A redemptive name for a righteous son: Eko.
This is a 100% true story.
So there I was, living on Los Angeles. It was almost guaranteed that I would run into a B or C level actor at least once a month, maybe more. Meanwhile, it was the prime Lost watching years, where you had the first season or two behind you, and nothing but open possibility ahead. Lost was a show immune to haters, and they were trying things that had never been done on television before. It was a good time to be alive.
Over time, I started to run into some of the actors from the show. There were two I would never forget: first, Sayid, who looks way smaller and balder in real life. He also has the voice of a chipmunk. And not even an Iraqi chipmunk… a British chipmunk! As for the other actor, well, that’d be everyone’s favorite drug dealer-turned-priest, Mr. Eko.
One day, I had some grandparents visiting, and we were showing them the sights. Here’s the Santa Monica pier, check out the Hollywood sign, yada yada yada. Now the deal was these grandparents were proper Texans (from Waco, no less), and I was on my best behavior. I was polite, I opened doors and let other people walk through first, I even chewed my food with my mouth closed. I was the perfect gentlemen. And there we were, my spouse and a perfect gentlemen and her grandparents, waiting at a light to turn onto Rodeo Drive, and whom do I see at the crosswalk but Mr. Eko himself. I am thrilled, super-hyper excited… it’s three more days until the next episode of Lost, but it’s like I’m getting one in advance. I am pumped.
So I say, “Hey, that’s Mr. Eko!”
And the car goes silent.
Out of the corner of her mouth, my wife says, “What is wrong with you?”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“My grandparents are in the car.”
I was totally confused. “What did I say?”
She pressed her lips together very tightly, and leaned forward, and whispered something in my ear.
Apparently, what I had actually said, no, SHOUTED, in my fit of ecstasy, was:
Holy f**king s**t it’s Mr. Eko!!!!
Needless to say, there were massive apologies to the kindly old couple in the back seat. Also, Mr. Eko was staring at me from the street (I think he had heard me), and let me tell you, that is one scary dude. I’m pretty sure I even apologized to him, from inside the car.
Postscript: To make it up to the slightly traumatized grandparents, I took them to a proper cowboy movie that night: Brokeback Mountain. After watching that, they forgot all about the incident in the car.
You want a daughter with an epic destiny and a love of Jimi Hendrix? Name her Hera.
I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy. I’m not sure that you can really get away with naming your daughter Hera. The pantheon of Greek gods just haven’t really inserted themselves into popular baby name culture. The last guy named Zeus was a part-time wrestler and part-time President, but ultimately he peaked early and vanished from public eye, never to be seen again. And while I like Icarus as much as the next guy (which is to say, not much), they’ll call him Icky for the rest of his life, and dudes named Icky just don’t land the prom queen, you know? So maybe I’m way off here.
It’s just… look, I’ve been watching a lot of the new Battlestar Galactica lately. I know I’m late to the party, but holy crap is this show good. It’s so good that even though it’s on Syfy (sigh), I recommend it to actual women. It soothes the ragged hole in my chest where Lost punched through my sternum and ripped out my heart. Really, Lost? You’re going to leave me like this, in a church? Really classy, JERK.
Anyway, back to the topic at hand… So I’m watching this show, and I’m thinking that Battlestar Galactica must have hired some of the most talented name-smiths in the business. Everyone has names that are almost real, but not quite. Kara Thrace, Galen Tyrol, Tom Zarek? These sound like people you might meet, but trust me, you never will. Hell, even the robotic Cylons have perfectly normal names, like Sharon, and <SPOILER>, <SPOILER>, <SPOILER>, and my favorite, <SPOILER>.
So <SPOILER> and <SPOILER> have a child, and they name her Hera, and from that moment on, every single character is speaking her name about every 2.6 seconds. “Where’s Hera?” “Don’t take Hera!” “Hera is the key!” “Hera drew this picture of scary things.” “This war is great and all, but we should call timeout and go find Hera.” Seriously, there’s an entire episode where every single line of dialogue is about Hera:
“I dreamed about Hera last night.”
“Really? I also dreamed about Hera. <SPOILER> was there, too.”
“Who me? Sorry, I’m totally out of it… I couldn’t sleep, since I was dreaming about Hera all night.”
“That’s weird. Are you going to take Hera from me?”
