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Decoding X Æ A-12

May 12, 2020 Sophie Kihm
X Æ A-12

By now you’ve heard the news. Elon Musk and Grimes have welcomed a baby boy, and his name is…X Æ A-12.

Without a doubt, X Æ A-12 makes the list of crazy celebrity baby names. It might even be the craziestGwyneth Paltrow, mother of Apple, commented on an Instagram post about the baby, “#chrismartin I think we got beat for the most controversial baby name.”

There’s been a lot of confusion about the name, with questions of how it’s pronounced to whether or not it’s actually legal to use special characters on a birth certificate. Grimes and Musk have both come out with explanations of the name, but let’s break it down further.

First Name: X

Yes, the baby’s first name is just X, as both Grimes and Musk have confirmed. Out of the three names, it’s by far and away the least offensive. While it’s rarely used as a first name, X is occasionally a nickname for X-starting names such as Xavier — the name of one of Musk’s other five sons.

Single-letter names have made headlines before. Sociologist Dalton Conley famously named his daughter E to allow her the freedom to choose her own name (and based on research that unique names lead to better impulse control — his son is Yo Xing Heyno Augustus Eisner Alexander Weiser Knuckles). Now 22 years old, E has never gone by anything else.

In all likelihood, X will stick with his name as well. Even the celebrity children with the craziest names tend not to change them. Apple Martin and KalEl Coppola Cage are doing just fine for themselves.

And coming from Elon Musk and Grimes, X is a tame, almost expected choice. In 2019, Grimes legally changed her name from Claire Elise Boucher to c — lowercase and italicized — in reference to the speed of light. At the very least, X’s first name is simpler than his mother’s. It’s his middle names that start to get really weird.

How Do You Even Say Æ?

Technically speaking, Æ is a ligature that represents the ae diphthong. It’s used as a letter in some Germanic languages and has a short A sound, much like the “a” in “cat.”

In English we call this symbol ash. And indeed, this is how Musk interprets the pronunciation. In a recent interview on the podcast The Joe Rogan Experience, he explains his baby’s name: “I mean it’s just the letter X. And then, the Æ is, like, pronounced ‘Ash’…and then, A-12, A-12 is my contribution.”

Mystery solved! It’s Ash. Except…Grimes doesn’t agree. In an Instagram comment responding to a question on how to pronounce her baby’s name, she said, “it’s just X, like the letter X. Then A.I. Like how you say the letter A then I.” This corresponds to Grime’s claim that Æ is her elven spelling of Ai, in reference to Artificial Intelligence and the Japanese word for love.

A-12 — Dad’s Pick

The Lockheed A-12, also known as Archangel, was a CIA plane from the 1960s. It predated the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird — Grimes and Elon’s favorite aircraft — which was developed with NASA and could fly to the edge of space

Archangel proves to be the important piece of information here, as Grimes mentions it’s also the name of her favorite song by the artist Burial. Given this, many suspected A-12 was pronounced “Archangel,” but according to Musk it is said as written.

The number 12 is also a nod to the Chinese zodiac, which has twelve signs. Baby X was born under the sign of the Rat — the first sign of the Chinese zodiac, and one of the cleverest. The five elements of Chinese astrology rotate much like the signs but complete a cycle every ten years rather than twelve. 2020 is a year ruled by metal, hence Grime’s mention of “metal rat.”

Is This Baby Name Legal?

X Æ A-12 may be the baby’s name, but that’s not the way it will appear on his birth certificate. Proposition 63 of California law declares English the official language of the state and prevents the use of diacritical marks or special characters on a birth certificate.

Assembly Bill 83, which would have allowed the use of diacritical marks on vital records, was proposed in 2017. It was ultimately vetoed by then-governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., who cited the cost of updating California’s existing system as his primary issue with the bill.

For baby X, that means his middle names will legally only contain the 26 letters of the English alphabet. AI or Ash are likely bets for Æ (if Musk and Grimes can ever agree on a pronunciation), while A-12 will perhaps be spelled A Twelve.

In actuality, the baby’s legal name doesn’t matter all that much. This child will be known as X Æ A-12, no matter what is on his birth certificate. After all, he is the son of a person who changed her name to c — even though it legally cannot be italicized.

That being said, if we are taking bets on how Æ appears on the birth certificate, I’m siding with Grimes. She’s the mastermind behind this baby name, and Elon Musk even said it himself. “My partner is the one that, actually, mostly came up with the names. Yeah, she’s great at names.”

About the author

Sophie Kihm

Sophie Kihm has been writing for Nameberry since 2015. She has contributed stories on the top middle names of 2019, the top baby names in each state, and the hottest nickname names of 2018. Sophie is Nameberry’s resident Name Guru to the Stars, where she suggests names for celebrity babies. She also manages the Nameberry Instagram and Pinterest. You can follow her personally on Instagram or Pinterest, or contact her at sophie@nameberry.com. Sophie lives in Chicago.

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