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My name is Liz. I need direction. I overuse commas. My house is a mess, my hair needs a trim, and I have no marketable skills: It's fun here, you'll see!

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March 28th, 2014

Names

The other day, I was happily carrying out some research tasks for my writer boss when she shot me an additional email: “Oh, and I also need some names for some characters.”

I know what you might be thinking. Um, pardon us, madam, but isn’t, like, naming characters the easiest part of writing?

Look at me. Look right at my face. Because this is important: NO. Naming characters is not easy. It is absolutely the most difficult part of the writing process, hands down. So, her asking me to add that to my tasks is 100% reasonable. She wanted a list to choose from so she didn’t just call everyone in her show “Joe Smith.” When you are coming up with trouble for your characters to get into and out of, your creativity gets just about used up in the process and it helps to have a little cheat sheet of nice-sounding names to give those characters.

I’m sure your brain is teeming with names right now. Come on, Liz, you are thinking. My brain is literally teeming with names right now. Anabelle Williams, Morris Robins, Tiffany Garrison, Clark Smith. Oh, you sweet, beautiful fool. If you are anything like me, you will be unable to translate those names into anything useful, verbally or on paper. It seriously took me 22 minutes to come up with the four you just read. And one of them is “Clark,” which just sounds like the loud noise a land bound bird would make if you upset it with a burning stick.

When I am asked to produce the names with which my head is teeming, it’s almost guaranteed that I will sound like a stroke victim: “Corn Larson!” I will blurt. “No, wait, how about Shark Porkrind! No– Vince Twelve! Gleft! Gleft Fleezner!! Where are you going?”

These are not the kinds of names my boss wants. Can you imagine an episode of a primetime television drama where two cops are trying to catch a ruthless murderer who is wanted in 15 states for melting the faces off nuns and his name is “Gleft Fleezner?” Well, yes, actually, so can I. But you have to admit it takes away some of that grittiness the networks are after.

Think of my horror when she asked for 25 first and last names and I could not come up with a single syllable that would be universally recognized as such.

So I took to the internet, as any dedicated assistant would do, and looked up baby names. Of all demographics. Brazilian, Irish, Ecuadorian Ham Farmers, the whole nine yards. My search eventually landed me on an article that I can only describe as “stupid.” The piece, posted at a website called Baby Zone, which is not anywhere I want to be, boasted the best names to give your baby if you want him or her to become a billionaire later in life. Like, for real: If you name your baby one of these, there is a decent chance it will grow up to make a billion dollars. Which, one, is not in any way true and, two, really, is pointless, because by the time your kid makes his fortune you’ll either be dead or so riddled with gerontological accoutrement you won’t even be able to enjoy that gold-plated hover-chair he got you.

The names they suggest are solely based on the fact that other well-known wealthy people and celebrated entrepreneurs had the names, as though there is some sort of magic Billionaire Mojo inherent in these particular groupings of letters. Again, not true. Plus, guys, some of the names are kinda bad.

Cargill is one suggestion. They say that “an upscale surname name like Cargill looks great on a Harvard Business School application, and could be the first step on your child’s ladder to fiscal success.” No, actually a name like Cargill looks great on the ER triage note after you get your teeth knocked out on the school tetherball court by someone with a name like Gregg with two g’s. A name like Cargill is a great first rung (not step) on your child’s ladder to a life of owning three kinds of hamster and having an encyclopedic knowledge of belts. The entry goes on to suggest that you search your family history for evidence of “an Astor, a Huntington, a Rockefeller, a Vanderbilt, a Mellon or a De Pont. If not, you can always fake it.” Yes, fake it, like that Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter fellow, who is now serving 27 to life for telling everyone he was Clark Rockefeller. That’s a great way to become a billionaire: crushing legal fees.

Another name on the list is Dirk. Dirk the Billionaire. Perhaps this one would work out. If Dirk makes his billions distributing pornography. There just isn’t any other industry that would allow a Dirk. The namesake they reference doesn’t even have a job. It’s Dirk Ziff, whose father is William Ziff, a wealthy publisher. Let me be clear, friends: Dirk Ziff is not a real name, unless you reside in a comic book.

Further down the list is Forest. Wrong. Forest is a hippy name. Then there’s Alice and Abigail. Nope. Girls with two braids can’t be billionaires. Next! How about Gordon? Okay, sure. But then you have a baby named Gordon. Can you imagine referring to a cooing, drooling little shit machine as Gordon? I know a dog named Gordon, and even that is hilarious to me. Gordon is the name of my mom’s second cousin. He is a cheese chemist. He is not a billionaire. Or a baby.

They have Jacqueline on there. Which, yeah. I agree with. But, you have to marry into the billions. Either that or you’re a total cutthroat ball buster who owns a bunch of magazines and fires people for wearing the same color as you. Even the article agrees with me. They cite Jackie Onassis, who only got rich after marrying shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. So, parents, the lesson here is, name your baby girl Jacqueline, hope to crap she is beautiful, then point her in the direction of the nearest import/export office.

The article also offers Rupert as a suggestion, saying, and this is real, “if you’re taking this seriously, you should definitely consider Rupert.” Oh! Well. Why didn’t you say so? I would’ve brought a legal pad to this meeting if I’d known it was serious. They base this advice on the fact that two well-known billionaire Ruperts exist: Rupert Murdoch and Rupert Johnson, a clear indication the authors believe in billionaire name mojo. So, parents, remember: THIS is the name. Rupert’s a surefire winner. Male or female, go Rupert if you want to die in a really swanky rest home.

Samuel is another one from the list. Look here, I know a bunch of Samuels. A couple of them can barely motivate themselves to move off the couch. So that’s not going to work. Neither are Eli or Warren. Bla and Bleh, I say.

Probably my favorite sentence in the whole thing is “Whitney is a name that reeks of Old Money.” Which is helpful, because most babies reek of spit up and their own filth. So, even if Baby Whitney doesn’t grow up to become the wildy rich owner of a global whaling concern, at least she’ll smell like those two wadded up twenties you found in your winter coat.

But, as ludicrous as this entire concept is, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t use like nine of these names on the list I gave my boss. Because I need a job. And something like “Whitney Davidson” helps me keep it. Something like “Fork Mildew” does not.

3 comments to Names

  • steve the cat

    maybe expand your search to include babies who may grow up to be eleven thousandaires.
    names like Mooky Skrelntner

  • dennis

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA so much funny stuff in this one

  • Lyn

    When my family went to restaurants and my sister and I were kids, we would pass the time waiting by writing the alphabet down the side of a placemat and then have races to see who could fill the list with girls’ names…and then boys’ names and then last names the fastest. I still resort to that trick when writing……

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