In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, when Juliet decries Romeo’s family name as mere verbiage, a semantic roadblock to their true love, she proclaims: “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” And sure, maybe that is true in a technical sense. But practically, it’s ridiculous. Sure, a rose is a beautiful flower, but would you be so eager to cozy your nose up to it if if were called a crapwad? I’m thinking probably not. But then again, what do you expect from a teenager so lovesick she fakes her own death.
I’m super obsessed with names of things. A name, a lot of times, can be a pre-first impression. It’s your chance to get some information about a person or thing across before folks actually experience that person or thing. (Duh. When I put it like that, I wonder whether I even have thoughts or just spend my time on elaborately worded recursive definitions.) But what I mean is, to Juliet, the Montague name holds no weight. It’s just a bunch of phonemes. Tell that to the Hitler family, though, wherever they hang out nowadays.
I love song titles, band names, peoples’ names, album titles, book titles. In college, I probably spent as much time titling essays as I spent writing essays. (Which explains a slight dip in my GPA.) When I wrote my senior fiction thesis in college, I was so jealous that someone had already written a book called Neurotica. Like, so jealous, guys. My friend Joe List has a comedy album coming out soon called So Far, No Good, which is a really really great title and a terrific encapsulation of his comedy (which is wonderful).
Here are some names I like:
The Man Who Wasn’t There , Twitter, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Everything Is Illuminated, John Mayer’s album Room For Squares, Weezer, Method Man, Hulk Hogan, Key Lime Pie, Two Girls One Cup, Lunch Boxes, Chocolate Thunder (the basketball player), Spit Take, Bananas Foster (even though I don’t like bananas).
Here are some names I don’t like:
Megan Fox (too sexy-sounding right off the bat), Sharting (gross), Indian Sunburn (kind of racist), Hollywood Hulk Hogan (too Hollywood), Blondies (the pastry), Moxy Früvous (stupid sounding), Extenz (too on the nose), The Red Album (suck it up and think of a name, Rivers), Facebook, Human Growth Hormone, John Mayer’s song “Daughters,” Teen/Date/Scary/Epic Movie.
(Probably these lists will be updated. I like and dislike lots of stuff.)
Sometimes great names trick me into trying things that I end up not liking (dammit, the band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!), and other times crappy names trick me into avoiding things that I end up liking eventually (Exit Thru The Gift Shop, for example). Sometimes things are named just right, like William H. Macy. He sounds like exactly what it is. I’m sure the H is just there because of a SAG regulation or something, but it suits him. Unfortunately, Philip Seymour Hoffman, had to go with the full middle name, which destines him to be a serial killer. Sorry, Phil. Them’s the breaks.
For me, the defining factor in a truly excellent name is context. It has to be like what it sounds like. An all-time great name is Darth Vader. That black getup and James Earl Jones’s voice singlehandedly defined the term “Darth” for a generation. Anything Darth is no darn good. But pretty badass. Sometimes things can sound great, but given more context, they are less great. For example, “The Widowmaker” is a great name for a missile, but if you use that as a nickname for your penis, it sends some serious mixed messages.
Apple has really taken it to the next level with naming things. The prefix “i,” on their software and hardware implies a serious sense of identity and ownership. An iPod suggests that you can distill your essence into a tiny robot device that you can carry with you at all times. A Zune on the other hand is a creepy spaceship captain who tries to sleep with your girlfriend in the Gamma Quadrant (not a euphemism, just a made-up space place).
Anyway, the point is, when I have a kid, he/she will be named Karatefingers S. Gondelman. And the S will stand for “Harry S Truman.” And the baby will be a superhero. That is all.
Josh “Chocolate Thunder” Gondelman