fuck Traci. But I really feel for the kid.

    But still, the name is not as bad as raising them as home schooled religious fundamentalists. Which seems to be perfectly acceptable in polite society.

  44. graham2 says

    Im just glad my parents didn’t name me Sue. Or Abcde. Jeez what are some parents thinking ?

  45. Holms says

    Shame on those adults who publicly mocked and taunted a child for her name, though any reason at all would still be shameful. Shame on the parent/s who decided on a name that is guaranteed to set that child up for ridicule at least through the school years. If you want to amaze people with a unique and mould-busting name, change your own. Yes it is a pain to do that as an adult, but at least you are placing all that annoyance on yourself and not a child.

    BTW PZ, I completely disagree that a name should be “unique, or have a strong history, or reflect something about their family.” A name is a handle, a label for easy reference. I’ll grant that there is a wide variety that is somewhat ignored, but the uniqueness of a person is not their name but their personality.

  46. springa73 says

    I can understand both sides of this. On the one hand, it is sad that people treat other people badly based on how their names sound, something that few people choose for themselves. On the other hand, the reality is that kids,and sometimes adults too, will often focus on anything they perceive as atypical about a person as a way to make fun of them. Parents should at least keep this in mind when naming kids.

  47. says

    Homer Simpson (considering the name Bart for a newborn): First you gotta make sure the kids in his class won’t make fun of his name. Let’s see: Aart, Bart, Cart, Dart, E-art… yeah, he’ll be fine.

  48. microraptor says

    I have a name that’s neither unusual nor difficult to pronounce for the majority of Americans. It still got made fun of when I was a kid. The fact is that bullies will find something to mock you over, even if you have a 100% bully-proof name (is there even such thing?) you’ll still get picked on.

  49. marinerachel says

    I’m of the opinion it’s a dreadful sounding name. Doesn’t matter. Kid still shouldn’t be made fun of.

    My mom has spent her life in western Canada with an obscure Norwegian name. She never became fond or proud of it. She just keeps explaining to people that, yes, she’s female and it’s pronounced exactly how it’s spelt.

    She gave us unique enough names that people around here are still able to pronounce and recognise as women’s names. I’m good with that.

  50. Saad says

    rgmani, #40

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call it cultural appropriation. The urge to give your kid an unusual name is (as far as I can tell) universal. There is no shortage of Indians giving their kids these unheard-of names and then getting upset when fellow Indians mispronounce or make some innocuous comment about them.

    Anyway, I don’t think appropriating names from other cultures is such a bad thing either. No Indian that I know considers the actress Uma Thurman’s name to be objectionable in any way – FYI, Uma is the name of a goddess in Hindu mythology and her middle name Karuna is a Sanskrit word that means compassion. Among Indians, the name Anoushka seems to have suddenly become very popular (the most famous Indian with that name is Anoushka Shankar – Ravi Shankar’s daughter). The name is, as best as I can tell, Russian in origin and has no connection whatsoever to either Hinduism or India.


    Again, you’re making a valid point that I’m pretty much in agreement with.

    But what you’re saying isn’t what’s happening in this scenario. A white American woman named her kid abcde.

  51. woozy says

    “I can understand both sides of this. ”

    I don’t see that there are two sides to see. On the one hand we have making fun of a child and parent for giving the child a weird name. And … what’s the other side? That we have a right to be judgemental and condemning of how parents choose names? That it’s any of our business? That we know best when it comes to raising children. That that its our duty to tsk and point out bad parent in news stories about strangers.

    Well, I guess if there’s one thing the world is lacking and there isn’t enough of it’s people being judgemental on the internet.

  52. woozy says

    “A white American woman named her kid abcde.”

    Horrors! That’s certainly something to condemn.

    Um… wasn’t Uma Thurman’s mother a white American woman?

  53. Rob Grigjanis says

    Saad @54:

    A white American woman named her kid abcde.

    Oh, the humanity. Maybe you could write a little tract on what white American women should, or shouldn’t, use as names for their kids. And maybe add a bit on how you can read the minds of white American women, and how/why they choose names for their kids.

