A Rose Is a Rose Is a Dweezil

A Rose By Any Other Name Would Smell Just as Zowie

Well, my daddy left home, when I was three
Didn’t leave much for ma and me
Just this ol’ guitar and an empty bottle of booze
Now, I don’t blame him cuz he run and hid
But the meanest thing that he ever did
Was before he left, he went and named me Sue…
-“A Boy Named Sue”, Shel Silverstein (1969)

Leftover hippie scum, illiterate pinheads, and brain-damaged celebrities all apparently conspired (in a big summit meeting of stupid) over the last forty years or so to make sure that their precious bundles get noticed in the world.

I’m talking about the fruits of their loins, whether it be from betwixt the sweaty, lard encrusted, cellulitic thighs of a promiscuous and overweight welfare mom or as the result of a male actor’s prideful issue from one night of lame sex (on his part) with a female fan. 

Children’s names have gone from thoughtful, agonized decisions by caring parents looking for just the right name to a contest in absurdity, parents trying to outdo each other in either weirdness, “uniqueness”, or in attention-getting. The Right NameCredit: Vic Dillinger, 2012The trend is ridiculous, for sure, but the real question at hand (as any kid with a funky name has learned from years of school-house abuse) is “Does naming your brat a really obnoxious, stupid, geeky-sounding, makes-me-want-to-gag name hurt him/her as he/she goes through life?”  In other words, does your parental idiocy condemn your funny-named kid to a life of despair and destitution?

Ye Goode Auld Days
Oh, the good old days when parents named their children Susan, or John, Biff, Jedediah, or Ezekiel. 

Choosing the correct name for a child, one that not only flows from the speaker’s mouth but perhaps says something about the family, is not a task taken lightly by normal parents.  A Gay Par-EeeCredit: public figuregreat example of a powerful name, one that actually conjures up dynamic imagery, is the surname “Hilton”.  Conrad Hilton created a dynasty with his upscale Hilton hotel chain.  The Hilton name became equated with sophistication, money, quality, and great service.  As expected, Conrad’s offspring gave some thought into the naming of their children, in turn, until we arrive at Paris Hilton, the sloe-eyed, stick-slag scenester who does nothing but is really famous for it.

Regardless of what you think about Paris Hilton herself I want you to slowly say her name to yourself and ask how it makes you feel either saying it or hearing it.  It has a certain “rightness” to it, doesn’t it?  You have “Paris”, The City of Light, one of the world’s greatest cities for the arts.  And, you have “Hilton”, with all its upper-crust connotations.  Her name is beautiful; it is mellifluous and well-chosen.  It is unfortunate, however, that she is a train wreck who has not and probably cannot live up to the dignity of her name (first or last).

When you hear the name “Kennedy” you tend to think of the Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, Kennedys, you know the ones – they gave us a prez, and a few senators?  The name isBob(111618)Credit: Vic Dillinger, 2011 evocative of political power and money.  There is a dignity in being a Kennedy, and it is reflected in how they name their children with dignified Old World names: Rose, John, Robert, etc.

The Kennedy name, however, was not always one equated with respect.  The patriarch, Boston banker and bootlegger Joseph P. Kennedy, made millions during Prohibition.  He also hobnobbed with Hollywood royalty, engaging in countless liaisons with starlets, leaving his wife at home on the East Coast with a houseful of kids (one future US President and two future US Senators/Presidential candidates).  Her revenge was to be the long-suffering wife (never divorcing him) and to enjoy the creature comforts of Joe’s ill-gotten millions.  At the time, and even up to John F. Kennedy’s administration, the Kennedys were frowned upon by the true “old money” who still thought of them in the derogatory: “those low Black Irish”.

The Hiltons and the Kennedys of the world have made peace with their status and they generally do little in the way of naming their children that reflects adversely on the subtle images those surnames bring when seen in print or heard aloud.

The rest of America, however, is none too bright.

