It’s just a perfect day: You’re sitting in the park, sipping a Stumptown soy latte and reading the latest issue of Utne Reader as your little one bounces around on the jungle gym. The sun is shining, there’s not a cloud in the sky, and a busker is playing Lou Reed tunes on a saw in the background—but far enough away to enjoy without being annoyed. Eventually it’s time for your child’s weekly knitting class, so you put your magazine away into your Rough Trade tote bag and wait for the busker to finish his song so you can holler to your child and make all the other parents jealous of what an awesome name you picked out.
But then the record scratches, the busker hits the wrong high note, and another father hollers to his child instead, “Gravel, time for your artisanal-baking playdate with Petunia and Zazzle!” Gravel? Artisanal baking?? Damn, that’s cool. How could this happen? How could someone else be a cooler parent than you? You dejectedly mutter your kid’s name and usher him off the playground.
Sound familiar? Yeah, we had that nightmare, too, and we want to help. So . . .
Hello, welcome to our book. If you are looking for the perfect funky name for your little tyke, are looking to add pizazz to your own name, or just love to read name books, Hello, My Name Is Pabst has something for all you indie, geeky, DIY, hipster nonconformists out there. Want your baby’s name to be the envy of flannel-wearing, cheap beer–drinking, legwarmer-clad, ping-pong-playing zombies everywhere? Read on.
First Things First
First, choosing a name for your kid sucks. How do you pick just one? How do you name someone you’ve never met? What if he has an outie belly button? Your kid is going to have to live with that name for the rest of his life, hear or say it a dozen times or more per day, write it down in e-mails, read it in e-mails, maybe even have it plastered on the side of his own food truck one day. And then when he dies it’ll be carved into some granite gravestone for centuries to come, where all of his fans will make pilgrimages and leave lipstick kisses and bottles of whiskey, because even though you didn’t succeed at becoming a rock god, classic author, and/or the next Warhol, your kid will, you’re sure of it.
On top of that, people are coming up with the most awesome friggin’ names these days. It seems every month we get an announcement with news that another friend has just one-upped the last with an even cooler name: Haze, Indiana, Tree, Gant, Minnow. . . . It kinda makes you want to just drop being indie altogether, move back to the suburbs, and name your kid Jacob or Emma like everyone else out there. But you’re too poor to keep up with the suburbs, and you look awful in khaki anyway, so you really don’t have a choice.
We’re here to save you. We see this book as the remedy to the “damn, I wish I thought of that” pang you get every time one of your friends, Facebook friends, or second circle news feed Facebook friends scores an awesome, heretofore-unheard-of name. Obviously, all the cool kids are having fun with baby names, so c’mon, just try it.
Picking the right unconventional name, whether you’re looking for something strong (Hercules, Jett, Hammer), unique (Jazz, Tink, Biv), or happy-go-lucky (Lindy, Felix, Percy), can be quite enjoyable. The more you play with different options and start looking in familiar places for unfamiliar names, the more likely you are to find a fit that is just right for your new addition. This is something you get to do only a few times in life, if that, so have some fun, get creative, and, whatever you do, don’t tell your parents what you’ve chosen until the baby is born, the birth certificate is filed, and the baby is actually in the same room so you can tell them to stop screaming at you—they’re disturbing the baby.
The goal of this book is not to just give numerous name examples, with alphabetized and gendered list after exhaustive list of names to choose from. We’ve looked at those books, and we know that you’re in such a numb trance by the time you get to the letter B that you’ll name your kid anything just to get it over with. (TRUE FACT: This is why there are so many Brians and Brianas in the world.) While we have a bunch of lists in this book, and it would be awesome if you used a name from one, we also know that there’s no better mold-breaking name than one from your own imagination. So in each category we’ll suggest enough names in the spirit of that category to get your brain working and hope that it will inspire you to find the right one for yourself. The direct connection won’t always be immediately obvious (of course surely you will always get it), but it is often simply evocative of that category. Sometimes we split each category into different groupings, ranging from more classic ones that we think are still cool to more outrageous ones that take a bit of bravery to go along with. Other times we split them up according to different subcategories within the category, and other times we don’t separate them at all, or just pull out the more outrageous ones at the end. C’mon, it wouldn’t be a nonconformist baby name book if we actually stuck to one structure, would it? Whatever your passion is, we’re certain there’s a great name to be found in it that will hold a special meaning to you and doesn’t just slip into the blur of all the other kids in the class.