  54. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Hasan or Megawati are easily as unusual in the US.

    I dunno, the latter sounds pretty powerful.

  55. rrutis1 says

    I have kind of a long (german) surname like some others have mentioned above. I was made fun of for this for my entire youth by children and adults. I do not accept that it is ok to bully someone for their unconventional name or any other reason. Those of you claiming we should only name children “standard” names are not considering the world we live in is much smaller than the one our ancestors lived in. There have always been immigrants with different names but as world population grows and shifts more we will see many names we are not used to. What is different to you might be a 1000 year old tradition to someone else, and even if it is a new name as in the OP, so what. All of our names were new as some point in the past.

  56. marinerachel says

    Abcde isn’t a name from any culture and doesn’t have any meaning. It’s made up nonsense with no value except to make the parents feel special.

    How many jokes must this poor kid get about her name sounding like a gym occupied by meatheads?

  57. monad says

    Does it ever reflect horribly on the world that so many people’s common sense reaction is “well, of course there will be so much constant bullying of anyone different that it really ought to be a parent’s first consideration when they try to come up with a moniker celebrating their new child”.

    How hard do you suppose it would be to teach the upcoming generation that diversity in names, like diversity in culture and orientation and outlook, is actually a positive thing?

  58. Holms says

    #54 Saad

    But what you’re saying isn’t what’s happening in this scenario. A white American woman named her kid abcde.

    …Yes? And? In your quest to be the wokest of woketown, you’re really grasping at straws here.

  59. says

    What has naming a child Abcde have to do with cultural diversity? Nothing. It is a made-up name, first five letters of latin alphabet. It has no connection to past or contemporary history anywhere. It is a lazy way to make your kid’s name “special” without actually achieving it. There is no way anyone in any culture anywhere around the world has any clue how to pronounce it without being prompted (apart from the other about 300 people who named their children with this nonsense too).
    It is at least inconsiderate to give children such names.

    Like jazzlet said, shall the next kid be named Fghij? What about Pqrst? Should parents also be allowed to give their children first two names “Ivan Tedason” or “Con Dombust”? In the name of “diversity”?

    That bullies find always a way is nothing else than the nirvana fallacy. It is on the same logical level as arguing that gun regulations are useless because criminals do not obey laws.

    Not all diversity is desirable and trying to achieve society where absolutely no name does not give anyone a pause or make anyone laugh is pissing against a hurricane. Names perform a function in the society. Therefore, as with all such things, there is a balance to be found between allowing all individuals involved their due freedoms and ensuring that the freedom of the parents (to choose a name they like and/or is significant to them) does not unduly infringe on the freedoms of their child (to have a name that others recognize as a name and can pronounce) with a bit of room for cultural development and diversity.

    USA leaves the enforcement of this to bullies like aforementioned clerk – people who think about it try to abstain from giving their children silly name for fear of consequences (or, as in this case, their children suffer the consequences of their parents trying to be “original” for originality’s sake). Such “system” lends itself to being used and abused to also enforce racial and cultural conformity.

    I am sorry but not sorry, I find the Cz system better. You can still name your children Skatje, Jamal or Ahmed if you wish. But you are not allowed to name them Tvxyz and scream “diversity”!

  60. A. Noyd says

    One point to consider is that the name Abcde isn’t just “unusual”. Even if everyone in the world could be chill about one another’s names, it would still be a terrible thing to name your child. Why? Because it’s not recognizable as a name. Not even an odd or unconventional one.

    Other people would have to ask the child about it her whole life because it looks far more like like a clerical error or someone’s joke. And they won’t know that their completely reasonable assumption that it’s not a name is wrong till they become the millionth person to pester her for clarification. The chances that “Abcde” is not a name are just too great to let it pass unquestioned.

    For the same reasons, it would be equally terrible to name your child “FirstName”, “Asdfg” or “Anonymous”.

