Sunday, September 11, 2011

Side Note: Name Bullying

When I grew up, kids would figure out a way to bully you using your name, no matter what your name was. Usually the easiest way to accomplish making fun of someone and keeping it playful at the same time was to change the gender of the name, such as Christina to Christopher, and Christopher to Christina. Other names had obvious ways to make fun, such as Dennis the Menace, the Blair Witch, or "Harry" Harry. And then there were (and still are) names that can be a lot harder to have, such as Fanny, or Dick as a nickname for Richard, initials that spell out bad or funny words (T.O.E. or P.E.E.), and names that have negative associations (Chester the Molester, Gaylord, Aunt Jemima, Adolph, Big Bertha, Prudence the Prude), which are all nice in their own right, but awfully easy to make fun of or insult someone with.

I bring this up because when I talk with friends and family about certain names, they are quick to come up with every possible way someone could make fun of whatever name it is we're talking about. My mother's response to my earlier post, Plumeria, was "Plummy the Plumber." But the point of this post is for two reasons. One, be aware of the potential "naughty nicknames" the name you choose for your baby can bring. Two, be aware that this trend of making fun of names is slowly fading already over for kids. Due to such an increase in unusual and unique baby names in the past decade, maybe even decade and a half, kids these days are getting used to hearing a wide variety of names, with unique spellings, hyphens, apostrophes, and more. There is also quite a bit less judgement on names among young kids these days. For example, many adults are offended by unisex names or gender stealing (ex: using Logan for a girl instead of a boy) and young children will not be aware of such things. Another example is Casper, a beautiful boy's name that most generations automatically read "Casper the Friendly Ghost." Future generations will not know this association, and will judge a little Casper on the playground the same as they will a Mason. This is not to say that making fun of names is disappearing. Some names are always going to be easy targets, and if a child wants to make fun of another child's name, they're going to, just not necessarily the same way we did in the past. Today, they're more likely to be made fun of based on their own personality or whether they get along with someone.

Which brings me to a more important point: it's the adults you have to watch out for. While kids are becoming more accepting of unusual names, adults are becoming more judgmental. It's not any name in particular. Sometimes it doesn't suit their personal style, so they trash-talk it. "Eww, how could she name her daughter Morgana?" And then sometimes adults pass judgement on names that are definitely cringe-worthy, names that should have had a professional namer give their advice on. If twenty out of the twenty one people you've introduced your kid to have dropped their jaws and couldn't find anything nice to say, their awkwardness should be telling you something. But if it's just the minority telling you the name is awful, it's probably just them.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter, or your personal experience or observations.


  1. You say in the post that it's the parents who pick up on unisex names, whilst their children are unaware and I completely relate to this statement. I grew up with a female Brogan and it never clicked for me that she had a male name until many years later, and by then she was well-established within the class.

    I've also seen people accuse the name Demi of being an easy target because she means half in French. It's unlikely that 5-year old kids in an English-speaking country speak enough French to pick up on that. I grew up with two Demis my age, and they never received grief about it.

    I think, at the end of the day, worrying about names that will or will not cause bullying will not mean your child won't get bullied because kids pick up on all sorts of things.

  2. I agree with you. One thing I've noticed with my husbands little sisters, one fresh out of high school, one still in elementary school, is that they tend to adjust to anything. They are going to school with kids name La-A, and listening to bands name Lecrae, switchfoot, Pink, SnoopDog, ect... So they are emerced in it, where as their parents/grandparents/great grandparents, had pamela's, lucille's, leander's, alfred's, karen's and david's in school, listening to bands like ritta hayworths, louise armstrong, bing crosby, frank sintra, elvis presely ect... What your emerced in culture wise, effects the child perception on the world. Children are raised differently despite cultural influences, raised differently than their greats and parents. Remember when children didn't speak unless spoken too? Try that with children today listening to Miss Elliot or Miley Cyrus? It certainly changes things. while, manners, critical thinking, and old fashioned traditions are really in the by-gone eras. Good post!

  3. Oh, we can't forget that this younger generation has sooo much money being spend on them through advocasies, propogandas, help centers pushing for more equality and exception from furs, animal rights, homosexuality, marriage-equality, food choices from eat meat to vegan, more tolerances toward religions. I think this part of the cultural influences besides the music bands. It all helps children adapt to their current enviroment. Again, good post!