TIPSTER: Hey look at me, I’m a tipster. I’m like a tip, but for hipsters. Get it? I’ll occasionally pop up throughout to offer strategies to use and places to search for snazzy names. And sometimes I’ll just point out an alternative to a particular category or point you in the right direction. Okay, bye for now.
Second Things Second
You are clearly a unique soul, so of course your offspring will be, as well. If you picked up this book, we’re assuming you’ve already decided to choose a name that is a bit reflective of this, and you’re totally not interested in naming your child Tom or Stephen or Mary or Jennifer. Okay, so maybe your annoying childless friend gave it to you as a gag gift at your baby shower, and you’ve already decided on Audrey or Maxwell for your little precious. Why are you even reading this then? Secretly itching for something a bit wackier?
Before you come up with a good name, you have to let go of the notion that it must be a name you’ve already seen before. The name doesn’t have to come from the Bible (though it can—there are plenty of cool names in there) or from your favorite literary work (though, again, lots of choices). And remember that before anyone ever named their kid Violet or Lily, they were just boring flowers, so feel free to jump on Peony, Dandelion, or Rhododendron. While you may not want to go all out and name your kid something like Balcony, just because you’ve always dreamed of being able to have one, it’s perfectly fine to do so, and that’s similar to how other names probably came to be, as well. Sky, Paris, Heaven—these were all someone else’s dreams, too. And Balcony is actually kind of a cool name. Balcony Jones—say it out loud a few times, look at how cool it looks. You can call him Balcon or Balc or Cony for short . . . it could work. Because inevitably, whatever name you end up choosing for your kid, it will eventually and almost magically fit him to the point where you can’t imagine him being named anything other than Laser or Malm.
Still a bit afraid of the deep end? Because of globalization and the overall use of the Internet, where some people go by screen names more often than their own, it is not as risky as it once was to choose a name that is obscure, invented, or even spelled differently. Gone are the days when your child will be beaten up for being named Wilbur or never invited to prom because you named her Priscilla. Kids have found much more meaningless reasons to bully these days, and if anything, a cool or unusual pet name (think Fox, Bean, Tig) will give your kid more street cred if he is the only person in school with it. And if he does get bullied for the name you choose? Well, heck, you were probably bullied, too, but it only made you stronger, didn’t it? It’s not as if you really want your kid growing up to be prom queen or quarterback anyway, so feel free to inject some fun, creativity, imagination, and good old-fashioned elbow grease into the process.
But still, in choosing a unique name, there’s a difference between a name like Apollo, which is uncommon but certainly accepted, and Vandal, which is just plain awesome but could potentially give your grandmother a stroke. You should decide beforehand just how far to go and consider what the implications could be. There are plenty of normal names that are still strong, unique, and likable—such as Oskar, Rue, Maeve, and Benji. Or perhaps you’re being pressured to name the child after a family member but want to get a little crazy. We’ve got tips for that, too.
That said, in many of the chapters in this book we won’t just give awesome over-the-top name examples, but we’ll also share some classic and contemporary choices that stand a better chance of getting approval from Grandma.
Thurd Things Third
While we really hope that you are able to name your child something totally unique that you absolutely love, like Beaker, Loos, or Kix, we understand that it could be tough to convince others of your choice. Maybe your partner, parents, or friends are dead set against you giving your kid an original name, because they just don’t get it. Or maybe you really want to, but you’re still afraid to make the leap and take the blame every time another parent asks you to say your son’s or daughter’s name again because she hoped she heard you wrong. We have a few solutions to this dilemma. You can pick a poseur name instead—a normal-sounding name that disguises an awesome nickname. Sneaky sneak! Or you take a plain name and jumble, add, or subtract letters to create a hybrid of normal and crazy. Check it out.
