By Buck Wolf
Some parents are apparently naming their children after returning from the supermarket. Among the 200,000 who have signed up at Global Name Registry — the company in charge of handling registrations for the new Internet domain extension ".name" — are people with first names such as "Gouda," "Almond," "Cappuccino," "Veal," and "Bologna."
Topping this trend is Jamie Oliver, better known on TV as "The Naked Chef." His wife Jools gave birth March 18 in London to a 7-pound, 14-ounce girl named Poppy Honey.
‘My Name Is Canon, as in Camera’
It's tempting to think "Cappuccino" and other names are fabricated. However, the dot-name domain requires registrants prove their identities. And an expert who analyzes census and Social Security Administration records is not surprised such names exist.
"Anything is possible, when you consider that last year alone, 298 girls were named Armani and another 10 boys were named Halston," says Cleveland Evans of Bellevue University.
"Every year, the list gets stranger and stranger. It's as if parents think they're guilty of abuse if there is another kid in the classroom with the same name as theirs."
About 2 million boys and 2 million girls were born in the United States in 2000, the last complete year for which records are available. The Social Security Administration reports that 33,957 boys were named Jacob and 25,714 girls were named Emily, making them the most common baby names for the year.
But the number of strange names on the Social Security Administration's list is getting longer. There were 17 boys named Ventura (as in Jesse), six boys named Timberland (as in the boot), 49 named Canon (spelled like the camera), and 27 Blue (as in little boy).
The girls' names were equally bizarre. Thirty-five were named Vanity. Another 29 were named Whisper, while 54 sported the name Sincere. And 24 were positively Unique.
Imagine two mothers meeting in a mall: "Hi," one says. "This is my daughter, Unique."
"Well," says the other mother, her competitive fire sparked, "my daughter is also Unique."
Birth Certificates Need Spell Checkers
The strangest names aren't even on the list. The Social Security Administration only releases names chosen five or more times, in order to protect the privacy of parents with bad judgment.
You have to worry about the ramifications of such parenting. Do the 13 girls named Wisdom feel even worse when they screw up? What happens when the 10 guys named Truth lie?
Then there's the issue of spelling. Are the 15 kids named Ruddy really that rosy-cheeked — or are they really just Rudys?
We also had 72 kids named Sky, but also 85 named Skye (a Scottish island) and Skyy ( a premium vodka). How do you tell your child, "Daddy wanted to name you after the heavens above, but he can't spell a three-letter word."
Name Your Kid After Your Favorite Station
If you're really looking for parents who make sport of their children, consider that at least two children were named Espn, after the ESPN cable sports network.
Jason Curiel of Texas told the Dallas Morning News that he thought his wife was kidding when she made the suggestion. But the Corpus Christi couple loves sports.
"I thought she was pulling my chain and was going to suggest other names," he said. "But then he came and she was still for it. Even though the nurses would give me dirty looks and turn to my wife and say, 'His name, please?'"
Espn (pronounced "Espen") Curiel was born Sept. 24. His birth follows that in January 2000 of Espen Blondeel of Newaygo, Mich., whose parents were also sports fans but decided to go phonetic.
My Boy Morpheus — The Matrix of Naming
In another case of life imitating art, five boys were named Morpheus, apparently after the hero of the sci-fi blockbuster The Matrix, portrayed by Laurence Fishburne. "I don't think there's a trace of that name existing before the film," Evans says (except for the Greek God of Dreams). "But now it's on the map."
The lead female character, Trinity, is faring even better. Between 1999 and 2000, the number of Trinitys tripled to 4,553, making it one of the fastest-growing girls' names.
Neo, the name of Keanu Reeves' character, scored only 113 names. "It's really not fair to compare," Evans says. "The movie obviously had an impact on naming. Trinity just started out as a real name, whereas Morpheus and Neo didn't really exist."
Reeves is so popular that he actually caused a naming controversy in Austria, where parents aren't allowed to invent names. Instead, they must prove that the name they give their child once belonged to another person.
When one Austrian couple wanted to name their son after the actor, officials objected, thinking Keanu was just a stage name. But, after doing some research, they discovered the name relates to the actor's Hawaiian ancestry.
Now, we Americans must debate the virtues of allowing parents to name children anything they want. Just imagine the playground torment some children must suffer.
"Hey, can you smell it? I guess Gouda must be coming."
"Don't listen to Bologna. She's full of it."
Buck Wolf is entertainment producer
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Unusual Names for children named in 2000. Source: Social Security Administraion