“Of course not, I love Hera!”
“Sorry, who’s talking right now? I’m losing all context here.”
“It’s okay,” said Hera. “Can I draw another creepy picture?”
So now I think Hera is a totally sweet name for a kid. You’re not going meet any other Heras on the playground, and if anyone asks, just tell them you named your daughter after the jealous wife of Zeus. After all, you’ll never know for sure that your best friend down the street isn’t actually a Cylon, right? She might be looking to snatch up your kid and hop a Raider back to a Basestar. As parents, we must take every precaution if we want our children to survive, even if that means TRUSTING NO ONE. It might sound a little paranoid, but these are desperate times, and above all, watch out for <SPOILER>.
So say we all.
Do you hear the people sing? Singing the name of your daughter, Cosette…
I am so sorry. I have made a grave error. Please understand that it was unintentional… I meant no disrespect. All I can do is try to make amends, to take this wrong, and make it right.
Fellow nerds, come close and gather round. Comic book kids, nice to see you, but I’m going to ask you to step to the side. Gamers, always a pleasure, but could you please move back? Movie and tv geeks, we’ll get back to you soon, don’t you worry. The rest of you, please, PLEASE, I need you to make some room. You see, I have ignored a huge subsection of our community, and they need to be recognized and respected. Clear some space so they may step forward. Trust me, if anyone will appreciate the spotlight, it’s these kids.
Theater nerds, I cry your pardon. I haven’t forgotten you.
You deserve a seat at the table with the rest of us. In school, no one was more nerd-n-proud than you. While the gamers huddled alone in their basements, and comic books were hastily hidden in under covers and in cardboard boxes, you dared to stand up and star in Brigadoon and Paint Your Wagon as if they were legitimate theater. The theater girls played some of the male roles, and the theater boys wore makeup. And if the gender confusion wasn’t enough, I’m pretty sure you were all hooking up with each other on a regular basis.
But there you were, on the class trip, sitting on the edge of your seat as Jean Valjean (another excellent name, but more suitable for your cat than your child, I think) strove to protect a young Cosette from the cruel Thénardiers. You watched as she grew up before your very eyes into a strong young woman, fell in love in Marius, and maybe triggered the June Rebellion? Or maybe not, but you didn’t care… you couldn’t take your eyes off of her. And when you grew up, you swore that your first daughter would carry this proud name, even though technically the character’s real name was Euphrasie, but that’s not an option, who would ever force such a punishment on a child, no, Cosette would be the perfect name, and the two of you would escape to your Castle on a Cloud where you would eat croissants and beignets and all sorts of delicious French food. And when she was old enough, maybe, just maybe, Cosette would follow in your steps and perform in theater as well.
After all, that wagon still needs painting.
Everybody digs a name like Cyrus.
Being a nerd is tough. Nerds travel through life the hard way, hanging with our gang, looking to carve a little bit of turf out for ourselves. Gotta make the other crews respect you with a little bit of force, or they’ll take what’s yours, you know? Me, I rolled in a gang for years. New York in the 70s was like hell on earth. My crew used to get dressed up in baseball uniforms and KISS face paint, and we’d patrol Riverside Park, looking for punks who’d enter our territory. If we caught the Rogues or the Van Cortland Rangers sneaking around… well, I can’t tell you what we did, but let’s just say we also carried several wooden bats. Hoo-wee, we were tough muthas.
Looking back at it all, it seems like a waste of time. We didn’t own that park… the city did. We’d beat up the Turnbull ACs, and then the Riffs would kick our ass, and so on. It was an endless cycle of violence. But then, a leader appeared. A man named Cyrus. He talked about strength in unity, about respecting our fellow man, and taking the whole city on. That guy could hold a crowd in the palm of his hand, just with the power of his charisma. He ran the biggest gang in the city, and even that was too small for him. See, Cyruses (Cyrii?) think on a much larger scale than you or me. They think about the big picture. A boy named Cyrus can tap into that energy, and his ambition could potentially change the status quo forever.
But listen, I don’t want to alarm you, but you should know: there’s a slight chance your son Cyrus may grow up to be a criminal. After all, there are plenty of villainous Cyrii: there’s Cyrus Tolliver, and Cyrus Gold, even Cyrus the Virus. However, each of those gentlemen may have the wrong intentions, but they’re all born leaders. Getting their morals right, well, that was their parents’ job, one which they apparently failed miserably. I’m sure you’ll do much better.