The Coy, Clever Name
One of Joseph Heller’s characters in his classic novel Catch 22 was Major Major.  The back story of this character is interesting in that his name dictated his career path.  His father was quite the prankster – while his wife was in recovery after giving birth to their son, “as-yet-unnamed male-infant” Major, dear old dad (without consultation with the child bearer) quietly registered the boy’s name as Major Major Major.  With his first, middle, and surname all the same, Major Major was doomed.  When he entered the US Army, he quickly rose through the ranks attaining the title of “Major”.  And it was there his Army career stalled – the powers that be, in the fun-factory that of course is the US Army, thought it hysterically funny to have a US Army Major who also happened to carry the name “Major”.  Not only that, his full name and title (Mjr. Major Major Major) made for some big yucks in the officer’s club.  Mjr. Major could neither advance nor be demoted – the Army loved him right where he was as its one and only Mjr. Major.  

The cutsie/clever is a big problem in America today in naming children.  Sure, if your last name is “Rogers” you could name your kid “Mister” or “’Roid” (either with or without the apostrophe).  Sure, it’s funny for about five minutes.  But when little ’Roid Rogers starts his first day in public school, you’d better start saving for some very expensive therapy later.

Parents need to realize how merciless other children are.  Taunts of “You’re gay” for the boy named “Vivien”, rhyming nicknames (“Bart the Fart”) – they’re all waiting for your precious bundle of joy.  Either he/she toughens up or dies.  But it’s your fault as a parent they were put in that position anyway.  Getting cute by naming your malchik “Sioux”, but knowing it’s pronounced “Sue”, is sure for many a beat-down in addition to slurs about his sexual leanings.

Androgyny Is Not For Me (but it might be for Lee)
Names are identifiers.  They are either masculine or feminine by intent or construct.  The trend toward androgynous names, though, was a big one in the 1960s and 1970s, and it is still extant today.  It can be a blight for a child. 

Naming any boy Leslie, Terry, Pat, Tracy, Jordan, Dakota, Shelby, Kelly, Lindsey, or any other unisex name almost always skews toward feminine to a reader and in a listener’s brain.  Without clear gender identification, a sentence such as “Terry ran with the ball” conjures unintended gender images.  A female reader may likely see Terry as a little girl.  A male reader, as well, will see Terry as a little girl more often than not.

There are many men’s names that were once exclusively male that have shifted into being predominantly female.  Shirley, Carroll (and its variants, Carol and Karel), Jean, and Lynn are just some of the names that women carry today that were once exclusively male.  Evelyn was another (pronounced “EEV-lin”).  In a city where I lived for years there was a local attorney named Shirley. He was an Africa-American male.  To stress his maleness – despite being named “Shirley” – his print and television ads read “Shirley So-and-So, Jr.”.  I guess it was the “Junior” that tipped the scales of masculinity in his favor.  Had I been him, and I’d been a lawyer with all my courthouse connections, I’d’ve legally changed my name from “Shirley” to “Maxwell” or something that could only be interpreted as male.  [Oh, and on the subjects of bad lawyer names, there was a female attorney named Ronnie – again, the casual Yellow Pages™ scanner looking for legal help would guess she was a guy.  However, she had the presence of mind to feature a photo with her print ads – she was kind of hot, too!]

Anytime you write a name and have to put some qualifier with it or have to refer to yourself always as “Mr. Connie Brown” you’re in trouble.  The actress, Michael Learned (who played Olivia Walton on The Waltons TV series), always had to use the honorific “Miss” in front of her name: Miss Michael Learned.  She should never have had to do that.  She can thank a goofy parent.

Cultural identity can be found casually in names.  African-Americans, the most oppressed group in this country’s history after women, always strove to assimilate.  Before the late 1960s most black male children had names such as William, John, Roger, or other traditional names.  The girls were named Susan, Elizabeth, Marlene, or Virginia. 

In the late 1960s with the advent of the Black Power movement (a militant reaction to lackadaisical civil rights progress and Whitey shenanigans) a cultural identification of American blacks with the Americanized version of Islam (Nation of Islam) led to a shift in naming.  Children were no longer named Willis or Anne.  They were named Shabaz or Ali, Khadija or Muhammad.  These names helped create a cultural identity within that community, an outward symbol of the group’s non-conformity with current norms and a means of quick group membership.

Nothing Unique
The word “unique” means something of extraordinary value or originality.  It is a black-and-white word.  There are no degrees of uniqueness – someone or something is either unique or not.  There is no such thing as “more unique” or “most unique”.  Yet the sheeple who name their kids can’t seem to get this into their thick skulls. 

