Maurice Micklewhite is dead; long live Michael Caine. The legendary British actor has officially adopted the name you know and impersonate him by after getting fed up with increased airport security checks. “I changed my name when all the stuff started with ISIS and all that,” Caine told The Sun, going on to describe his experiences with security guards thusly: “He would say, ‘Hi Michael Caine,’ and suddenly I’d be giving him a passport with a different name on it. I could stand there for an hour. So I changed my name.”
In a 2006 letter to Nature, Australian geneticist Ken Maclean highlights the pitfalls of fanciful names: “The quirky sense of humour that researchers display in choosing a gene name often loses much in translation when people facing serious illness or disability are told that they or their child have a mutation in a gene such as Sonic hedgehog, Slug or Pokemon.”
Translating names mostly goes one way. Somehow ‘we’ must translate our names into English, and ‘you’ don’t have to translate yours into Polish, Estonian, Romanian or Slovak. And that makes the translation much more political than linguistic. And if it is political, I go against!
And here is the main point of this post – it’s not linguistic, I’m afraid. Names are political. And I think it’s important to keep them. Michał, Agnieszka, Małgorzata, Paweł, Justyna…these are your names, don’t change them to Michael, Agnes, Margaret, Paul or Justine. If they care, they will learn, if they don’t — it’s their loss.
Could it be that we are best served by imperfect, not perfect, names? When a baby is saddled with a name, he is taught a first lesson about pitiless fate and life’s limitations–that there are aspects of the self that can never be self-determined, circumstances that must be stoically endured, and, hopefully, someday, made peace with. There are a goodly number of us who wear our names not like a precious spell but like a humbler workaday garment. Whatever you’re called–Jody or Sue or Moon Unit or Jermajesty or maybe even Anus–you can, if you’re lucky, reach that state of grace where you hardly notice your name is there at all. You wake up in the morning and slide right into it, like a well–broken-in pair of pantaloons.
“The idea for this project came as I was typing names one day. I realized that the Microsoft Word program would indicate that some names were spelled incorrectly — a red wavy line would appear under them — but not others. I’d type a name like Elizabeth or Judy and there’d be no red line, which implied it was spelled correctly. Then I’d type a name like Shaniqua, LaQuisha, or other black women’s names I knew, and they would get a red line under them, like it was spelled wrong.”
“It made me wonder, does Microsoft have a diversity department?” said Woodley.
The rights activist [Nderitu Njoka] said he just wanted to prove his deeply rooted Christian faith by naming his son ‘Jesus’.
‘After all, the name is common in Portugal, Spain, and Mexico which are God fearing. My call is to Christians to start naming their sons Jesus since by doing this they will be preaching gospel of Jesus Christ to the world without hypocrisy,” the letter says.
Our oldest son Jay (who was almost two at the time) insisted on calling our baby-to-be “Baby Fire” while my wife was pregnant. It caught on and throughout my wife’s pregnancy, our families would ask, “How’s Baby Fire doing?” Although it seemed like a fitting name, we just dismissed it thinking “Fire” was too “out there” for anyone to be on board. But on the way to the hospital during the wee hours of the morning on July 4th, my wife and I decided that “Fire” as a middle name seemed appropriate. It will forever link our sons since it was Jay’s idea, and it captures the memories and emotions we felt throughout the pregnancy. There’s the July 4th fireworks tie-in as well. And let’s face it “Fire” as a middle name is only one step away from “Danger” as the coolest name ever.
The religious obsession of the New England colonists is also kept in mind by the persistence of Biblical names: Ezra, Hiram, Ezekiel, Zechariah, Elijah, Elihu, and so on. These names excite the derision of the English; an American comic character, in an English play or novel, always bears one of them.
Here are some of the baby names that didn’t make the cut: Boomer, Bub, Bubber, Calamity, Cookie, Dainty, Danger, Demon, Fancy, Fester, Jinx, Less, Little, Manly, Notorious, Phuc, Pleasure, Rage, Riot, Savage, Sherlock, Sparky, Tarzan, Tiny.
If you know people who like baby name humor, please share!
A pair of real-life “Danger is my middle name” babies have been featured in the news lately:
Rafferty Basil Danger Wills, born in January to Felicity and Sam Wills of England.
Stephen Danger James, born in January to Telita and Dean James of Australia.
But these aren’t the first dangerously named babies to make headlines. Here are some earlier examples:
Nash Edward Danger Gray, born in 2011 to Jon and Ruth Gray of Nevada.
Bodhi Danger Huxhagen, born in 2011 to Rowan and Belinda Huxhagen of Australia.
Billie Danger Lampard (girl) and Ridley Danger Lampard (boy), twins, born in 2010 to Amy and Glenn Lampard of Australia.
Radley Danger Chapple, born circa 2008 to Peppa and John Chapple (photographer) of California.
Maxwell Danger Rogers, born in 2006 to Chloe Maxwell and Mat Rogers (athlete) of Australia.
Broderick Danger Scott, born in 2006 to Sarah Wilner and Kevin Scott of California.
Jakob Danger Armstrong, born in 1998 to Adrienne and Billie Joe Armstrong (musician) of California.
And I’ve come across a few other examples that never made the news.
So, just how common is the middle name Danger?
The SSA doesn’t publish middle name data, so there’s no official set of numbers we can look at. Fellow baby name blogger Laura Wattenberg claimed last year that Danger was a “really popular middle name for boys right now.” I disagree — Danger is still uncommon/bizarre enough to be newsworthy, after all — but it does look like Danger has been picking up steam lately.
Would you ever consider (I mean seriously consider) giving your baby the middle name Danger?