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What about Barb?
What happened to easy names like John, Tom and Bob? Phil Callaway addresses naming conventions with some suggestions for prospective parents.

One of the finest perks of being an author is the chance to meet children who look up at you with wide eyes and say, "Will you sign your book Green Eggs and Ham?" When they ask me to sign one of my own books, it's even perkier.

… Kertsibelle...that's...P-m-r-c-h-i-e-r-t-z-i-b-e-l-l-e.

Lately it has become increasingly problematic for me to inscribe their names correctly. One little girl asked me to do so and told me her name: Kertsibelle.

Or at least that's what I thought she said. She said, "It's P-m-r-c-h-i-e-r-t-z-i-b-e-l-l-e." She spelled it quickly too: I think she'd had practice.

Now, I'm old enough to remember the days when there were approximately six options for names.

Parents chose from a short list of single-syllable monikers that had been approved by the Federal Name Police, an organization founded because folksingers were experimenting with banned substances and naming their children Star, Jasmine, and Whoops.

In those days available names included Don, John, Tom, Bob, and Phil. If your child was a girl, a slight variation would suffice: Dawn, Jenn, Tammy, Bobbi, or Phyllis.

Not anymore.

Today parents are making up names in the delivery room. “Hi, my name is Dawn and this is my daughter HAAAAALP!"

Each of the following is a registered name: Abishag Lettuce, Peaches Honeyblossom, and Froufrou. In Britain, there are children named Reebok, Adidas, and Superman. There are six Gandalphs, 39 Gazzas, 36 Arsenals, and almost 2,000 boys named Tiger.

U.S. federal census records indicate parents have recently bestowed the following names on their children: Fanny Pack, Nice Carr, Helen Troy, Candy Stohr, Mary Christmas, Ima Pigg, Ima Muskrat, and Ima Nut. And the names we thought Bart Simpson was making up for prank calls? The infamous Al Caholic and Anita Bath, they're on the list too.

In our town, there's a dog named Viggo. I met him and his owner one night when I was out walking our dog Mojo. The dogs liked each other immediately and engaged in dog-type behaviour while Viggo's owner and I talked.

"I named the dog after the movie star Viggo Mortenson," she told me. I wonder what Viggo would

think of having a wiener dog as his namesake.

Though the dogs won't be suing us anytime soon, the children are. A growing list of lawsuits has been launched against parents citing something called "name abuse." Recently a Swedish couple was fined $746 for naming their son Brfxxxcccxxm-nnpccccIllmmnprxxv-velmnckssqlbb11116. I wish I were making this up.

Here are a few suggestions on naming children:

1. Avoid 'names that will draw curious crowds and media exposure, spawn websites, or cause ripples of laughter in classrooms and gymnasiums.

2. Avoid names your child will have to spell for everyone she meets.

3. Picture yourself standing on the front steps at night yelling the name. How will "Please Cope," or "Justin Case" (both real names) sound? Will neighbours call the police on you?

Proverbs 22:1 of the Bible tells us a good name is to be chosen over great riches, that "being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold."

Far more important than the names we give our children is the reputation they will carry with them through life. They will need to build that reputation themselves, of course, but we can help them get started down the right road.

It won't matter so much how many times we have to spell our name; it will matter very much what that name brings to mind.

Phil Callaway is the author of Family Squeeze: Hope and Hilarity of a Sandwiched Generation.

Phil Callaway is the editor of Servant magazine, author of a dozen books and a popular speaker. His web site is: www.philcallaway.com.

Originally published in Living Light News, January/February 2010.

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