“Unique” as a word has been subsumed by ignorance and outright stupidity.  Although prevalent among African-Americans it is not restricted to them for its idiotic co-opting. Thousands of girls are named “Unique” every year.  Others are named absurd variants: Uniqua, Uniquess (or Uniquest).  Worse still are the contrived spellings with the same pronunciation: Uneek, Yoonique, or Youneek.

Adding the prefix “La” to a common name is also prevalent in many African-American households.  LaBradford,   LaTisha, LaRoberta, LaDonna (or the more noteworthy SiDonna).  The list goes on.  Finally, the most strained names are those that tax the brain’s ability to figure them out.  Deseano? Cartronnella? Quybhin?  [That last one is pronounced “Kevin”, by the way.]

Another dippy trend in originality is the needlessly contrived name.  “Adorabella” came up as the not-so-weighty subject of name choice by an obvious idiot (who was also thinking of naming the same fetus “Butterfly”).   “Colton” has been seen, as well as “Kenzee”. “Eksavier” (from another pinhead) is a ridiculous construct from the classic name “Xavier”.  “Idahlia” (pronounced UH-dail-ya) is another loser (kid looks like she was named for a potato).

The great power pop tune, “My Sharona” from 1979, had The Knack blustering, panting, and lusting after a hottie named Sharona.  There was a real Sharona that lead singer/songwriter Doug Fieger (recently deceased) wanted to get wit’.  Her take on the tune?  “At least people finally learned how to pronounce my name correctly.” [Before the song – when read aloud – her name was invariably pronounced “Sharon-UH” instead of “SHA-rone-uh”)

I gave up trying with “Sheneneh” (as portrayed by comedian Martin Lawrence, it is pronounced “SHUH-nay-nay).

Jerry Springer’s Offspring
White trash truly loves to emulate the upper classes, and they really dug into what were formerly upper class names in the last decades.  Brittany, Heather, Ashley, Tiffany, and other names that once lived on the puckered lips of the moneyed fell out of disfavor with that group as lower socio-economic parents began naming their children Sterling and Brittany and Heather and Ashley as well. 

And yes, the spelling of Brittany was screwed with by the new owners of the name: Britney, Brittani, and I’ve personally seen one Brittannee.  Today, the rank-and-file of Brittanys and Heathers and Ashleys falls in the trailer-trash realm. [Britney Spears anyone?  And, no, I’m not going to scream like that gay guy to “Leave Britney alone!”]

But probably the best white trash name creation, in its attempts to always be cutting edge, classy, and upscale has to be the latest craze in naming baby girls: Nevaeh.  This horrible name (pronounced “NUH-vay-uh) is disgusting on so many levels.  First, it is merely the backward spelling of the word “heaven” (oh, how deliciously clever!).  Secondly, naming your child “heaven” is presumptuous and absurd, especially if you are white trash. Your conjugal accident cannot be heaven – it is yet one more mouth to feed.  As proof that Nevaeh is the sole property of the white trash that created it, every third female infant ever mentioned on the Jerry Springer Show (that paean to white trashery) was named Nevaeh.  No upper socio-economic person, or anyone with any semblance of class or dignity, will ever name their kid Nevaeh. 

Geekdom Reigns
Celebrities and other idiots give their kids freaky names on purpose.  It is part of the “look-at-me” narcissism of celebrity: “Oooo, did you read?  Mel Gibson named his new son Sphincter Boy!  Isn’t that just chic and clever?”

Nope, it’s just dumb.  Hippies screw up their kids in more ways than one.  Olympic skier, Picabo Street, had hippies to thank for her unusual, and egregiously stupid, name.  The rumor is she was allowed by her weed-smoking, lethargic, too laid-back hippie parents to name herself! This she did at an early age when “Peek-A-Boo” was the game to play! 

However I’m guessing her disinterested parents had no clue she spelled her bad name choice wrong: Picabo (looks as if it should be pronounced “PICK-a-bow”, right?)  [The truth is that she was called “baby girl” or “little girl” until the age of three.  At that time, said wastrel parents were forced into selecting a name because said “Baby Girl Doe” had to have a legal name on record to get a passport.  A hasty decision was made: she is named for the town of Picabo, Idaho (in her home state), regardless of whatever goofy “peek-a-boo” story the media dishes out!]  Now, of course, she can only blame her own idiot self – she could have gotten a legal name change any time, so regardless of the preferred “origin story” she’s obviously as stupid as her parents. 

