“The name is not the thing” (Robert Anton Wilson, paraphrasing Korzybski)

I was speaking today to a high school teacher in an urban district far away from Black Water Farm, and she was discussing the problem Certain Ethnic parents have in naming their children. Apparently, it never occurs to these people that a name is something you carry around for life, that it has great bearing upon your future success, and that it requires more thought than naming a pet. This trend was referenced in John Ross’ Unintended Consequences, only there it was a cruel game played by white OB/GYN interns to encourage poor women to give their children names like Anus Brown, or the BATF agent G.G. Jackson (nee Gonorrhea Gaily). Apparently, mothers come up with these names all by themselves.

The more benign form seems to be oriented towards increasing self-esteem… name like Holy Kidd, or Precious. “My classes are filled with royalty : Princes, Princessess, Kings, Queens,” she said. Then there are the wacky, Zappaesque names, like the sisters “LehMONjelo” and “OrANjelo” (named after popular boxed desserts). Or the possibly ignorant, like “NoNAHmee” (or, as spelled on the birth certificate, “no name”)

But the worst case came when she was subbing in a class, calling roll. “I don’t know how to pronounce this name.” “It’s ShiTHAYD.” Yes, somebody had actually named their son Shithead. Yeah, there’s one for the boardroom. What’s the matter with you people!?

UPDATE: The Hillboyz talk about this in Cleveland:

“What’s her name?”.


“How do you say that?”

“Kuh-neen-eee-ya”, the woman behind the counter overemphasized, with the DUH! unspoken.

Of course, that’s how you pronounce a name that has both a hyphen and the number nine in it.

No wonder the kids at that school can’t read. Their own names make no sense, and have nines in them. How are they supposed to read “cat” and “dog” when they are looking for the numbers mixed with letters and hyphens?


3 Responses to “The name is not the thing” (Robert Anton Wilson, paraphrasing Korzybski)

  1. Ben C says:

    Fishy. This person must also be friends with the ladies my wife works with.

  2. jeffreyquick says:

    Not sure of the relevance of the Snopes pieces, except to indicate the pattern might be well-distributed. This wasn’t a stray email, it was live communication with somebody in a position to encounter a lot of names. And FWIW, I once had a girlfriend who went to Shaw HS in East Cleveland, who told me similar stories, including the one about the girl named Douche. (“It’s Dou-SHAY!”)

  3. kishnevi says:

    As a co-worker of mine likes to say, “that’s so ghetto!”. She should know, since she’s rather ghetto a lot of the time. But her name is Angela.

    I’ve found a lot of blacks have names that seem to have been spelled by illiterates (someone named Jewlius, for instance), but more often names that simply odd. For instance, last names like Synder or Brown or Miller or Jones.

    And then there’s Haitian element, wherein one gets names that apparently French, but which I’ve never seen used by French or Quebecois–Guirlene or Wilene, for example. Or one that threw for a minute: a man with first name Saint-Fort and last name Smith. He certainly didn’t look like any of my cousins 🙂

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