When Is It OK To….

…sneer at the names children are given by their parents?

I ask, because, on occasion, I hold my nose and take a peek at the ‘Guardian’ educational pages, where one sometimes finds articles like this one:

In my roles of moral icon, sage, clot and dotard, I have been asked many questions. The most frequent goes thus:“Can we send Hugo/Rhapsody/Electra to your school?”

“Yes! Turn right at the lights. Multiple assassins and wolf children apart, we are fiercely inclusive.”

But this is no time for levity. For this is the great question. The white-knuckled, middle-class, bad-faith and very tedious question.

What they really want to know is:

“Can nice middle class children cope in the inner-city comp?”

Now, read this article (H/T: Shijuro), and see if you could ever imagine a ‘Guardian’ columnist taking the mickey out of these names:

When 15-year-old DeKendrixWarner accidentally stepped into deeper water while wading in the Red River in Shreveport, he panicked.

JaTavious Warner, 17, Takeitha Warner, 13, JaMarcus Warner, 14, Litrelle Stewart, 18, Latevin Stewart, 15, and LaDarius Stewart, 17, rushed to help him and each other.

None of them could swim. All six drowned.

And ask yourself why not?

28 comments for “When Is It OK To….

  1. April 18, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    You shouldn’t laugh at the death of a child, but honestly, what were their parents thinking?

  2. Tattyfalarr
    April 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Always ok (or should be) for the living but not so for the dead. I guess that’s one old-school definition of “respect” the majority still hold on to.

  3. Henry Crun
    April 18, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Confirms my long held belief that American parents choose their children’s names using a couple of dice and a bag of Scrabble letters.

    The rules are quite simple:
    Throw the dice and take the corresponding number of letters out of the bag and rearrange to make as ridiculous a name as you possibly can.

    • Maaarrghk!
      April 18, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      Reminds me of an old Lori Anderson monologue about a hillbilly she met. Two of his sons were called Tom because he and his wife liked the name so much. I guess it beats calling all 7 sons Bubba.

      • April 19, 2012 at 5:40 am


  4. April 18, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    I did a post about this one back here. I was curious about the names – as in, where the heck do they get them from. (I always had a laugh with DeForrest Kelly in Star Trek, too.) There was some enlightening discussion in the comments. It looks as if we have a social strata thing going on in the US too. Track and field athletes (generally middle-class) have ‘normal’ names, whereas American Football stars (mostly working-class) follow the JaTavious pattern. Bit like all the Tobys in Rugby Union and Waynes in soccer, I suppose. One thing is clear – these are not African names, but African-American, possibly originating in the Caribbean with some French influence.

    One point – it’s a horribly sad story, and one has huge sympathy with the families involved. The names thing is just natural curiosity for me.

    • April 19, 2012 at 5:41 am

      How fascinating! I wonder if we’ll see a similar divide here?

      • Humph
        April 20, 2012 at 12:47 pm

        Or perhaps it is just that they are total idiots who think it is cool to give their children stick-out names and it ends up just being a competition for who can think up the most outlandish moniker.

        Personally I still find myself being deeply suspicious of anyone called Gary, Kevin or Darren until they have had some time to prove themselves.

    • April 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

      Living in Georgia and knowing Kelly was also from Georgia, I would have assumed “DeForest” was a handed-down family name, as is common to do here. But, per Wiki:

      “DeForest was named after the pioneering electronics engineer Lee De Forest.”

  5. ivan
    April 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I ask, because, on occasion, I hold my nose and take a peek at the ‘Guardian’ educational pages

    Julia, I would have thought you would need full breathing apparatus to even consider peeking in there.

  6. Maaarrghk!
    April 18, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    I guess I shouldn’t snigger as my own little Saddam has an “unusual” name.

    Some of you may have already guessed that Saddam is not his real name. He’s actually named after a great British Engineer – not that one, he was Belgian.

    Some ask me if he is named after the football player. I tell them he is named after the football team, which usually gets a blank look.

    Eight bloody one. And that were an own goal an’ all.