Other goober celebrity offspring names are Apple (for Gwyneth Paltorw’s extrusion); John Travolta’s boy, Jett (recently deceased); Sylvester Stallone’s son, Sage (also recently deceased); and David Duchovny’s and Téa Leone’s kid, cleverly named “Kyd”.  Another also-ran in this category is David Bowie’s son (first name Duncan, middle name Zowie). 

Obviously, the king daddy of bad kid names was Frank Zappa.  [And, yes, Zappa was his real Italian-American surname].  His offspring were all named strangely: Dweezil, Moon Unit, Diva Thin Muffin, and Ahmet Zappa [only Ahmet got a relatively mainstream name, but he’d have to join the Black Panthers to really benefit from it.] Zappa, however, could get away with this – it was part of his zeitgeist to be quirky.  And his children, living off the Zappa estate, never have to work, so a funny name could never get in their way of happiness.

Pilot Inspektor Lee: A Boy with a Sad, Sad NameCredit: Vic Dillinger, 2012

Someone who cannot get away with being a screw head is actor Jason Lee.  In naming his son Pilot Inspektor [sic] he pushed the envelope of absurd.  The name was taken from a dippy song – “He’s Simple, He’s Dumb, He’s the Pilot” – by a crappy band.  Thus, not only is Jason Lee a goober, but right at birth he’s telling his son that the boy is an idiot (…“He’s Dumb…”).

As musicians and celebrities continue to name their kids ridiculous things, it is obvious those bad naming choices will not affect their children one iota.  You know why?  Because those kids will never have to get a job.  They won’t have to: they will be spoiled rich brats who never have to lift a finger since mommy and daddy are rich. 

But the average putz doesn’t get that.  The shmo sending his kid off to community college with the handle “Rasta Man” just shot that kid in the foot. Can you imagine if you’re sitting in the human resources department of NASA and you get a résumé from an applicant named Rasta Man (or Dweezil Zappa for that matter)?  How seriously would you consider that document as you dry the tears from your laughing eyes before throwing it in the trash?  Happens every day, I’ll bet.

But it’s not just the professional who can be thrown off by a weird name.  Suppose you’re a closeted gay guy (or a supposed “straight” man on the down low) living in Houston, Texas.  You like frequenting gay strip clubs.  During one of your club crawls you troll past your favorite joint, “The Mighty Meat Mansion”, and the marquee reads, “Tonite! Special dancer Moon Unit!” 

Now, since you’re gay in Houston, Texas (though not out of the closet and not too bright), you start slavering, thinking the word “moon” is descriptive of this dancer’s “unit” size.  You practically break the door down trying to get in.  Imagine your disappointment when you find out Moon Unit is an icky woman! Ewwww!

That’s the bane of the strange name.  What, exactly, is a Dweezil?  Is it a boy or a girl?  Or a particularly interesting sludge you found in your driveway? 

Actually, Frank Zappa answered this question in an autobiography:

“Gail's [Zappa's wife] got a funny-looking little toe which had been the source of family amusement so often that it had acquired a ‘technical name’: it wasn’t really a toe—it was a ‘Dweezil’.  I thought then, and continue to think today, that Dweezil is a nice name.”

So there you have it, the super-hero origin story of Dweezil as told by dear old dad, Frank Zappa.
Résumé Racism
I have experienced the racist’s vitriol.  When a bigot is confronted with what he or she perceives to be a clearly Africanized name for a child the sneer can be seen as well as heard: “DaShon? He must be black!  They all name their kids funny names!” 

Really? “They” all do, do “they”?

Headlines were made recently by some pure-D white supremacist white trash who named their kid “Adolf Hitler”.  They claimed – with a straight face – that they thought it was a lovely name!  It was not a lovely name; it was a clear and provocative reflection of their hate mongering.  A judge (citing child abuse) ordered the child’s name stricken from documents and altered to something else.  While many would argue that’s a violation of one’s civil liberties and free speech rights, blah, blah, blah, it is not.  Naming a kid “Adolf Hitler” considering all the negativity that comes with that name is as harmful and blatantly racist as naming a kid “Nigger Knocker” or “Kike Killer”.  

