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“What are you going to name him?”
“You’ll have to wait until he’s born. I’m not revealing anything until then.”
My youngest daughter, Ivy, the Queen of Suspense, is about to give birth to her second son. I have reason to be curious, perhaps even concerned about his name. After all, she and Jon named their first son Ryder Banzai King. It’s going to be hard to top The Bonz.
Back when I was born — in the Dark Ages — nine months after the troop train unloaded at the station, parents doled out fairly conservative names to their issue. Dwight (for parents enthralled with the victorious general), and Karl pushed the limits in those restrained times. Robert, Susan, Karen, Janice, Richard, William — these were the norm.
Now, however, and for the past few decades, creativity, and often illiteracy, have moved to center stage in the baby-name game: Odd combos, strange spellings, a fascination with the “unique” have gained a lot of traction with American parents.
My curiosity leads me to undertake an Internet search. What are the baby name trends? What are the more bizarre names being glued to today’s American newborns? Perhaps my search would give me some clues regarding my grandson-to-be’s name.
I find some rippers, and gain some frightening insights concerning the names fashioned for the next generation.
In terms of altered spelling, how does Mkenzi strike you? It’s a humdinger, but the name has competition whenever Truli is entered on a birth certificate. And, if that is truli not enough, what do you think of Promyse?
Promyse you won’t say anything to her, she’s just a child.
If you are compelled to criticize Promyse, Mkenzi and Truli as worthy baby names, do so with a poetic Kadence.
Imagine a baby named Imagine.
Take comfort, there are newborns out there named Comfort.
When I found that some new parents are naming their kids after states — Nevada, for instance — I considered (momentarily) a grandson named West Virginia King.
Same with New Hampshire King.
As darkness falls, imagine children named Evening. They’re out there.
What a marvelous name, Evening. Nearly as marvelous as Marvelous.
As I read the lists of new and unusual baby names, I realize the phenomenon is a mystery to many older Americans. I come to grips with this when I see that Mystery is on more than one of the lists.
I struggle to understand the essence of the situation, and I come across the name Essence.
For crying out loud, what would Timberlyn think of all this?
This kindergarten-level poetic license being exercised by our current batch of childbearers reveals a couple of things: first, that American school systems are failing miserably when it comes to teaching spelling. Second, there is an overwhelming need on the part of some young parents to provide their kid with a moniker that illuminates him or her, makes them stand out when the roll is called in a classroom.
To modify my distress, realizing an extreme reaction is indicative of how much I am no longer “with it,” I come to a compromise conclusion: Any name is fine, so long as the kid is brought up so he or she can live up to their name.
It is difficult to imagine any kid being worthy of Marvelous, much less Imagine.
Likewise, it is hard to think that someone with the name Mystery is destined for anything but prison.
I can see Comfort, Truli, Kadence and Promyse finding work as strippers and doing quite well.
Nevada (along with most of the “cowboy” and rugged, western-named young ’uns) will find work at a feed lot, as a professional wrestler or meth cooker, busting tires, or as an extra in Hollywood.
My point: the name you give a child will influence how the person named sees himself or herself and will, no doubt, shape how others apprehend and treat them.
Given the meaning of “banzai,” the Bonz is going to have to be careful he doesn’t fracture his melon as a ski jumper or fall while walking a wire between skyscrapers in Manhattan. I have a hunch that, come time for a party, he might be a preferred guest. Through his nearly five years, though, Bonz has proven to be smart, creative, articulate, physical and enthusiastic. Plus, he cooks with me and is developing some kitchen skills and sensibilities. An interesting fellow. So, I think he will prove worthy of his name in a positive way.
With some of these names, however, my response is: What on earth were you thinking?
I feel pretty smug, but I get my comeuppance in short order.
It’s July 9 and Bubbie and I motor over to the hospital to find Ivy, Jon and Bonz in the birthing suite.
We meet someone new: an adorable little man; he is wrapped in a blanket and sleeping on his mom’s chest.
“I’ve got a brother,” says Bonz.
