Naming Names

I know that one of the biggest non-medical challenges that an expectant mother has to deal with is coming up with a unique name for her kid. No one wants their child to be one of five Sara(h)s or Matts in the classroom. That’s boring. And so parents these days have taken to using more unusual names for their progeny. Many have resorted to using last names as first names, or giving a name usually associated with one gender to a child of the opposite gender (naming your baby girl Parker, for example). The African-American community is known for coming up with some very unique (and sometimes hard to pronounce) names. 

There have even been cases of strange names made famous by the internet, such as Le-a (pronounced la-DASH-ah, because “the dash don’t be silent.”) and the twin boys Orangejello and Lemonjello (pronounced ah-RON-jelo and la-MON-jelo). One poor girl went through the first 9 years of her life as “Tallulah Does the Hula From Hawaii” before a judge ordered that she be put into court custody so that her name could be changed (read the story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/jul/24/familyandrelationships.newzealand)

While I was doing my student teaching and in my adventures as a substitute teacher, I have encountered many unusual names, but none that I thought would cause undue embarrassment or mental strife to the child. And then they brought the Angel Tree to work.

My place of business is participating in Angel Tree this year, and so they brought in a small tree with the cards and the children’s names on them and their clothing sizes so that people can purchase gifts for these children of inmates. A wonderful program, and something I would encourage people to participate in. Anyway, one of the cashiers, during a slow period, was perusing the names on the tree, and she came over to the jewelry counter and told me and the other girl working there that there was a girl on the tree named “Anal.” My associate friend and I thought, “Surely she’s making this up. There’s no way someone would do that,” and so she went over to the tree, looked at all the names and finally found it. Sure enough, there was a little girl named Anal on the tree.

After deciding that I was going to adopt this kid for Christmas because I was worried that she might not get a gift because of her name, I came home and searched on a baby names website, thinking that perhaps the name was Indian or Middle Eastern. As it turns out, “Anal” is, in fact, Indian, but it is a male name (which might be worse) and it means “fire” in english (also unfortunate).  My best guess here is that it is supposed to be pronounced “ah-NAHL,” but still, why spell it like that? Why not throw an “h” or an extra “n” in there somewhere? I understand that in the Hindi language, “anal” does not mean the same thing that it does in English. But if you LIVE in an English-speaking country, you have to take into account that your child’s name might mean something completely different in English than it does in your native language.

Can you imagine the trauma this poor child is going to go through in life? On the first day of school every year, she’s going to have to have an awkward conversation with her teacher about how to pronounce her name. Every time the class has a substitute, she’s going to have to have the same conversation with the sub. When she applies for a job, interviewers are going to throw her application out because they’re going to think it was a joke. When she gets to middle and high school, her peers are going to mock her mercilessly (“Hur hur, let’s see who the first guy is that can get anal from Anal!! Hur hur!”). Her poor husband is going to go through life saying “I love Anal with all my heart.”

Here is my advice to Anal and all other children with embarassing or horrible names. Take a page from the playbook of Tallulah Does the Hula From Hawaii. Go to a judge, and get a name change.

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