This week in history will be remembered as a transformative one, a week in which Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon produced a pair of fraternal twins and named them Moroccan and Monroe.
Besides genetic disease, and the social or economic situation into which a child is born, a name represents the first piece of baggage with which a person arrives at the gates of life. It is the parents’ responsibility to pack lightly for that child, remembering that this poor creature will have to haul it around wherever he goes, for approximately 80 years.
In the case of the twin Cannons, Monroe came from actress Marilyn; and Moroccan from the style of room in Carey’s New York apartment in which Mr. Cannon proposed. It is of Moroccan-style, nicknamed the Moroccan Room, and overlooking Central Park.
On the spectrum of celebrity baby names, the situation could be worse. Monroe, at least, fits squarely in the category of Names For Human Children, albeit most often used as surname. And the little boy named for a décor might have had it rougher had his mother’s taste been different. He might have had to answer to his first-grade teacher’s roll call of, “Mid-Century Modernism Cannon,” “Art Deco,” or “Rococo.”
For decades, fans, colleagues, and presumably, in-laws have flinched down at the crib and sighed, “Oh, how nice!” because what can you do? Between the mid-1970s rising of Soleil Moon Frye, and last Saturday’s new Cannons, these parental flights of whimsy have left in their wake a whole legion of indignities -- now Satchel, now Diezel, now Apple, now Moxie! On Shiloh, on Blanket, on Pax, Knox, and Maddox! Ms. Moon Frye’s own children go by Poet Sienna Rose Goldberg, and Jagger Joseph Blue Goldberg.
Many countries have naming laws, and reserve the right to legally thwart the hyper-visionary. One failed attempt in Sweden was a name pronounced, “Albin.” Its proposed spelling however was “Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116”. And two years ago, in Germany, courts ruled to uphold a ban on a particular naming law, wherein last names could not be hyphenated three or more times, and could not be used as first names. Also, first names had to unambiguously represent the child’s gender, and could not be the names of products or objects. (In transgender cases, however, a name change is permitted: A Helmut Schmidt can become a Helga Schmidt, but she or he cannot become a Schmidt Schmidt.)
For the most part we seem to crave consistency. (John and Jane Doe don’t yet answer to Milo and Jackson.) According to the Social Security Administration’s website, which lists the most popular names registered between the years 1879 and 2009, the top five names most recently for boys were those one might expect, the evergreens like Jacob, William, Joshua, Anthony and Daniel. Then come the upsets, like Jayden (Jayden?) of which there are often a few, those peculiar names that somehow nose their way up into the running based, perhaps, on a copycat-like crime, perpetrated by such celebrities as Will Smith, in the naming of his son.
The girls of 2009 came in an assortment of vowels: Emma, Isabella, Abigail, Olivia, and Ella. That much-maligned Madison still holds firm at No. 8, in homage to either the city, to the president, or to the avenue in New York -- and to Kai Madison Trump, first granddaughter of Donald.