What’s wrong with the good ‘ole names of yesteryear?

David Chartrand

David Chartrand

Opal died the other day. So did Ethel and Maude. I didn’t know these three women and, for all I know, they didn’t know each other.

The three of them die every day — not the women, just their first names.

Women named Hazel, Gertrude, Edith and Ada Mae are are rapidly vanishing. They pass away along with Hortense, Edna and Wilma — women of the generation that gave us Herbert Hoover, aluminum outdoor furniture, the fox trot and air conditioning. It was the generation that gave its sons and daughters names that can only be described as extremely interesting.

  Gladys. Viola. Evelyn. June. Nadine.  I could go on.

Today’s parents, on the other hand, are not so imaginative. I’m not saying all families today name their girls Tiffany, Brittany and Ashley. Only half of them are doing that. The other half are removing the “y” at the end of these names and replacing it with an “i” or two “ee’s.” It seems no young girl can survive the 21st century unless her name ends in the “ee” sound.

How come no one names baby girls Opal anymore? What’s wrong with Fern? Or Thalene?  Such names ooze character; they cannot be trivialized. You cannot re-write Fern so that it ends in the “ee” sound.

Doris, Eulalia and Wanda — such names made a young girl seem wiser than her years. Be honest: Would you rather leave your children with a babysitter named Vera or one named Kellee?  Vera derives from the Latin word for  “truthful and faithful”; Kelly means “warrior woman.” I rest my case.

For that matter, what happened to all the old boy names? You can check every soccer team roster in my hometown and you won’t find one kid named Wilbur or Harold. Or Clyde. Elmer. Virgil. The only place you find these names are in the nursing home or on the obituary page — right alongside Ida, Dollie, Modena, Esther, Noreen. Nelda, Adele, Naomi, Lillian and Bernice.

Sociologists tell us that parents often pick baby names that have a family or ancestral connections, but sociologists are always kidding around like that.  Even if it meant jeopardizing a handsome inheritance, no modern parent in his right mind is going to name a child after Aunt Hattie or his rich Grandpa Floyd.

You see, our worst fear is that our kids will grow up to hate us, so we choose baby names that mirror popular culture. No one names their babies Ruby or Eunice because there are no rock singers or TV stars named Ruby or Eunice. As far as I know there are no NBA stars named Herman or Homer or Lester. If there are, they aren’t getting the big Nike and Pepsi endorsements.

It would take a cultural upheaval to bring back the great baby names of the 1920s. Perhaps if Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie christened their kids Vernon or Minerva we might see a resurgence of s names like Imagene, Bernice, Alma, Frieda, and Peggy. Perhaps not.

Some of you are thinking, “If I named my daughter Mildred she would wind up a homeless person living in a refrigerator carton under a highway overpass, and eating dumpster food and begging from strangers until she had enough money to buy a high-powered rifle so she could hunt down her parents and shoot them for naming her Mildred.”

But I say you are wrong. It is illegal in most states to sell a rifle to a person who has no permanent street address.  To the contrary, one of these classic, colorful first names might be the best gift a child can receive.

A woman named Opal or Velma might find a faster track to the Supreme Court Justice or U.S. presidency. She would be admired regardless of her sex, regardless of her name. Best of all, the nation would be spared the ignominy of handing over the Oval Office to someone named President Tiffannee.

Think about it. Your children may thank you one day for naming them Beulah or Barney.

But don’t count on it.







© 2014, David Chartrand

David Chartrand writes humor and commentary from his home in Olathe.

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