I thought it might be interesting to talk about names that I think might be on the cusp as far as usability. Of course, in today’s lax naming environment, almost anything is possible, but these names have something, an association, probably, that might keep them from being comfortable to live with. Any good parent should take into account the associations with a given name; after all, Jezebel is a pretty sound, isn’t it? (Personally I think Jezebel gets a bad rap, but that’s beside the point.) Some of these names I find usable, but maybe only because I run in name-nerd circles on the internet. We tend to have a broader definition of “usable.” Anyway, as always, to the lists!

Girls

  • Lilith– Biblical wife of Adam (before Eve) who refused to obey Adam, so was cast out and mothered a race of demons (I hope I got that right). I would have a problem with a bad Biblical association since Christianity is so prevalent in our society, but I don’t find this one so bad; in no way should a woman always obey her husband! Since the “crime” is so outmoded, I think the name is usable again. Maybe parents will pick up on it as an alternative to trendy Lily. As far as sound goes, you could go a lot worse. I think it’s quite charming, actually.
  • Virginia– True, people still name their daughters Virginia, so you might be wondering why I’m questioning its usability. For me, Virginia is unusable. The “virgin” thing is too much for me to deal with. However, I think Ginny is adorable and the name is feasible in general, just for parents with stouter hearts than myself!
  • Delilah– I think people might be more likely to associate the name with the song Hey There, Delilah than the Biblical villain anymore. Totally usable, unless you are a devout Christian, I suppose.
  • Salome– Another Biblical antagonist, Salome danced with seven scarves and demanded the head of John the Baptist. She is seen as a symbol of “the dangerous power of female seductiveness” (quoted because I don’t necessarily agree with the Bible’s view of female sexuality). To be honest, I’m not too familiar with the Bible, but I think this one is unusable in America. Apparently it is used somewhat often in other countries, but I think it is too tied to the Bible here. Maybe of there were more Salomes, the association would weaken.
  • Jemima– I don’t object to Jemima on the syrup association, exactly. The problem is that Aunt Jemima actually started out as a racist, stereotypical “mammy” figure. I think that the tie is weakening, though, and the name will definitely be usable in the next generation. For now, I’d tell anyone to use it with caution.
  • Mimosa and Columbine– Both are legitimate flower names, but each are unusable, in the first spot, anyway. A mimosa is also an alcoholic drink, but I would deem it okay in the middle, especially if it had special significance to the parent. Columbine is unusable, sadly. The tragedy surrounding the school shooting is just too great, and naming a child Columbine is giving them a huge cross to bear.
  • Candida– It’s a yeast that causes yeast infections. No, no, no. Most people probably don’t know that, but why take the chance that someone will?
  • Ursula– Sure, it’s the witch in The Little Mermaid, but I don’t think it’s so awful. I don’t think the movie will be as well known among kids in this generation, even, as it is in my own, and it’s not like a sea witch is on par with a school shooting or killer. Usable, in my opinion.
  • Bertha– Usable, but ugly as sin.

Boys

  • Virgil– Falls into the same pit that Virginia does, with the added unfortunate stigma of male virginity. It’s amazing how different the lack of sexual experience is viewed for males and females in this society. Virtuous in one, shameful in the other. And, well, it’s amazing the amount of emphasis put on it anyway. /soapbox. Unusable, I think.
  • Adolph– Unusable. If it’s a super-important family name, put it in the middle. Hitler is too awful to overcome.
  • Mick/Guido– Racial slurs, the first for the Irish and the second for a certain brand of Italians (see the Gottis). I think Mick is an outdated slur and therefore usable as a nickname, but Guido, while legitimate, is a bad idea.

Besides these, I’ll say any name too tied to one person should also be straight out, unless that person is generally well regarded. However, I would put these on a scale of usability. As in, Elvis is more usable than Idi Amin. It all depends on your personal level of comfort.

What names do you find unusable? Do you disagree with any of my thoughts?

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