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Is Name Teasing a Thing of the Past?

For today's kids, a name is just a name, be it Tennessee, Tor or Tom.

posted by: sanctanomina View all posts by this author

By Kate at Sancta Nomina (Katherine Morna Towne)

Do you know how, when you’re a kid, your friends’ names are just your friends’ names? It seems to me that the younger you are, the less likely you are to realize that other kids’ names are unusual, and certainly kids have no real idea about what names seem dated or ethnic or “weird.” On the contrary, names seem so inextricably linked with the people who bear them that names are cool or not based on the person him or herself.

For example, I had a friend named Kimber when I was in Kindergarten, and I thought Kimber was one of the coolest names because Kimber was one of the coolest girls I knew—she wanted me to come to her house to watch The Last Unicorn! Nothing cooler than that! Therefore, Kimber=cool name. Now as an adult, I have lots of other thoughts about Kimber. Like: Kimber’s pretty, unusual, and a nice twist on Kimberly. But also, why did her parents choose Kimber over the more familiar Kimberly? Was my friend’s name actually Kimberly, and we just called her Kimber? Or were her parents ahead of the name-curve, and if so, why? Were they hippies, or hipsters? Was it a family name?

(All this led me to look up the SSA information about Kimberly and Kimber over the last fifty years. Kimberly was Number2 in 1966 and 1967 and only dropped out of the Top 100 names in 2013. Kimber wasn’t on the charts at all until it shot up to 788 in 1988 [ten years after my friend Kimber and I were born], dropping below 1000 again after 1990, but then reappearing in 2010, and has continued to get more popular—it was Number 634 in 2014.

My boys (all under twelve) have peers and friends named Horatio, Mairead, Lawrence, Rocco, Titus, and Kateri, and they’ve never once mentioned to me anything about any of those names seeming strange or unfamiliar or old fashioned or overly religious or particularly ethnic, even though none of them except Lawrence was in the Top 500 in the years of those kids’ births (Lawrence was #462), and Horatio, Kateri, and Mairead haven’t ever been in the top 1000. None of that matters to my kids, nor, I’d guess, does it matter to yours—those names are just the names of their friends.

I’ve been noticing the following names in the TV shows and movies that they’ve seen which I find strange or noteworthy for one reason or another, even though they seem totally normal to my boys. Names like:

Ani

Anakin Skywalker frequently goes by the nickname Ani, which sounds like Annie. We have a few (female) family members named Annie, yet not once have my boys said, “That’s a girl’s name!” even though the first few times I heard it I wondered how a “girl” name would go over for a boy. (If you’re interested, this is a pretty funny thread about Anakin being nicknamed Ani.)

Lloyd

Lloyd Garmadon is the Green Ninja on Ninjago and defeated the Dark Lord to become the Ultimate Spinjitsu Master. He’s pretty awesome. But … Lloyd? To me, Lloyd is old and whiskery or super Welsh, but my boys refer to him in conversation like it’s the most common name ever.

O’Connor, Oscar, Otto

The PBS show Odd Squad digs deep to find enough O names for its Odd Squad Agents, relying heavily on O’ surnames like O’Connor for a lot of their peripheral characters (fifteen, in fact), and my boys don’t blink. Even more interesting to me are the main characters Oscar and Otto, whose names are either heavily associated in the preschool and elementary age group with The Grouch (Oscar) or barely crack the top 1000 (Otto), yet my sons discuss them like there’s nothing unusual about their names.

 Olaf

Olaf is a character in the Odd Squad, and my boys think he’s hilarious because he sings that “Potato, potato!” song, but the name has its own entry on the list here because they were already familiar with it from Frozen. Yet again, not a peep from them about the unfamiliarity of this really ethnic name (and no mention, either, of Odd Squad Olaf having the same name as Snowman Olaf, even though I’m sure Frozen is the only other time they’ve heard the name Olaf).

Percy, Harold, Ferdinand

The Thomas the Tank Engine characters offer a great pool of names that might otherwise be unfamiliar to the youngest American children. Percy was last in the top 500 in 1960, and Ferdinand has been out of the top 500 since 1933. Harold’s actually got the best shot of being the name of a somewhat younger person, since it only dropped out of the top 500 in 1998—and yet, my overriding association with Harold is that of a grandfather or great-uncle. For my boys, though, he’s all Harold the Helicopter.

Try as I might, I couldn’t think of any female TV or movie characters whose names struck me as being as remarkable, probably because the characters I hear my boys talking about are almost always male (the few exceptions—Nia from Ninjago, Olive from Odd Squad, Leia from Star Wars—just don’t strike me as that out of the ordinary).

Have you noticed that kids seem more accepting of names than adults? What examples can you give of character names or names in real life that the children you know accept unhesitatingly?

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About the author

sanctanomina

Kate is a writer, lifelong lover of names, wife to a really good man, and mama to their six boys ages 2 to 11. She shares her thoughts on Catholic baby naming at Sancta Nomina.
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10 Responses to “Is Name Teasing a Thing of the Past?”

