Monday, December 15, 2008

Children's Names

I grew up in a generation of children named Kathy, Susan, Debbie, John, Michael, and Daniel. My name was considered unusual. My children's names are not exotic although not as common as one might think. My daughter was the only one in her school with the name Ann. There were a few other Patrick's in school with my son but not an overabundance. We tried to avoid the popular names. As a teacher I often experienced a classroom with four Christine's, three Jennifers, or three Jason's. We did not want our children to have the same names as many others.

The past 15 years have seen an upsurge of unique names, some of which are now common. It first started with naming babies after states: Montana and Dakota were front runners in the state name game. Kade, Hunter, and Madison which were unique years ago are now common.

I can appreciate a parent wanting to give a child a name that is uncommon because a name is an integral part of an identity. But, planting a different name on a child who for the rest of his/her life will have to spell it aloud or explain its origin is not what a child needs. Again, in teaching I slaughtered the pronunciation of Siobhan and Taylee (accent on the first syllable). During breaks in the teacher lounge on the first day student names would be discussed. Names such as Heaven, Norval, and Nived (Heaven's father was a minister, Norval was a family name, Nived was Devin backwards).

But what I heard on the radio this morning was so bizarre. In Holland Township, NJ, Heath and Deborah Campbell named their children Adolph Hitler, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation, and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell, a girl named for Schutzstaffel head Heinrich Himmler. Mr. and Ms. Campbell are Holocaust disbelievers whose living room is decorated with swastikas, and other German war memoribilia. This family came to the media's attention when a store refused to decorate a cake for little 3 year old Adolph's birthday. They have also refused to make a cake for JoyceLynn Aryan Nation. However, Walmart has consented to make the cakes. If you care to read more on this story, it can be found at The parents do not consider themselves racist and do not believe the names will cause their children harm.

Huh? Are they serious? Names are so important to a person's identity. That may be shallow on the part of society, but let's face it, we have preconceived notions of people from their names. While one may not want a name common to many others, to give a child the name of a historically odious person is cruel.

Ironically, German law insists that all German baby names must be approved by the German Standesamt, also known as the 'Office of Vital Statistics. ( While most do not want that much government involvement in their lives, people like the Campbell's do give me some pause. I wonder if their children upon turning 18 will rush to court for a name change.


Cheryle said...

Oh, I so agree with you on this, Holly! What can parents be thinking when they saddle their kids with names that make them targets? Who, of our generation, can ever forget "Moon Unit" and "Dweezil"?

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