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Baby Name Urban Legends

Just like all lore, there are baby names myths and legends that have been perpetuated in our society. Surely you or someone who knows someone who went to school with those twins Lemonjello and Orangejello. Every time I announce they’re not real I get emails saying “They are real! My friend’s son’s neighbor knew them personally!” The problem is, these twins have never materialized. I mean, don’t you think they’d be on the ELLEN show by now? Or what about L-a (pronounced La-DASH-a)? And we’ve all heard about Ima Hogg, and her sister Ura.

These name stories all have one thing in common…they’re all urban legends. FWIW, there really was an Ima Hogg, but she didn’t have a sister Ura. Ima Hogg was a socialite and philanthropist in Texas in the turn of the century. It’s not clear whether her parents chose her name on purpose or were just unaware of the First/Last combo implications. By the latter part of her life, though, she went by Imogene.

And what about those crazy celebrity baby names like Dweezil Zappa and Blanket Jackson? Well, those were originally nicknames. Blanket’s real name is Prince Michael Jackson II. Dweezil was born Ian Donald Calvin Euclid Zappa, but loved his nickname so much that he asked his parents to legally change it. And they did!

About those twins, too: most likely the legend came about from the fame of Mark Lemongello, a pitcher for the Houston Astros in the 70’s–around the same time Bill Cosby was hawking Jello on the famous TV commercials. Someone probably conjured up the idea, “Hey wouldn’t it be funny if someone named their baby…and wouldn’t it be funny if they had a twin…” and so the urban legend was born. No pun intended.

There’s also a common thread through many of these legends about “less intelligent” parents naming their children embarrassing words because they couldn’t read, or didn’t understand the word’s meaning. These “aren’t they stupid” baby name myths are often used as racial or class slurs. The most famous being the couple who named their baby Female (pronounced Fe-MAH-lee) because they saw it on the hospital bracelet/crib card. Other names in this series of myths include:

Pajama (PAH-ja-mah)
Shithead (sheh-THEED)
Syphilis (sih-PHYL-lis)
Testicles (TESS-tic-clees)
Urine (u-RIN-ee)
Vagina (va-GEE-na)
…and Nosmo King (from a No Smoking sign).

There are some parents really do make their children’s names a joke. Shanda Lear, for example, is real. She is the daughter of Bill and Moya Lear, who gave their surname to the famous Lear jets. Actor Rob Morrow named his daughter Tu, which is even more astounding considering his wife’s surname is Ayer (“Yesterday” in Spanish).

So like any other “fake news” please check the baby names urban legends before you pass them on. But most importantly, don’t make your child’s name a joke. In very rare instances–like Dweezil–they’ll embrace it. But remember, he grew up in very different social circumstances than the average child who has to suffer the barrage of playground taunts.

Texas socialite and philanthropist, Ima Hogg