    • April 18, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      Aye and their centre forward wears glasses during the match. 😆

  7. Watchman
    April 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I’m guessing not enough commentators have worked in inner-city schools around Britain then – these names (or similiar ones; not sure what the rules about forming them are…) can be found here, normally held by kids whose family’s have come from the Caribeen in the last couple of generations. I think they are (or at least the PrefixRest of name ones) are from some form of Creole.

    Incidentally, is liberty not the right to give your kids ridiculous names in the face of establishment disapproval? I ask because if you compare the number of names current (and popular) three hundred years ago and fifty years ago you will see a huge contraction in the numbers, which is presumably to do with homogenisation of culture, and the concordant growth of the state.

    Mind you, I’ve always fancied the name Athelstan for my kids…

    • April 19, 2012 at 5:42 am

      We are lucky we don’t have French rules on names here, where you have to get state approval!

      • April 19, 2012 at 6:54 am

        That’s one law I wouldn’t mind having! 😉

        As for the exotic names, I’m not sure the Caribbean/Creole connection explains everything. It is common in the US where some want their children to stand out by their first names. A century ago there, they chose titles (nobility, royalty) to make the same point: Prince, Duke, etc.

        Some today also use the hyphen where ‘dash’ is part of the name: ‘La-a’ (pron. ‘Ladasha’) and that is how it appears on the birth certificate.

        • Watchman
          April 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm

          I suppose then it is an indication of liberty in action – and so long as liberty allows you to change your name when you are old enough (probably about 4 in the case of La-a, when she gets sick of being assumed to be a dyslexic telly tubby), such is life.

          Interesting though – in America the silliest names are given by celebrities and the urban poor. I’m sure there’s some sociological significance there, but I daren’t investigate least I lose my faith in Frank Zappa’s sanity…

          • April 20, 2012 at 4:15 pm

            The La-a incident happens to be American. I am not sure they get Teletubbies there.

            Re sociological significance: you answered the question in your second paragraph.

            Read up on class. The top and bottom tiers are closest in terms of habits.

        • General Pyston Broak
          April 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm

          Does that mean the Guns n Roses guitarist can be spelt / ?

          • Watchman
            April 20, 2012 at 2:21 pm

            Only if you want him to move in the direction he is facing…

      • Watchman
        April 19, 2012 at 2:41 pm

        I just normally wake up and thank God I do not have to live with the edicts of the French government (to be fair, most French people seem to do the same, which is the big problem for the French government).

        What do the French government do if someone French has a child born in Britain and calls it Dwayne, registering the name here, but then claims French citizenship through partentage? Apart from laughing at the name, obviously…

  8. nisakiman
    April 18, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    I narrowly escaped being called Tarquin. 😯 My mother was an incurable romantic, and I guess Tarquin has a rather Mills and Boon dashing hero feel to it….

    Fortunately my father, who was somewhat more pragmatic, not to mention realistic, prevailed.

  9. Edgar
    April 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    FFS, doesn’t matter what colour you are … teach your kids to swim.

    • April 18, 2012 at 11:44 pm

      This, too, is another social demarcation. It’s never been properly analysed (presumed politically incorrect).

      • April 19, 2012 at 5:43 am

        Yup, I’d guess no-one wants to touch it.

  10. Single Acts of Tyranny
    April 19, 2012 at 6:33 am

    At the risk of an “I blame the parents” type rant…..

    I take young master SAOT (aged nearly three) to swiming lessons once a week and also for a leisure type swim maybe once or twice a week. (He can’t swim unaided yet, but he’s getting there). I don’t exactly live in South London but there are black people in my town but I’ve never seen any at lessons whereas, I do see some black kids at ‘footie monsters’ This is an under three football skills sessions.

    So parental priority perhaps explains it.

    • Henry Crun
      April 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      Probably because where the parents are originally from, the water usually has crocodiles in it.

      • Watchman
        April 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm


        I think you may mean Alligators/Caymans/Snapping Turtles for those whose parents/grandparents are from the Americas.

        • April 20, 2012 at 4:16 pm

          Does it matter?

Comments are closed.