Two literary examples in this category that we love are Toph from Christopher in Dave Eggers’s long-titled memoir, and Nny from the Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comic book. (Too obscure a reference for you? Yeah, duh, that’s the point). You can slide the cool nickname in after birth, fight for it to stick, and still have the more common name for the kid to fall back on when he needs to find a job.
The main formula for a poseur name is to pick a multisyllable name and simply pull out one or two syllables that sound or look neat by themselves. A few other examples: Alexander can be Alex or Xander, but you could try Lexan instead. Allison naturally turns into Allie, but why not Lison? Richard often goes to Dick or Rick, but we like Chard—this one will get you some vegan cred, as well.
Sometimes the key to coming up with a cool name is to simply switch around a few letters, or swap one out for something else. Our author Miek was born in a family where the other men are named Raphael, Agostino, and Dante, so he always hated Michael and Mike. There were six Mikes in his kindergarten class (seriously . . . out of twelve boys). For most of his life people referred to him as “Mike B,” which he also hated, while his brothers got cool nicknames like Rafe and Augie. Jealous much? After misspelling it at the end of e-mails so often, he finally decided he liked it more, and voilà, fifteen years later he still goes by Miek (now more often pronounced like meek.) Most of the time, people online think he’s a girl (like the Danish name Mieke), but he doesn’t really mind.
If you find yourself falling in love with a great name but feel it’s too common, there are several ways to make it your own and still keep the sound and essence of the name. You can add or subtract letters to find the perfect combination. We suggest adding an s at the end, because that will often give you the always cool zee sound, and making it plural gives the impression that your kid owns everything! Or if there is already an s somewhere in the name, you can replace it with a z (Jazper, Maizie), or just slide one in next to the s for a bonus effect (Szandy, Nikolasz).
Or try swapping out the first letter for another so that instead of the common Liv or Viv, do Miv or Tiv. A few more examples:
Switch examples: Jaek, Klely, Jaemson, Kaet, Aurlen
Swap examples: Fara, Melilah, Tesmond, Raya, Sleven, Pamona
Adding an s: Coles, Jons, Jills, Drakes, Danes, Sams, Crees
Subtracting a letter: Oshua, Marle, Vivia, Patick
In addition, these tips above work in the opposite direction, as well. Maybe you’re disgusted by the idea of naming your kid something like Taco, but there’s no denying that, aside from the greasy connotation, it sounds pretty darn cool. You can drain out this grease, though, by switching the spelling to Tocko, and can fall back on nicknames like Tock and Ocko.
Point: So while some of the names in this book may seem a bit outlandish, with the right mindset and simple creativity they can work very well.
TIPSTER: CrAZy szPelLinG NMs: pUT CaPS iN wEIrd pLAceS, AdDh a fiEW SiiLEnt LEtTerSZ, R jst rmv ll th vwls, nd nm yr bby Ptrck, Jnnfr r Mrg. WoWIE-ZowiE!
Fourth Things Ones and Zeroes
We know you really want to just dive into the name examples right away, but before you get to those (okay, okay, fine, here are a few to keep you going: Grem, Purdey, Key, Argo, Waverly), there’s just one more thing: Please, oh please, consider the interwebs while choosing a name. At some point in your child’s life, he will get a Tumblr account and an e-mail address, have to create numerous user names and passwords, and be included on lists and in Google results and whatever other things the www will morph into ten or fifteen years from now—face-recognition goggles that “out” people on the street who don’t recycle, personalized storefronts that sell Etsy goods via Internet Object Transporters, whatever the hell Apple comes up with next. By looking back at how the Internet has affected our own generation we can start to see why the name you choose now can have numerous implications further down the Internet superhighway. If you name your child John Smith, for example, he’ll never get his own “JohnSmith” user name when signing up for anything. He’ll be lost in Google search results among a thousand others with the same name, and his friends will have a hard time finding him online. On the other hand, this can work to his advantage if he does something wrong or embarrassing at some point—much of his life will be archived online, from his second-place finish in the town Easter egg hunt at age three to the tagged photos of him smoking a bowl with his friends in the woods at age fourteen.
Excerpted from Hello, My Name Is Pabst by Miek Bruno and Kerry Sparks. Copyright © 2012 by Miek Bruno. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.