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The Tangential Thinker - Ladue News: Tangential Thinker

The Tangential Thinker

What's in a Name?

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Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2009 12:00 am

So I was getting my hair done the other day, by the way that is how you know you are getting old: you don't get your hair ‘cut,’ you get it ‘done’ and the stylist, like most mothers, had an adorable picture of her young son at her station. What a cute little guy, I told her. Oh thanks, she said, his name is Gavin. I love it. Wow, what a great name. It's so retro. It sounds like a Hollywood beat reporter from the ‘50s. She smiled and said, Actually we chose it because my husband and I think it sounds like the name of a professional baseball player. True enough.

That got me thinking: could you forge your child's destiny with the name you give him? Jerry Seinfeld once wisely pointed out that if you name your child Jeeves he's almost certainly going to become a butler. I once had a 411 operator named Doc, I wonder if his parents are disappointed. If you name your child Clarence are you assuring them a legal career like Clarence Darrow or Clarence Thomas? Or perhaps he will become a successful musician like Clarence Clemons or Clarence Carter. It is odd to me how many people behind the American Idol/America's Got Talent/So You Think You Can Dance juggernaut are named either Nigel or Simon.

Maybe we think certain names suit certain careers because there are people already in those careers with similar names? Sure, Ozzie Smith and Nolan Ryan sound like names of baseball players, but if Nolan Ryan was your insurance adjuster you might not feel the same way. Although looking at the Cardinals roster, it would seem that if you want your child to become a Major League baseball player you should name him one of the following: Ryan, Josh, Kyle, Trever [sic], Jason, Brendan, Nick, Colby or Skip. I have to admit, all those names actually do sound very baseball player-y to me.

On the other hand, I am the last person who should be buying into this paradigm. My name is Debbie, for God's sake. If my name sealed my fate I would be trolling the mall and talking about my old cheer captain days while scrapbooking with my girlfriends. I would be an overly enthusiastic bottle blonde who, every time I had a glass or three of wine would lament the fact that I had to give up my dream of being in a White Snake video because I got pregnant…wait.

So the question remains unanswered. Surely Mozart would have been Mozart whether he was named Wolfgang or not. And I think we can all agree that naming a child Ernest Hemingway Baldwin or Pablo Picasso Baldwin might be putting unfair pressure on the little guy. Maybe there's a happy medium. Well, I better stop there. I have to go pick up Cranky, Whiny and Punch.

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