Trillian might be the most space-like of all the Nerd Baby Names.
I love the name Trillian. It sounds like “Trillion”, and as you know, I’m obsessed with number names. As numbers increase in popularity, you’ll need to differentiate yourself from the pack, and the easiest way to do that is with a semi-pretentious unusual spelling. Your daughter Trillian will fit right in with her friends Alyss, Kaytlyn, Maycen, and Dooshbag.
But more importantly, you’ll be naming your kid after Trillian Astra, the nerd girl to rival all other nerd girls, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. First off, she’s an astrophysicist. There are too few female scientists in this world, and a girl named Trillian is almost destined to wear a lab coat and glasses and test quantum teleportation on mice. Second, Trillian is one of a handful of people to make it off of Earth before it was destroyed by the Vogons. If you’ve noticed some of the running themes on this site, you’ll see that one of them is insuring the survival of our children. The only way to guarantee their safety is with just the right type of name. If Trillian had kept her original name (Tricia McMillan, BARF!), she would’ve been blown up on Earth with everyone else. Trust me on this.
She’s also played in the movie by Zooey Deschanel, if you’re into that sort of thing. Look, I can see why people would like her, but I just can’t trust anyone who misspells their own name. It goes against everything I stand for.
Back to Trillian… so what’s her ultimate fate? Well, if you’ve read the five books of the incorrectly titled Hitchhiker’s Trilogy, or listened to the radio series, or watched the movie, then you know that this isn’t a simple answer. Here, I’ll make this easier with the multiple choice approach:
Question: What happens to Trillian Astra?
a) She married the president of the Algolian chapter of the Galactic Rotary Club
b) She was eaten by the ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
c) She has Arthur Dent’s child, Random Dent (which is a Nerd Baby Name for another time)
d) She was blown up on Earth
e) All of the above
f) This isn’t easier at all. These words don’t make any sense to normal people. You might as well just make an answer something like
g) Bleep bloop beep boop.
If you answered “E”, congratulations, a winner is you. Welcome to the Nerd Club… I’ll be happy to stamp your nerd card and validate your parking. In the meantime, you can bust out your Magic the Gathering cards, as we’ve got a sealed deck tournament getting ready to begin.
What was that? You say you don’t bring your own cards to a sealed deck tournament? Touché, you mega-nerd. Welcome home.
Name your daughter Talia, and when you’re ready to pass on your evil legacy, she’ll be ready to take the reins.
You want to get ahead of the game. You want the popular names before they go mainstream, so you can point to your daughter and proclaim, “I was there first!” Here’s the problem… I’m kind of a self-fulfilling prophet. Whenever I toss out some new nomenclature, obscure as it may be, within a month there’s a dozen babies with that name, then 144 babies the month after that, and well, it grows exponentially from there. That’s why I keep giving you new names; the old ones are used up, dried out, past their prime. You’re looking for the next big thing? Well, here’s one that’ll be a huge name next year: Talia.
The Hebrew name or the town in Lebanon, you ask. Weird question, I respond. I’m obviously referring to the daughter of Batman’s greatest villain, Ra’s al Ghul. You know Ra’s from either the movie, the comic, or my personal favorite: Batman, the Animated Series (soooo good). Well, Talia’s his daughter, and she regularly vies with Selena Kyle to be Mrs. Batman. She’s super smart and strong, and like her father, has died and been resurrected more times than you can count. There’s also my personal favorite moment in the comics when she sells off Lexcorp to Wayne Industries, leaving Lex Luthor penniless. She’s also the mother of Bruce Wayne’s child, maybe, depending on which retcon you believe in…
So, this was where I was going to hit you with the big reveal: that Marion Cotillard was playing Talia al Ghul in the next Batman film. I was going to toss in some La Vie en Rose references, then follow it up with some Inception (both great Cotillard movies), and finally I was going to show you the badass connection between the two. We’d spitball ideas about the plot of Batman 3 (Dark Knight Rises… heyo!) It was going to be the coolest thing you would read today. Later on, when the movie came out, you could hold your kid up over your head in a Lion King moment and say, “Too bad suckas! Talia’s taken… come up with your own name! I suggest Der Loser!”