The racism in America also gives the quietly bigoted an easy way to discriminate.  Consider John Smith, sight unseen, submitting a written interest in a particular job.  His curriculum vitae passes muster.  He is considered for an interview.  John Smith arrives – perhaps he is Asian-American, or perhaps he is African-American.  It doesn’t matter, he got the interview.

Now consider Shaniqua Jones or Mustapha Mohammed Jefferson.  The quietly racist human resources manager finding résumés carrying names he or she believes of an inferior group may merely set them aside without further action.  More than likely they end up in the garbage.

Classically Beautiful
On the other side of the naming coin there still remain many parents who put careful thought into their child’s names.  The classics still resonate: Elise, Rose, Sophia, etc.  Feminized versions of some masculine names are A Mabel (Mabel Normand)Credit: public domainstill musical: Julia, Paula, Carol.  One of my favorite classic names is Maria (or Marie, love ’em both).  I love the soft sound of it; I have only the warmest of memories of the Marias I have met.  

But Old World classicism is not necessarily good for today’s modern ear.  Names like Gertrude, Hilda, Ezra, Walter, etc., can A Gertrude (Gertrude Stein)Credit: Wide Worldsound grating, even guttural.  Even softer sounding names like Mabel, Martha, Bertha, and Beryl (a fine name in my book) are considered so old-fashioned they are rarely used.

Slightly more exotic names are fine, too, if controlled.  I had an African-American girlfriend a few years ago with the Native American-derived first name “Tajuana” (pronounced “TAH-wanna”).  I liked the sound of it and the fact it was spelled in a sensible way.  Her parents, however, were from an older generation – had she been born today her name would probably have been hashed up into something like “Tieu’whannah”.

My current wife has a common but beautiful Old World first name.  Her middle name, however, is a stunner: Philomena.  It made me sit up and take notice.  The obscure saint for whom she is named makes it more special and personal – her parents were paying attention.  

Freak Factor
So, does a weird name doom a kid to societal rejection and failure?  That question was addressed brilliantly in Freakonomics, a 2005 book that dug into certain social issues with statistical analysis, much of which was controversial, but most of which was inarguable.

A key chapter discussed the effects a stupid name has on a person’s success in life.  To illustrate the point, the author looked at several case studies.  The 2010 movie Freakonomics (based on the book) brought one particular case history to life in a way that the words alone could not.  It was the story of Temptress.

A black female was born to a single mother (out-of-wedlock; illegitimately: do these terms even matter anymore?).  Liking the name of Tempestt Bledsoe (daughter Vanessa on the very popular Cosby Show sitcom in the 1980s), the mother decided she would name her baby girl for the actress.  However, the woman was not too sharp – when relaying that information for recording on the birth certificate, the dummy mom spelled it “Temptress”.

Temptress grew into a promiscuous young teen girl; she was in and out of juvenile courts for truancy, underage shenanigans, etc.  One judge, facing Temptress yet again, made the comment to her mother, “Well, it’s nice to see Temptress [interpret]Credit: Playboy, mid 1980sshe’s lived up to her name”. 

Had she? 

As it turns out, no she had not.  Temptress was not a victim of her name; she was a victim of her mother’s apathy.  Freakonomics makes the argument that the kind of person who would misspell or would be likely to give a child a screwy name is not going to be terribly driven to help that child succeed. [Recall that the upper, educatedRussellCredit: Vic Dillinger, 2011 classes do not name their girls Nevaeh.]  Furthermore, Temptress’ truancy was of little concern to her lackadaisical lower-class mother.  Thus, she had no parental guidance, was allowed to roam free, and got into trouble not because of her name but because of nonexistent parental care.

The upshot of the name game research was this: children with funny names can thrive and survive and succeed if and only if good parenting is an active part of the child’s life.  But, the kinds of people who give their kids dippy names are not usually good parents; therefore, the badly named child fails, perpetuating a stereotype. 

The book (and the later movie) used common sense and sociology to report that whether you name your son Tyrone or Tylenol, Alvin or Advil, or your daughter Laverne or Lavoris, Colleen or Clorette, that child can be successful in spite of the bad name.  It is your job to be a good parent . . . to a kid with a stupid name! 


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