Moniker Madness

Every day, newspaper headlines scream of crimes against children. Yet there is one rampant horror you never read about. Its victims are helpless newborns, and it destroys their lives. Fact: Every 26 seconds in this country, a child is born with an idiotic name.

Why the government hasn't stepped in, I don't know. But it's got to stop. The world is tough enough without having to endure it with a birth certificate that identifies you as "Cinnamon Schwartz," "Autumn Sternhagen" or "Lance Boyle."

Not long ago, my wife and I were in the lobby of a Los Angeles theatre when we heard someone behind us say, "Bob, I'd like you to meet Buffy."

Naturally, we laughed. Derisively and out loud. Buffy!?! That's a name for a cat or a golden retriever or a hamster, not a human being. Hang a label like that on a kid, and you might as well plug a neon sign into her forehead that flashes "Loser! Loser!" Her life will peak when she makes the high school cheerleading team. Then, if she's lucky, she'll marry the quarterback, pump out a half-dozen badly named kids and be trapped in her own laundry room until she ODs on tranquilizers and alcohol. All because her parents had the poor taste and lack of foresight to name her (hollow laughter) Buffy.

I spun around to get a load of the Buffy behind us. As it turned out, it was Buffy Sainte-Marie, the renowned American Indian folk singer--and the only person on earth who can get away with being called Buffy.

But the point remains the same: Do not gamble with your daughter's life and happiness by naming her Buffy. And don't name your son Buffy, either. Face it--the chances that she or he will mature into a renowned American Indian folk singer are perilously slim.

It's astonishing how the sanity of thoughtful, loving, rational parents can snap under the pressure of baby-naming. I once read an interview with William Lear, the late zillionaire developer of the Lear jet. Of all his accomplishments, Lear bragged, he was proudest of his daughters: Chanda Lear, Cava Lear, and Gonda Lear.

Now, it's one thing to inflict your poor taste on innocent babies. But to punish them for your dismal sense of humor is quite another. The Lear case is the only one I can think of where three children in the same family would have been better off with the name Buffy.

What we need, desperately, are federally appointed Name Police--armed and uniformed guardians of the aesthetic appellative, legally required to be present at all births and empowered to mete out justice to anyone who even thinks of saddling his kid with a moronic moniker.

Offenders would be deemed a menace to society, and their reproductive organs would be removed on the spot--manually, without anesthesia. Or, to really teach 'em a lesson, their first and middle names would be permanently changed to "Moonbeam Starlight."

Until civilization advances to that point, we must take it upon ourselves to draw up some basic baby-naming no-nos: No puns (i.e., Hedda Hare), echoes (William Williams), rhymes (Ernie McGurney), clever word plays (Nancy Ann Cianci), alliterations (Kristine, Kirstie, and Krusty Kesselman) or running themes (Dick Little).

No names borrowed from foods (Sage, Muffin), seasons (Autumn, Summer), weather conditions (Sunshine, Rain, Sleet), nature (River, Leaf, Squirrelly), astrology (Star, Aquarius), rocks (Sapphire, Turquoise), celebrities (Engelbert, Charo, Zsa Zsa, Liberace, Pee-wee, Soupy), rock stars (Prince, Sting, Meatloaf), sports figures (Yogi, Kareem), or fictional characters from cartoons (Bambi, Goofy), children's songs (Rudolph, Frosty), soap operas (Sable, Patch) and light operas (Porgy).

If you happen to be a hip-and-trendy sort, don't take it out on your kid. Nothing ages as quickly as hip. Just ask Chastity Bono, Moon Unit Zappa, and Grace Slick's children, God and Free.

If you're the creative type, take pride that you've created a kid and leave it at that. Don't burden your heir with something new and original to make him stand out. Kids don't want to stand out. Until they're teen-agers, of course, at which time they'll have learned to hate any name you've given them and will start introducing themselves by a stupid name of their own invention. (I was Marr Questor for nearly three months.)

Finally, if your last name doesn't blend well with any first name, be a sport. Change it. That's certainly the course of action I'd have recommended to Mr. and Mrs. Pugh (pronounced "Pew"), producers of one of my dishier schoolmates, Serena Pugh. Despite her beauty, even Serena's best friends couldn't say her name without pinching their noses and adding rude accents that turned it into "Serena? PEE-YOO!!!" And that wasn't the worst of it. I'd always assumed that poor Serena spent her youth dreaming of the day she'd marry and put an end to the Serena? PEE-YOO!!! jokes. But she eventually wed a fellow named Steve Stench, and last I heard, she was going by the hyphenated handle, "Serena? Pee-yoo-STENCH!!!"

May God, or the Name Police, help her children.

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Michael Burkett

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