It turns out that one should not get his or her news from aintitcool.com, where it was hinted that Cotillard was to play Talia in the movie. Nope, she’s just going to play a Wayne Industries board member, Miranda Tate. How boring is that? And you’re not going to name your daughter Miranda, because that’s not how you roll. Crap. I just wasted your time.
Um… what about Tali instead?
POST-DARK KNIGHT RISES EDIT: Ha!
Aurora is a name fit for a princess.
From the moment your daughter is born, a clock starts counting down. You’re working on borrowed time, so make the best of it and train your daughter in the art of nerddom. Make sure she knows the earth moves around the sun, and not the other way around. Teach her chess before Shoots and Ladders or checkers. Once she’s old enough to go on the computer, set her up with an account on Wizard 101 early. Make her as smart and as cool as you possibly can, because one day she’ll be at a friend’s house, and their idiot parents will put in a Disney movie, and it’ll all be over. She’ll catch a glimpse of Snow White, or Belle, or Jasmine, and all of the sudden her heroes will be princesses. She’ll want to dress up in princess costumes and replace chess sets with tea parties and all of the sudden the brilliant girl you knew is becoming a debutante right in front of your eyes.
I’m here to tell you that you can’t fight this. Disney has way too many weapons in its arsenal. You can’t swim against a current like that, but you do have options. There are certain Disney heroines that are pretty kickass. I personally love Pocahontas, but man, if you’re not 100% full blooded Cherokee, your little white/black/asian/misc baby will just look and sound mega-pretentious. Belle ain’t bad (she likes to read), but sheesh, do you really want your daughter running off with the Furry down the block?
No, my money’s on Aurora. Ask anyone Sleeping Beauty’s real name, and you’ll just get stares. Everyone knows Tinkerbell, Cinderella, and Rapunzel. Aurora is just outside the realm of common knowledge… not too obscure that you seem like you’re trying too hard (Esmeralda, I’m looking at you), but unique enough to stand out in a lineup. Plus, if Malcolm Gladwell is to be believed, your daughter will get the best of everything in life, just for having a name that gets her to the front of every line that organizes alphabetically. If she’s anything like her namesake, Aurora will take naps with the greatest of ease. Trust me, new parents, you’ll thank me on this one.
A side note: Sleeping Beauty has my favorite villainess of all time, Maleficent. Any logical spectrum of magical power puts Maleficent at the top (oh, I just dare you to disagree), way higher than Queen Grimhilde or Ursula. Anyone who can turn into a dragon commands my respect.
We all have it backwards when it comes to inspiring our children. As a parent, I want my child to grow up to be a superhero, so his weeks will be full of karate class, the gun range, pilot school, maybe an ethics cource, if he can squeeze it in. I’ll probably make him join the military… not just to instill a strong sense of honor, but also to give him hands-on expertise in AK-47s and F-35s. Then, when he heads off on his own, I’ll give him an all-expenses-paid apartment in some terrible neighborhood in NY, LA, or Detroit. Well, maybe not Detroit… I don’t want him to turn into Robocop or anything. But I want him in the middle of some serious crime action, so he can finally be inspired to take up a cape or a mask and become who I guided him to be.
And here’s the thing. I’ll do all of this, in spite of the fact that I know this is not how superheros are raised. Superheros normally have normal parents who wanted nothing more than for them to have average lives. As such, they gave them normal names. That bat-shaped shadow that just disappeared into night, after rescuing you from those muggers? That nice man’s name is Bruce. That dude dressed in green, with green laser beams exploding from the ring in his hand, fighting aliens? Depending on who we’re talking about (yes, there’s more than one), that guy’s parents could have named him Alan, or Harold, or… Guy, actually.
And what about Superman, the main superhero, the One Hero to Rule Them All? Well, he was born to that nice El family, on Krypton. And when he was born, they named him Kal. What a nice, simple name. For an alien culture, they had a great sense of humility. Kal-El would have grown up to be the boy next door to you (if you were Kryptonian, of course), and if weren’t for a massive cataclysmic event that destroyed the planet, Kal would never have become Superman. They never taught him jujitsu or sent him to Knifing Class. His parents did nothing more than protect their son, keeping him safe from harm, and they sent him out into the universe to find his own destiny. I think there’s a lesson there for all of us.
