Ladies and gentlemen, light your torches

February 3, 2005

Have you ever picked up a Christmas present for someone and then, during a pause in the gift-wrapping phase, you start skimming through it, and think, “Hey, this is so funny, I think I’ll keep it”?

Just wondering.

Anyway, on a completely different subject, I’ve started to read America: The Book, by Jon Stewart and his cohorts at The Daily Show. It is a laugh-till-you-cry satire on democracy as we know it, skewering Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as the media that cover them. It was while reading the chapter entitled, “The Media: Democracy’s Valiant Vulgarians,” that I came across a throwaway joke that made me reconsider a column idea I’ve had stewing for a long, long time.

In a section on how a person can become a TV news personality, America: The Book provides suggestions on possible names. Under the category of Women, it reads:

Recommended formula: Regular first name with pretentious misspelling + alliterative surname that sounds like a first name.

Examples include Mikhaela Michaels and Larra Leslees.

For several years, I have been compiling a list of what I like to call screwy names (that is, in fact, the file name), and by screwy names, I don’t mean Moonbeam, Dharma, or Doorknob. Now, before I get to what I mean by screwy names, let me just say two things: first, that I had planned on this being my penultimate column, for two reasons: 1, because I am certain a swarm of parents will chase me with pitchforks and torches after its publication; and 2, because by using the word penultimate, I sound smarter than I really am.

The second thing I’d like to say is that my name is Dana. I’ve written about problems I’ve had with my name, one being that I have received far too many items of correspondence addressed to Ms. Dana Pearson, another being that – it being a rare name – I’ve had to spell it for people roughly 4.7 quadrillion times. It’s almost as if nobody’s ever seen the Best Picture of 1946, The Best Years of Our Lives, starring Frederic March and…ohh, what’s his name? Hmmm…oh yes, Dana Andrews, who not only starred in The Ox-Bow Incident and Laura, but also happened to have been of the male gender.

So, trust me, I empathize with the following people afflicted with screwy names, by which I mean – pretty much how Jon Stewart and the gang put it – normal names we’ve all heard, yet with alternative spelling that leads one to believe that the parents, at the time of their poor child’s birth, had been hooked either on phonics or illegal substances.

Before humoring some and pissing off many, allow me to observe that one does not name a daughter Arrika without expecting a bit of undue attention drawn toward such a unique spelling, which borders on child abuse. Seriously. The minute you clasp you hands together over the crib and say with glee, “Oh, honey, let’s name her Erica…but let’s be clever and spell it A-R-I-K-K-A,” you are dooming the girl to spending several minutes every day of her life to spelling out her name.

All right then. Let us proceed. Some of these names can stand on their own, others may be accompanied by eye-rolling, while others may need a comment. In alphabetical order:

Aleksandra. Alix. Brittni and Brittny. Catherin (perhaps the parents wrote too large and the e couldn’t fir on the birth certificate). Charolotte (perhaps a subtle homage to Charro?). Chrystal. Cydne (oh, come on). Danyelle. Dillan. Eryk. (Eryck can’t be too far behind.) Ilese. Jaryd.

I have a sister named Jennifer. To her list of Things I Can Be Grateful For, she can now add that her name isn’t spelled Jennafer, Jenniffer, or Jennyfer. (Those wishing to be even more unconventional, i.e. thoughtless, may go with the ph as f option, thereby opening up possibilities for Jennapher, Jenniphpher, Jennypher, or go for the gold with Jenuphur. Just a sick, twisted suggestion.)

Then there’s Jezzica, Johnathan (for those people who never could understand why Jonathan didn’t have another h), Jouhan (that’s for Joanne, not John, by the way), Judie, Kacey, Kassi, Kathrene, and Kathrin. Keleigh (as in Kelly) is very doomed. Kerrin, Kristan, Kristofer, and Kristopher – sorry, kids.

We’ve got a Kori and a particularly phonics-inspired Kortnee and Lin-z, a McKayla and a Micayla, plus Nathanael, Nickole, and Ryleigh.

Sabastian faces many hours of spelling his name out loud, as do Shere, Sherill, and my all-time favorite, Stfn, a name which I plan on using the next time I play Hangman.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to change my name to Daiyhnahh and move to Alaska.

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