Every January our local newspapers publish special sections featuring babies born the previous year. Proud parents send in their pictures and the papers publish them for a couple of bucks. This serves two purposes: 1) it gives parents one more opportunity to boast about their newborn and 2) it allows the papers to fill space in early January when there is absolutely no news and even less ad revenue.
Everybody loves babies. I love baby names. What I love even more is yelling to my wife, “I can’t believe what they named their baby!” My wife, she doesn’t love it so much.
The following are real names, and if I mention your child’s name specifically, I mean no offence but merely want what’s best for society, with a reminder that it costs only around 50 bucks and a bit of paperwork to legally change a name, so it’s not too late. Go on, we’ll wait.
Frankly, I don’t care what you name your child – Bingo, Salisbury, Panic, Big Poppa, Trump-Star 5000. Name your child after all the soap opera characters you like, for all I care. Bring on the Mileys. But stop with the random spelling.
Yes, I’m looking at you, baby Alys. You’re a cutie, all right, but is it pronounced “Alice” or “Allies”? Or maybe “Alleese.” The life that lies ahead of you is long, but, alas, Alys, it is a finite life, and your parents didn’t consider how much of your limited time on this planet will be squandered shouting at people, “IT’S PRONOUNCED ‘ALICE’!” Please don’t shout, Alys.
Or you, Alyvia. Won’t you get tired of explaining that your name is not sensibly spelled O-L-I-V-I-A but A-L-Y-V-I-A? “Yes, like an allergy medication,” you will sigh, and that will be the end of that date.
This letter Y seems to be the big, confusing letter du jour: Alys, Alyvia, Brayden, Jayk – is that pronounced “Jake”? Maybe it’s “Jack.” Maybe it’s “Jay-Kay” for “just kidding.”
And Saydee. Why, Saydee, why?
I know that, like your freshly pierced little ears, all of this was painfully inflicted upon you without your consent. And, sure, you will have a unique – dare I say “edgy” – name, which will set you apart from the Emma’s and the Lily’s and old reliable Emily and last year’s most popular girls name, Sophia, yes, even Sofia with an F. But ultimately what you will have, Saydee, is a mistaken conviction that there are no right and wrong ways to spell words, only close estimates.
How will you benefit, Kalvin with a K, other than be pushed further down in alphabetical order when they call out names and you discover that all the good candy has been picked over by Charlene, Chung Hui and Catherine with a C?
Mostly, though, I feel for the teachers, who must already deal with the traditional name variations plus the many new and wonderful multicultural names. Plus, they’re still recovering from the Mikayla epidemic of 1998.
And so, pregnant parents of 2014, think hard about your child’s name. Say no to Jaxson, shun Danyell, banish Soosan and a pox on every and all unsanctioned Zs. Trust me, your children will thank you for saving them the 50 bucks later on, or my name’s not R-H-O-S-S.
A version of this piece originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway” on January 21, 2014. You can hear the original audio in Technicolor here.