  61. vucodlak says

    All of my given names are incredibly common (in the US), dull, and WASP-y, their pronunciations and spellings well-known in the English-speaking world. I still got mocked for them, and I always have to spell them out to prevent people from misspelling at least one. Even then people get them wrong. I’ve lost count of how many corrections I’ve had to make over the years because someone has spelled my name wrong on official forms. Then you’ve got the people who insist on shortening my names to common diminutives without my permission. I told you my name motherfucker, don’t call me something else if you expect me to answer.

    My names aren’t even newish names. They’re old names, Biblical-old. In fact, they’re martyrs’ names, which you can bet every Christian asshole* loves to point out to me, as if I haven’t heard it a hundred times already. They’re perfectly “ordinary, respectable” names in every way, and you know what?

    I loathe my names, and I loathe their diminutive forms even more. The only reason is I haven’t changed them (to a non-traditional name I’ve already chosen) is the tremendous hassle, not to mention the not-inconsiderable expense.

    Whatever you name your kid they’re going to get made fun of for it by someone, somewhere, sometime. You shouldn’t name your kid anything that’s a slang term for a body part in your native tongue, and you should probably keep it short and easy to spell, but beyond that? It doesn’t matter. Kids who grew up with “Abcde” wouldn’t think it’s an odd name if not for the adults who insist on being assholes about it. Now personally, I would have pronounced it “A-beck-dee,” but I think either way it’s a fine name.

    This is the last place I expected to people to get in a snit because someone was non-traditional.

    *Just to be clear, I’m not saying every Christian is an asshole, but if the first thing someone says after hearing my full name is “Those are martyrs’ names” then I know I’m dealing with a Christian asshole.

  62. Holms says

    If I ever have a daughter, I will call her Ella.

    And her middle name will be Mennapea.

  63. lotharloo says

    Okay, okay, I got an idea. How about the name “3.14159265359” which is pronounced “Pie”? Or the name “rm -rf /home/*” which is pronounced “You got hacked”?

  64. marinerachel says

    I grew up with a kid whose parents named him Donald. Their last name is Duck.

    People don’t get used to other people’s absurd names just because they grow up together. My reaction to Donald’s name will always be “uhg” just as Abcde’s peers will always shake their heads when thinking of her and all the times she got made fun of and had to correct teachers on the pronunciation and spell her name over and over and over.

  65. Dr Sarah says

    My daughter now wants to know whether her friends will call her Alphabet. I’d have to resist the temptation to call her Vitamin…

    Anyway; yes, there probably is no name out there so straightforward that there won’t be someone who manages to mess up the spelling or not know how it’s pronounced or whatever. But, having grown up with a very easy straightforward first name and an extremely unusual how-do-you-spell-that surname, I can tell you that, yes, it does make a massive difference in the number of times you have to rattle through the whole “No, it’s spelled….” litany or put up with someone getting it wrong. This poor kid has been saddled with a significant lifelong nuisance.

  66. says

    I’m firmly on the side of “don’t give your kid a humiliating name”.

    OF COURSE bullies shouldn’t bully. That’s a given, and bullies should absolutely be dealt with appropriately the first time around. (And FFS, adults, can we please stop punishing kids for having reasonable, if childish, reactions to bullying?)

    At the same time, I feel like it’s just mean to force uniqueness on a child, especially in a way that practically guarantees a lifetime of teasing. It’s almost a form of bullying, even.

    I don’t know what the solution is.

    I just know I feel terrible for the poor kid, and I wish parents would give more thought to names, it’s the first gift you give a child, and it should never be a cause of pain for them.

    Oh, one more thing: For the love of cats, don’t be that hippie-dippie white person that yoinks names from other cultures you have no connection to, especially not if your reason is “cuz it’s exotic”.

  67. simply not edible says

    My legal meatspace name is David. Even here, in the Nether Realms, that’s a perfectly normal name. Heck, during my youth, in several occasions, I wasn’t even the only one with that name in my class, sports team, or social circle.

    There’s this bookseries/cartoon, about David the Gnome…

    Yeah, it’s not about having unconventional names. It’s about being around people who feel the need to raise themselves by lowering others.

