Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Naming Names

Several people have asked me what I think of Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers.  I have absolutely no idea what kind of justice she would be, nor do I have the inside-the-beltway knowledge to even begin any intelligent debate about her qualifications.

However, I am sure that Ms. Miers was not born in the last 30 years.  Not with a name like Harriet.

There's nothing wrong with the name, but it fell out of favor a long time ago.  Just as there are few 80-year-olds named Meaghan, Tiffany, and Aaliyah, parents of Generation X were unlikely to name their daughter Harriet.

For that matter, you don't see a lot of twenty-somethings named Mildred.  Or Agnes.  Or Edna.  High schools aren't filled with girls named Hortense, Marjorie, Priscilla, Prudence, Rhoda, or Esther (that one's biblical, but it still fit my grandmother better than a sales clerk at The Gap).

You also meet very few under-thirty guys name Mortimer, Oswald, or Alfred (Al yes, Fred yes, Alfred no).  There's no one on MTV's "Laguna Beach" named Conrad, Everett, Harvey, or Milton.  Again, there's nothing wrong with these names, and I mean no disrespect to my cousin Melvin, but he's a retired plumber, not a silicon valley programmer.

Speaking of names, how about the moniker Nicolas Cage and his 21-year-old wife Alice have stuck their newborn son with?  Cage decided to name the kid after a man he's admired and obsessed over for years -- Superman.

Cage was going to be the Man of Steel himself in a Tim Burton movie version, but it never got off the ground.  That's a good thing, because while Cage has done some fine movies ("Matchstick Men," "Honeymoon In Vegas," and the new "Lord of War," which I want to see), he would not be a good Superman.

I suppose he decided that if he can't be Superman, his kid will.  So you're thinking the boy's name is Clark Kent Cage, right?  Wrong.

The boy's first name is Kal-El -- Superman's name on his home planet, Krypton.

You'd think that Cage would have learned not to turn his show business obsessions into close personal matters.  That lesson should have come from his compulsion for all things Elvis Presley.  He was so into Elvis, he made Lisa Marie Presley his second wife, a marriage that didn't even last two years (who would have thought there might be problems with a woman who had also married Michael Jackson?).

It's bad enough that Kal-El Cage will have to spell his name for someone every single day of his life ("yes, with a hyphen").  Worse, when translated from Kryptonian into English, Kal-El means "beat me up, please!"  Probably by another showbiz kid named Zod.

Write this one off as yet another show business parental indulgence, like Gwyneth Paltrow naming her child Apple.  Or Rachel Griffiths naming her son Banjo.  Then there's Diane Keaton's kid Dexter, who is a girl.  Jason Lee (star of "My Name Is Earl") slapped the name Pilot Inspektor (sic) on his child.  Erykah Badu has a child named Seven, which must have pissed off George Costanza, who had dibs on the number as an offspring name.

There are literary choices, like Gary Oldman's son Gulliver and Daniel Baldwin's son Atticus.  Forest Whitaker has three kids named Ocean, True, and Sonnet, but is outdone by director Robert Rodriguez's Racer, Rebel, and Rocket.

But the winners in the celebrity baby naming derby (pre-Kal-El, I mean) may be the double whammy from the two leaders of U2.  David "The Edge" Evans named his daughter Blue Angel, only to be topped by Bono naming his son -- and I'm not making this up -- Elijah Bob Patricus Guggi Q.

That's the letter Q, as in Q.  Much easier to spell than Kal-El, isn't it, Harriet?