“Come meet your new grandson,” says Jon.
Ivy is pretty beat up, but she smiles and pulls the edge of blanket down, revealing a beautiful face.
“Say hi to … Bodhi Valhalla.”
It takes a second or two for things to click into place. I go from Uhhh? to Oh, that makes sense. Turns out, I have been a moron, going down the wrong track with this name thing. I forgot something.
After all, we named our oldest daughter Aurora Borealis. Aurora named our granddaughter Forest. Ivy and Jon named their firstborn Ryder Banzai. What made me think we weren’t in the swim of things? Further, why didn’t I see that I was at the root of the trend? Why didn’t I realize I am one of the fathers of the current creative name boom?
So, I have to soften my position further. Truli, a name will be an influence, but that influence can work in a positive way. An exceptional person can ride an unusual name to great heights.
Bodhi: Sanskrit. A Buddha’s understanding of the nature of things. Awakened. Enlightened.
OK, but he’s going to have to work at it, given that I am his grandfather, but … who knows?
This is pure Ivy, a salute to one branch on her ancestral tree. The middle name could have been Aaron, but Ivy apparently wanted to tip the hat to the Vikings in her father’s family’s past (not an unknown move, since Freya shows up on several of the baby name lists).
So, this little guy is going to have to be awake to the nature of things and be enlightened while, at the same time, eager to die in violent battle so he can join other fallen warriors in a great hall where they, and a suitable number of dangerous women, party with the gods until it is time to stream out and meet their end at Ragnarok.
Bo has a job on his hands.
I need to figure out what Bonz and I can cook for Bo once the little guy grows some teeth and develops a yen for solid and tasty fare. After all, enlightenment and Ragnarok demand energy.
For Bodhi: a lamb curry, served with raita and basmati rice. We’ll make it mild for the kid and increase the potency as he matures. Bonz is into grating ginger and his rudimentary knife skills will suffice when it comes to chunking up some tomatoes for the curry (a little blood never hurt anything). I will cube the lamb in another area of the kitchen, since Bonz has decided he is a vegetarian (except for those occasions when his mom makes her pulled pork rellenos with cilantro lime aioli). The chunks of lamb are seasoned with a teensy bit of salt, pepper and a light dusting of garam masala, then sautéed in a neutral oil a few pieces at a time until the chunks are browned on all sides. The browned lamb is removed to a bowl while the remainder of the meat is prepared similarly.
The heat is turned down to medium and chopped shallot and minced garlic are tossed into the pan — oil added, if necessary. Throw in a bunch of shredded ginger and a tablespoon or two of a favorite curry paste. Cook for a minute or two until the paste gets fragrant then add some chopped tomatoes and cook for a few minutes more. Deglaze with chicken broth and dump in the lamb. Cover and cook over medium low heat until the lamb is tender, adding a bit of broth if necessary. Finish with a can of unsweetened coconut milk, reducing the sauce until thick. Add a small amount of brown sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, taste, adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve with a mound of cooked rice. Bo will enjoy this kind of fare until he attains enlightenment, at which point he will, like his brother, forsake meat (even the rellenos).
For Valhalla: lefse, to eat with the curry in the place of naan. Bonz will enjoy the messy process of mixing the lefse dough with his hands, then rolling it out. Lefse is a Scandinavian potato-based flat bread. Cooked potatoes are riced and, while warm, are combined with heavy cream, butter and salt. The potatoes are cooled and flour is mixed in. A ball of dough is rolled into a very thin crepe-like round and cooked in a hot grill pan until each side is golden brown. Roll a round into a cone and use as a shovel for the curry. A bit of lefse and curry, chased with a bite of cooling raita … who needs more? If more is necessary, some cubed and roasted winter squash, lightly seasoned with garam masala will do the trick.
With a Forest, Bonz and Bodhi on my hands, I need to restrain myself with the criticism of non-traditional names.
The trend is going to continue, and grow.
How does President Marvelous McDonald sound to you?
Wonder if he’ll like lefse?