People of the world: Please step back from the stray-cat names for your newborns. Celebrities are sticking their kids with names like Bear or Kumquat or Romeo or Apple or Blue; hippies get to fingerpaint “Rainy River Sunshine” on a baby’s birth certificate without legal repercussion; jerks everywhere trade mindless orgasms and nine months later decide they’re qualified to scar a child with some dumb-fuck name or other. We can do better.
In the course of your life, you might meet a guy named Sam who you later learn is no Samuel, but instead a Samwise. “Yeah, my parents were into Lord of the Rings, can we please move on,” he mumbles. Or maybe you meet a Luke, which is a normal enough name, but then you find out he was named after Skywalker.
Heaping a fictional history onto a newborn might seem as romantic and exciting as that now-faded butterfly tattoo across your breastplate. But as they grow up, those kiddos expand from a bewildered blob to become real-ass people who have to answer to that name in coffee shops and in airport lines and in graduation ceremonies. If you’re going to give your kid a fictional, unusual, or downright bullshit name, do proceed with caution.
Here’s a handy guide to some of the more dubious baby names to rise to prominence in the past few years and rate them on our highly scientific Bullshit Meter — a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being hardly any bullshit and 10 being “Moon Unit”-grade nope.
1. Samwise. If the poor boy has to answer to his full name in the classroom, he might get some flack for it on the playground. But otherwise, in his daily life, he can easily go by Sam, which is a nice name. And, as far as pop culture goes, Lord of the Rings has proven its endurance and retained a certain level of respectability. Plus, he’ll be a great friend who gives a hell of a motivational speech. Bullshit Meter Ranking: 4.
2. Elsa. Frozen, for all its popularity, has yet to prove that it stands the test of time. That hasn’t stopped many parents. But it doesn’t matter how much you love female-empowering musicals with bucktoothed snowmen. If people are constantly singing Let it Go to your daughter, she will develop a psychological complex in which she is unable to let things go. She will also develop a complex in which she punches people in the face every time she hears that song — although, here, the word “complex” is pretty simple. On the other hand, if you’re of Germanic descent, it’s a normal enough name, and Great Grandma Elsa is probably mad at Disney for co-opting her name. Bullshit Meter Ranking sits at 5.
3. Arya. Game Of Throne’s most popular young assassin has passed her name to quite a few American girls. Yeah, it’s actually a pretty name, and she’s a decent role model, especially if you think a high body count is worth emulating. And, even though GoT is mid-run, it’s gotten so big that it’s safe to say it stands the test of time as a pop culture institution. But the story isn’t over yet. We don’t know yet if she will remain Arya or if she will become No One. Also, knowing the writers, she could easily turn horrible and/or suffer some sort of incriminating fate. So as long as you’re okay with the risk, and with the possibility that your daughter will gouge some eyes out and get stabby when she’s pissed, the Bullshit Meter Ranking is a 5.
4.Katniss. This name has ascended the ranks too, thanks to the popularity of The Hunger Games and Jennifer Lawrence. At least she can abbreviate it to Kat, which is a normal and fairly awesome name. But “Katniss” sounds like something you hack up when you have something stuck in your throat. And mild spoiler for those who haven’t read the books, the story doesn’t exactly end with her fulfilling the franchise’s promise that she is a strong character. She spends most of Mockingjay weeping, in shock, and resolving the love triangle and the entire course of her life in the most depressing and passive way possible. Bullshit Meter Ranking says 7.
5. Dexter. The show catapulted this name into popularity. First of all, he’s a serial killer. And unlike Arya, he doesn’t have a justifiable reason as part of a revenge rampage because he was born into the family with the worst luck on the face of a fictional earth. Dexter simply has a “dark passenger.” Also, as previously discussed, Dexter had one of the worst endings in the history of TV. And if your son isn’t a serial killer, then he’s just going to be called “Poindexter” and maybe grow into one anyway. Therefore, Bullshit Meter Ranking is an 8.
6. Hermione. If your kid isn’t bookish and doesn’t want to be tied to a bushy haired know-it-all, she’s shit out of luck: “Hermione” will be tied to Hermione Granger forever. At least Shakespeare and Homer both did it before Rowling, so if you want your daughter to have an epic life, it doesn’t get more epic than that. Bullshit Meter Ranking: 6. Plus, she will be in a good position to fight the patriarchy:
7. Khaleesi. So you want your daughter to be an imperialist with a white-savior complex, wow, that’s cool I guess. But if you’re going to name your kid after a pop-culture figure, the least you could do is get it right: Khaleesi isn’t even her name. It’s a title. Therefore, its Bullshit Meter Ranking is a 10. You might as well have named your kid Suri. You are being like this guy, who thought his tattoo said “strength” when it really said “matzoh.” But at least his idiot-mistake won’t be speaking at his funeral one day.