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luella_madison Says:

January 1st, 2016 at 1:32 am

I met siblings Rainier and Everest, also Venice and Diamond…it’s true in my case that kids aren’t nearly as against names as adults. Often those who say “(S)he’ll get teased!” are just justifying their own dislikes. And the parents are also more often than not the intolerant ones. Too feminine, too masculine, trashy, low-class, stripper name, pretentious names…(younger) kids don’t even make these distinctions.

mckaylalove Says:

January 1st, 2016 at 5:32 am

I definitely think this is a thing of the past. My younger brother and sister (now 12) have friends with names I’ve never ever heard of or names I’ve seen that are harshly criticised on here for being, for example, too feminine on a boy, too masculine on a girl, too “exotic”, a stripper name etc etc I could go on and I can honestly say I have never heard them comment on any of it once. Let alone using the terms the adults here online do.

chi1127 Says:

January 1st, 2016 at 12:40 pm

You build associations with names with experience. So, it stands to reason that young kids won’t have preformed impressions about names. The increasing diversity of names makes it less likely to encounter hordes of people with the same name. Therefore, unusual names are normal to young kids. I don’t think teasing is extinct, kids just have a different gadge for normal.

vintageisfave Says:

January 2nd, 2016 at 10:09 am

Now in 2016, it is a thing of the past, but not until very recently. When I was in late elementary school (circa 2011-2012), I would get teased for my seemingly normal name- Sophie. Kids (those annoying boys. You know who I’m talking about.) would call me “Soapy”, which wasn’t that bad, until one kid pieced together that my last name vaguely sounds like “urine”, so then people would call me “Soapy Urine”. Yeah. But once those kids matured, it all stopped. It isn’t guaranteed that kids will NEVER get teased for a very abnormal/eccentric name, but certainly ethnic and kree8tif spellings will no longer be testing fuel.

ClockworkPrincess Says:

January 2nd, 2016 at 11:10 pm

I’m in middle school and never at school have I heard someone being teased because of their name. Teasing in general has never been very common at my school except perhaps about looks. I personally have only been teased about my religion. Some of my friends with more exotic names like Zeinab, Arantza, and Jayasurya haven’t experienced any name teasing. Nor has ‘Griffin’. My fascination with names drove me to ask them about it, but they said it has never been a problem. Kids are more tolerant of names, and although they may remark about a name being unique it is often out of envy or curiosity never malice.

Jennai Says:

January 3rd, 2016 at 9:45 am

When I was in elementary school names like Bartosch, Zelko and Alen were normal to me. When I went to a different school in 5th grade names like Ricarda nicknamed Rici, Friederike nicknamed Fritzi, Selina and Marisa were the most odd sounding names in my opinion.

AldabellaxWulfe Says:

January 3rd, 2016 at 12:03 pm

Name teasing is still around, but the keyword is ‘teasing’ – it’s light, easy-going, usually done between friends and is utterly harmless on the whole. Name bullying is also still around, but it happens for a reason that is different to what most adults would imagine.

The honest truth is; if a child is well liked then it doesn’t matter whether his name is Coco or Alex because, to his peers, he’s an awesome kid and that’s all there is to it. However, if a child is disliked then it doesn’t matter whether her name is Sophia or Bunty because, to her peers, she is someone ‘deserving’ of bullying, and her name will just be one of the many factors targeted.

I don’t think that a name’s potential reception in school is what parents should be worried about for the above reason. Instead, I think that parents should be far more concerned about a name’s reception during adult life. After all, Oceanus and Madiegh might both be given a run at school, but the former will do well in the adult world whereas the latter holds the potential to cause problems.

New Nameberry article | Sancta Nomina Says:

January 5th, 2016 at 8:14 am

[…] I had a new article posted at Nameberry on New Year’s Day! Is Name Teasing a Thing of the Past? […]

Lo Says:

January 5th, 2016 at 8:36 am

My oldest son, Paul, has a name which is pretty uncommon for his generation but of course was common for many older generations. I know he was embarrassed in 4th or 5th grade when he shared his name with the bus driver. Since he had never shared his name with any of the kids at his large school the “unusualness” of his name definitely was noticeable. If they had both been named David I doubt the other kids would have noticed. And if he had been given a modern invented name, he would likely never had to share with an adult.

Haids1987 Says:

January 7th, 2016 at 12:03 pm

It wasn’t my first name I got teased about, it was my last name! Don’t get me wrong, I adore my last name (Dundas) and I am very proud of it (which is why I hyphenated it after I got married), but kids thought they were so hilarious and original when they would tease me: “Hailey FUNGUS! Crocodile DUNDAS! Hailey DUMB-A$$!” **Rolls eyes** Turns out my dad and his sister had the exact same nicknames in school in the 60’s and 70’s. Which just goes to show you that kids will tease no matter what!

So in essence, no, I don’t think it’s 100% a thing of the past. Exotic and unique first names, as they become more widely used, are seeming to become less of a teasing point. But kids will forever tease.

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