I’m just not sure what that lesson is. I’m too busy enrolling my kid in Advanced Aggressive Driving… that Batmobile I’m slapping together ain’t gonna drive itself.
Sabine may be real, or just a figment of your imagination, but it’s a perfect name for your daughter.
I received the Griffin and Sabine trilogy as a gift in my freshman year of college. I say this with none of the sarcasm that normally permeates my speech: those three books fundamentally changed the way I understood narrative.
It’s okay that you haven’t read them yet. There are some books that I can assume you’ve perused: LOTR, the Foundation series, at least the first Game of Thrones. But Griffin and Sabine… I even hesitate to call them “books”, per se. You wouldn’t flip through them on a bookshelf, and you’ll never see them at a library. You wouldn’t lend them to a friend, or suggest them at book club, or even use them for a book report. You see, Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem are two characters who communicate solely through correspondence. As a result, the “book” is a loose collection of postcards, envelopes with actual letters inside, and other forms of the written word. The entire “plot”, if you can call it that, occurs outside of these letters. You only have Griffin and Sabine, two unreliable narrators at best. And there is something uncannily wicked about opening a literal envelope, pulling out a tangible letter, and then reading it. You are going through someone’s deeply personal mail, and sure, that someone is a fictional character, but that guilty thrill you’re feeling? That feels real enough. Roller coasters are about the illusion of danger, right? Well, Griffin and Sabine is about the illusion of snooping. You’re in the story with them, cast as a nosy neighbor. And each time you finish a letter, you carefully fold it up and place it back in the envelope, because what if Griffin notices you’ve been through his mail? Then you turn the page, open the envelope, and pull out the next note, and continue reading this love story between two people.
And then Griffin, sad soul that he is, doubts Sabine even exists. Bah bum BUM! And that’s just in the first book… the story only gets better.
Please go read these. All the weird stuff I say now, and in the future, will make much more sense if you do.
Very few names are shared by both Carthaginian generals and sassy vampire hunters. You grow up with a name like Hannibal, you don’t tend to work in Accounts Receivable.
You might not know it to look at me, but I’m a Tiger Mom in training. I don’t believe that “we’re all winners” and “the most important thing is to do your best”. I’ll demand excellence from my children, and they’ll either be rousing successes or spectacular failures… none of this middle ground. That’s why I like Hannibal as a name. People with the name Hannibal get in the history books for taking care of some serious business.
First off, you have Hannibal, the military commander prodigy of the ancient world. I could bore you to tears with the accounts of his exploits, but let us focus on the key aspects of his awesomeness: he fought Romans with legions of war elephants. Elephants! Remember that scene in Return of the King when Sauron’s armies are attacking Minas Tirith and then Theoden shows up and he’s all, “I’ve got this, you got this, now you know it” because of his calvary, and then the horn sounds and his jaw drops and his army sort of freaks out because all of the sudden there are war elephants on the battlefield? Seriously, you can call them mûmakil or whatever other Tolkienesque word you can think of, but they’re elephants and they’re freaking scary. Bringing an elephant to a war is like bringing an electric eel to a knife fight… not necessarily the most useful tool, but definitely one that messes with people’s heads. They didn’t always work for Hannibal, but man they leave an impression.
And I’m pretty sure that’s all you need to know about Hannibal the Carthiginian.
There’s also Hannibal King, of Blade the Vampire Hunter fame. In the movie, he’s played by Ryan Reynolds, or as I call him, “Not Chris Evans“. Hannibal is a role model we can all appreciate: after being bitten by a vampire, he decides to not only forgo attacking humans for their blood, he also avoids using any cool vampire powers. He sticks to being a private detective and prowling the night fighting crime, staking vampires. I’ll be using this story to teach my own children about making the right choices. You see, I don’t expect my son to avoid all the evils of the world. You and I both know that there’s a one in seven chance to be bitten by a vampire, werewolf, or swamp monster, so if your friends’ kids look fine, then most likely your kid has been afflicted with a debilitating disability that he’ll have to live with for the rest of his life. Maybe he’ll take after his namesake, turn his bad luck into an asset, and kill Dracula. That’d be an inspiring tale to share at the family Thanksgiving. At night, of course.
And for the sake of decency, let’s not discuss the whole Hannibal Lecter reference. At least that dude ate liver… good luck getting your kid to do the same.