What's in a name? When tech entrepreneur Elon Musk announced Tuesday that Canadian singer Grimes had given birth to their first child, the unexpected name sent internet fans into a frenzy of speculation.
Musk announced via Twitter that the baby boy, Grimes' first and Musk's seventh, will be named "X Æ A-12 Musk." Although it seems like an odd collection of letters, a follow-up Twitter post that Musk "liked" suggests the name could have links to the Scandinavian alphabet, as well as a supersonic spy plane project from the United States' Central Intelligence Agency. That could mean the name is something closer to "X Ash Archangel," as suggested by the tweet.
The couple have been dating for around two years, after Musk reportedly reached out to Grimes (real name Claire Boucher) in early 2018. Musk had realized the pair both came up with the same joke about "Rococo basilisk," mixing the 18th-century style with the Roko’s Basilisk theory of an A.I. that punishes anyone that didn't help with its creation. The pair's meeting sparked several memes, and Musk supported Grimes in criticizing the low payout for artists via Spotify.
In the first image shared of Musk with the couple's baby, the CEO is wearing a t-shirt with his long-standing "Occupy Mars" slogan. The shirt references a long-time goal of SpaceX to send humans to Mars and establish a permanent habitat.
"X Æ A-12"'s parents have a fondness for science and culture references. With that in mind, here's what the name may allude to.
X? – One link noted by Reddit users is that Musk owns a website called X.com, a financial services firm that Musk co-founded in 1999. Musk was CEO of the firm for a year before being pushed out, and netted $165 million when three years later the firm was purchased by eBay under its now more-familiar title "PayPal." Musk re-purchased the X.com domain name in 2017.
Another reference may have arrived in January 2020, when Musk responded to a tweet from Grimes about her pregnancy with "x is y":
Æ? – Scandinavian readers will be likely familiar with this letter. In Norwegian, the letter represents a sound akin to the "a" in the English word "battle":
While the short æ sound has continued into modern English, Dictionary.com explains that it was replaced with mostly "a" and sometimes "e" sometime around 1150.
But perhaps the most intriguing part of the æ ligature – the technical term for two letters joined together in printing – is its name. It's also known as "ash," which could perhaps provide a clue as to how Grimes and Musk intend for the name to be read.
A-12? – This may be a reference to the Lockheed A-12 OXCART, a reconnaissance aircraft built for the CIA, described by National Interest as a "supersonic spy plane." Declared operational in 1965, it only undertook one reconnaissance operation from May 1967 to May 1968 under the codename "Black Shield." It gave way to the slightly modified SR-71.
The "A" stands for "Archangel," the project's code name. Musk liked a tweet suggesting the links to "ash" and "archangel."
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that Grimes' fourth album, released in 2015, is titled Art Angels.
The Inverse analysis – Musk has previously made posts on Twitter that are at first somewhat confusing, but later turn out to have a clear story behind them. His 2018 post about an "intergalactic media empire" called "Thud" indeed led to a satirical news site of the same name. That same year, he also claimed he would take Tesla private at $420 per share – although it seemed like a marijuana reference, the tweet was serious and resulted in a dispute with the Securities and Exchanges Commission. While it may take some time for the story behind the name to become clearer, precedence suggests there will be a unique story behind the couple's chosen name.