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. 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.

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

1 comment:

  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.