  68. says

    First, adults making fun of a kids name should be ashamed of themselves. There’s absolutely no reason for that and no excuse. As a teacher I always try to learn the correct pronunciation of a name. Even if i never get it 100% right (I still don’t get Ahmed right), the kids value the effort. I once had a student whose name was spelled “Amelie”, which is a common name, but then pronounced like “Emelie”. Why the parents did that, I don’t know, but I got quickly named the kid’s “favourite teacher” for remembering the correct version. the only things I ever comment is asking where the name is from or telling them it’s a nice name.

    Second, I agree with the people who said that parents should think carefully. One of the guideline I read when pregnant said a wise thing: The joke lasts for 5 minutes, the name lasts for a lifetime. In our city administration there works a guy called “Johann Wolfgang Goethe”. Of course everybody thinks he’s trying to pull their leg.

    Thirdly, names with a cultural meaning are different from white people especially (but not exclusively) bullshitting. Though I still think you should take the place you’re raising your child into consideration, whenever possible. There will always be culturally significant names that won’t make your child’s life more difficult. I mean, there are a lot of Turkish names that are by now completely normal in Germany, and certainly hundreds more that are just as culturally appropriate and NOT a homophone of the German word for “yucky” as one of my kid’s classmates was called (by parents who grew up here).

    Fourth, for the comments, yeah, my last name invites idiotic variations. Recently a kid at my school tried to challenge me by using a stupid version. I calmly explained to him that a) I could write a note to his parents for that and give him detention b) I wouldn’t answer his question if he didn’t call me by my actual name and c) he was being 25 years late because I heard it all before. At that point we both laughed. We never had an issue since.

  69. woozy says

    Oh, one more thing: For the love of cats, don’t be that hippie-dippie white person that yoinks names from other cultures you have no connection to, especially not if your reason is “cuz it’s exotic”.

    Even that is far far preferable than being that self-righteous more enlightened than thou determined to point out the errors of other’s child rearing practices.

    It’s none of your fucking business what others name their kids. None. Zero.

  70. says


    It damn well IS my business, and everybody else’s, when a parent deliberately sets their child up for a lifetime of humiliation. Or are you okay with the psychological abuse of children?

  71. Holms says

    But that’s not what you said the first time around, and woozy even quoted your original wording so that we know what was being criticised. You have no excuse for changing
    “…that hippie-dippie white person that yoinks names from other cultures you have no connection to, especially not if your reason is “cuz it’s exotic”
    “…a parent deliberately set[ting] their child up for a lifetime of humiliation. Or are you okay with the psychological abuse of children?”
    That closing sentence is especially dishonest.

  72. kerriet says

    I met a dog with the name Abcde and I laughed at it, now I am a lil disappointed to realize those people weren’t the first ones to come up with that as a name.

  73. Holms says

    Nobody asked you either, yet you comment freely. Because this is an open conversation.

    And I am not ‘stirring up shit’, I’m giving my views on the conversation. You equated giving the name Abcde (which I agree is ‘setting that child up for a lifetime of humiliation’) with giving a culturally different name, like a white couple calling their child Joachim as an example. I completely disagree that they are the same thing, and to be honest, telling people to stay within the cultural norms for their ethnicity is a bizarre sentiment to see on a liberal blog.

  74. jefrir says

    telling people to stay within the cultural norms for their ethnicity is a bizarre sentiment to see on a liberal blog.

    Telling white people not to treat other cultures as an exotic plaything, on the other hand, seems pretty reasonable.

  75. Holms says

    Yet choosing a name for your child is not ‘treating a culture as a plaything’, exotic or otherwise, so I don’t know why you think that comment applicable here.

  76. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    like a white couple calling their child Joachim as an example

    I get your point, but that’s not a very good example–Joachim is about as white (i.e. deriving from Xian mythology) a name as there is.

  77. woozy says

    “It damn well IS my business, and everybody else’s, when a parent deliberately sets their child up for a lifetime of humiliation. Or are you okay with the psychological abuse of children?”

    If you consider giving a child an individualistic and unique(ish) name to be “psychological abuse” and “deliberately sets their child up for a lifetime of humiliation” then … well, your judgement speaks for itself.