Names and Nonsense: Ten Curious Names of the Famous, Infamous, and Others

Naming your baby is a weighty task. Most people strive to select names that either have a connection to family or ones that have a  certain panache.  But then there is that portion of the public where the name they select for their newborn is either offensive, unpronounceable, or unbelievable…sometimes all three. In the United States, you can name your baby Dustpan Ghoul III if you please. Hey,  freedom of speech, although I am guessing none of the Founding Fathers would have envisioned this right being applied to Lil’ Dustpan. Some countries, however, are not so laissez-faire. In New Zealand, as much as you may want to,  you are officially, not, nope, no way, allowed to name your bundle o’ joy “Anal” and your fall-back choice, “Prince of Darkness,” is out too. Here are a few odd names from history that you will probably be glad you never heard screamed at you on the playground.

1.  Armand Hammer, famous industrialist born on 21 May 1898 in Manhattan, New York. His father “had named him after the symbol of the Socialist Labor Party.” As a youth, he sometimes claimed that his father had named him after Armand Duval, a character in the Alexandre Dumas novel La Dame aux Camélias (1848).

2.  Ima Hogg: Ima Hogg’s first name was taken from The Fate of Marvin, an epic poem written by her uncle Thomas Hogg. She endeavored to downplay her unusual name by signing her first name illegibly and having her stationery printed with “I. Hogg” or “Miss Hogg”. Although it was rumored that Hogg had a sister named “Ura Hogg”, she had only brothers.

3.  Christine Daae: The Phantom of the Opera fan “changed her name from Victoria Bohm by deed poll” so that “if the Phantom came back today he would have a Christine Daae who would stay by him at the end.”

4. Kal-El Coppola: Is there some sort of pretentiousness contest when celebrities have babies? I vote for Superboy, aka Kal-El, son of He-of-the-Perpetually receding hair-line, Nicholas Cage.

5.  Velveeta: Anyone who has taught for as long as I have has their own personal stash of unusual names. My all-time favorite was a woman named “Velveeta.” She simply explained her mom loved the … cheese… and liked the sound of the product name. Velveeta, the woman, isn’t famous yet but I would not be a bit surprised if she was one day.

6.  Ikea: My 15-year-old daughter has a classmate named “Ikea.” My guess is that the Dr. Spock manual was about as helpful as assembly instructions in Swedish.

7.  Lady Bird Johnson: If I had titled this image “Claudia Alta Johnson” I bet those of you non-Texans would have no clue who this woman was.  She is in fact, the former First Lady of the United States, wife of Lyndon Baines Johnson. “Though she was named for her mother’s brother Claud, during her infancy, her nurse, Alice Tittle, commented, she was as “purty as a ladybird,” which is a brightly colored beetle. “That nickname virtually replaced her actual first name for the rest of her life. Her father and siblings called her Lady, though her husband called her Bird, which is the name she used on her marriage license. During her teenage years, her schoolmates had called her Bird, though mockingly, since she reportedly was not fond of the name.”

8.  Tupac Shakur: One of most recognizable faces and one of the best-selling artists of the 1990s and beyond, Tupac is indeed his given name and he was named after an ancient Incan warrior and chief.

9. Dovakiim: Completely, 100% accurate representation of the offspring of two obsessed Skyrim fans. I think I hear Triumph the Insult Comic Dog warming up in the background… On the plus side, he need never leave his parents’ basement as the reward for naming him “Dovakiim” is a lifetime supply of free games from Bethesda.

10.  Napoleon:  Perhaps you want to honor your French heritage. Perhaps you just like the polysyllabic name Napoleon.  Everyone knows the dangers of giving your child a lofty name to live up to. Maybe it will work out for Cash, or Lakshme, or Sultan. But it might also be this…

How about you? What memorable names have you come across? Whether it be someone you know, a name from history, literature, a celebrity, whether you have been given an unusual name yourself, or given someone a unique name… we’d love to hear them!