Usually you hear the same lines when someone mentions a celebrity or new parent who names their child something unusual. "That poor kid, he/she's going to get teased on the playground in a few years!" or, "Why would someone DO that to their child?"
I'm here to say that having an unusual name did get me teased on the playground (people sang Madonna's "Lucky Star" to me constantly, in a jeering tone), but then again, so did kids with normal names (or regular first names and last names that rhymed with butt, stupid or fart). Because here's a news flash: Having a regular name doesn't prevent bullying or teasing.
When the Stir released its latest list of "hipster" baby names — including Zinnia, Eyelet, Mable and Django, Stellan and Abel — many of the comments echoed those above.
But having a different name has plenty of advantages. Here are the ones I've directly experienced and enjoyed:
1. People tend to remember you. Whether it's people I've only met once before, business contacts, friends-of-friends who have only heard of me, most everyone tends to recall my name. And trust me, I'm pretty average-looking, so it's nothing about my looks that jogs their memory; it's my name. It has been really useful when years later, people remember me for jobs, projects and consulting. (And see number 3; when they do remember my name, I'm super easy to find online.) And at my local coffee shop, they always remember my order (soy cortado), which is nice on those "grumpy" mornings.
2. I grew up feeling unique and special (and still feel that way). I have still never met someone with my name, though most people know at least one, and there's only one person on Facebook or online who shares the exact unique spelling of my first name. As a kid in a small town, I grew up thinking I was a little bit special for having a name that nobody had, and it still makes me happy for that reason today. A little immature and silly? Sure, but aren't we all in some way?
3. You can find your work and mentions of you online easily. As a freelance writer and burgeoning artist, it's incredibly useful to be able to Google myself and find all the images of me and my work, as well as reprints and links to my work. I also have a relatively unusual last name, so the combination means I know whenever someone uses my name in print anywhere in the world. It also makes it easier to monitor my online identity and know when people steal content from me or the sites I write for (yes, that happens all the time).
4. You stand out when it comes to job-search time. I know of at least two jobs where I got moved to the top of the pile (after I was already qualified for the position, of course) because people thought my name was interesting, and that made them curious about me — curious enough to bring me in for an interview.
5. We tend to embody our names. Now, this isn't to say that those with more conventional names don't go on to do great things (obviously), but among those people I know with different names, most of them felt that they wanted or needed to do something that in some way lived up to their moniker. Of course, how this manifests depends on the person. I have always interpreted my name to be about brightness in the darkness, rather than the famous celebrity connotations some might think of. Since I write about health, science and the environment, the idea of helping to bring light to something that needs attention makes all the sense in the world to me.
6. People tend to talk to you about your name. Yes, sometimes this can be annoying (occasionally I use my very normal middle name at Starbucks because I just can't do the convo). But oftentimes, it's a great ice breaker. I always talk about how my parents were hippies and we traveled the world when I was young, and how my aunt insisted on the unusual, old-English spelling of my name. It's great at networking events to have something innocuous to talk about, and the combination of being friendly and having something to talk about is always a bonus!
7. It's more fun. I really enjoy having my name and honestly, can't imagine a different one. It has brought me so many benefits and is lots of fun to walk around the world with.
What do you think? Is naming a kid something unusual cruel? Or a gift?
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