“Shirley, Shirley, Bo-ber-ley,
Bo-na-na fanna fo-fer-ley,
Fee fi mo-mer-ley, Shirley!”
The year was 1964, and when Shirley Ellis’ crazy novelty song, “The Name Game,” hit the charts, it went straight to the top. No matter what your name was, using Ellis’ “formula,” you could bo-na-na fanna fo-fer-ley your way into the silliness of the era.
It’s a funny thing about names. Back in the ’50s, people named their sons Robert and Charles, James, George, Paul, William, Donald, Joseph and John. Popular girls names were Nancy, Barbara, Mary, Joan, Linda, Patricia, Susan, Cheryl and Kathleen.
In the early ’60s, TV audiences were both bemused and a bit shocked when a blonde bombshell named Tuesday Weld hit the screen, but she was considered one of those “Hollywood types,” so it was presumed okay.
Then along came musician/composer Frank Zappa, who named his progeny Dweezil and Moon Unit. Dweezil was the boy and Moon Unit was the girl because it had such a soft, feminine lilt to it. People shook their heads in disbelief, but then again, what would you expect from a man whose best-selling poster depicted him sitting on a toilet seat? Moon dropped the Unit as she got older and became a “serious” actress, appearing on TV and singing her brother Dweezil’s composition, “My Mother is a Space Cadet.” One doesn’t have to think hard to realize this was not a family who sat down for the holidays with a white tablecloth and a Norman Rockwell table setting. But, they were show biz folk.
Then Sonny and Cher named their daughter Chastity, who later in life became Chaz, having had gender reassignment. Cher went on to have another child with rocker Greg Allman and named him Elijah Blue, sort of a Biblical discoloration of sorts.
Those famous folks are still at it. Kim Kardashian and that prince of a husband of hers, Kanye West, now have four children. The first raised a few eyebrows when they named him North West. Isn’t that adorable? May he never grow up to be directionally challenged. When Kim became pregnant again ... and again ... and again, fans wondered if the other points on a map would be included, but the Wests were much too clever for that. They named them Saint, Chicago, and Psalm.
Look, I don’t begrudge any parent for naming his or her child what they want, but I often wonder if they’re thinking only of themselves in the moment and not what they might be doing to that young person down the line. Give your baby what you think is hysterical or inventive during that intoxicating glow of birth, and what happens when they go to school? Kids delight in torturing each other, especially in primary and middle school. Later in life, how seriously will a college admissions officer consider an application from a student named Moon Unit? And then there’s that whole thing of getting a job and advancing in a chosen career. “All rise, the Honorable Judge Zuma Nesta Rock (actual name of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale’s little one) presiding.”
You don’t have to be famous to be nuts. Here are a few of the more “unusual” names recorded in birth registries throughout the U.S. in 2017: Halo, Moo, abcde, Nutella, Pharaoh, Envy, Tesla, Czarina, I-Am, and one that should have parents in this day and age committed, Shooter.
When I was born after nearly 14 childless years, my parents wanted to name me after my grandmother, Rose, but not with that same name, so they decided a name beginning with an “R” would best honor her. My mother hated nicknames, however, so when she first decided upon Roberta, she didn’t want the kids in school to call me Bobbie. Next choice up was Robin, but she reasoned I’d be called Robbie, and after all, that was a bird’s name. So they finally came upon the fairly popular Welsh name (my mother was British by birth) of Rona. That worked until I got to high school and everyone called me Ro … straight into college! Those friends still do, which is fine with me. After all, it’s way better than shortening to Dweeze, NW, Moonie, Nut, or Shoot.
Congratulations to all the parents-to-be out there. But please remember when you gaze upon that new little face in the hospital delivery room, think of them and their future.
It’s a funny thing about names.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 18 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.