Pick a Name That Will Inspire Your Child–Like Maya Angelou Has Inspired the WNBA’s Maya Moore

Maya Moore is currently leading the WNBA in scoring. Her team, the Minnesota Lynx (two-time WNBA champions), are undefeated in their first six games of the 2014 season. It seems that there’s almost nothing Moore can’t do on the basketball court. So on Friday, May 29, two days after Maya Angelou, Moore’s namesake, had passed away at the age of 86, Maya Moore did the unexpected. She announced:

“Tonight, I will play in celebration of the life of my namesake –Thank you for the beauty you brought into the world. #DrMayaAngelou”

To describe Maya Angelou as a great woman is almost an understatement. If you read what Wikipedia has to say about her, you’ll learn that she was a noteworthy author, poet, playwright, movie scriptwriter, director, producer, singer, actor, dancer,  professor, civil rights activist and journalist (to name just a few of her accomplishments). When she set her mind on something, there wasn’t anything Maya Angelou couldn’t do.

And that’s why Maya Angelou was a great namesake and inspiration for Maya Moore–which explains why Maya Moore, who was Rookie of the Year in 2011 and MVP of the WNBA Finals in 2013 dedicated herself to out-doing her previous accomplishments on and off the basketball court before the start of the 2014 season.

Moore’s gracious tribute to Maya Angelou demonstrates what a great gift parents can give their children when they name their kids after namesakes who can inspire and serve as role models for their children. It’s often a mistake to name children after pop culture stars whose images are subject to “trainwrecks” due to mistakes that are easily made when “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” combine with too much money to cloud their judgment–sometimes before they are even out of their teens and twenties.

Consider making a list of your heroes and reading about them to help you decide which of your heroes could motivate your child to do great things.

P.S. In addition to being a name with literary, athletic and historical connections, Maya is also on my top-20 list of “Cool Names for Girls.”

Nameberry’s List of “Neglected Namesake Names” Are Neglected for Good Reasons

I was very impressed by Linda Rosenkrantz’ introduction to her “Nameberry’s Neglected Namesake Names” article, which accurately describes her premise:

“If you scan the annals of distinguished women in American history, culture and science, you’ll find that a surprising number of them had distinctive names as well, names that could provide unique-ish choices with interesting back-stories. Several of them have a funky, fusty period flavor that may or may not appeal. What do you think?“

Here’s what I think: Even though Rosenkrantz has picked 40+ namesakes who are “distinguished women in American history, culture and science,” almost all of the names “have a funky, fusty period flavor” that could make them very uncomfortable and burdensome to contemporary American girls.

In fact, I only found a few names that might not prove embarrassing or provoke teasing for girls born in 2013-14. And before I list them I want to be clear that inspiring names don’t have to be “cool.” They just have to avoid being so uncomfortable, awkward and clunky for contemporary girls that any possible inspirational value will be lost when your daughter abandons her high-minded name and tells you she won’t answer to it any more.

I raise this issue, because so many (if not most) of the names on this Nameberry list seem likely to be burdensome to contemporary girls. Here are some of the names that come across to me as the least uncomfortable for daughters in 2013-14.

-Alta (The fact that Alta is also the name of a ski resort in Utah may help the name. However Alta means “high.” Which might inspire your daughter when she reaches high school, in a bad way.)

-Asta  (This was the name of William Powell’s clever dog in “The Thin Man” movies. Don’t be surprised if your daughter barks when Mommy calls her to dinner.)

-Cathay (This is what Brits used to call China. I prefer China to Cathay, I suspect Cathay will prefer Cathy—or China to Cathay.)

-Marita (It’s not so bad if you shorten it too Marta.)

-Marvel (It would help a great deal if you call her Marvy; I’m afraid Marvel is too difficult for anyone to live up to—like Messiah, but less so.)

-Romaine (Wikipedia lists three historical personages, one woman and two men, who have used this name; I’ve never heard of any of them. But this is my favorite name on Rosenkrantz’ list. Probably because I’m partial to Romaine lettuce.)

Remember, these are the names I like best on the “quadruple N” list. (I wouldn’t recommend any of these names.)

That done, here’s a very short list of some of the most potentially burdensome names on Rosenkrantz’ list. I ask you to read these and then click on the link and read the complete list of “Nameberry’s Neglected Namesake Names.”

-Effa: (This name will be a huge source of embarrassment as soon as Effa hits high school when the “F-word,” “F-bombs” and “Effing” are in common parlance.

-Gerty (Unfortunately, she’ll be called “Turdy Gerty.”)

-Mertilla (And Mertilla will be called “Myrtle the Turtle.”

-Penina (It you love this name, call your daughter Penny and never mention the name you put on her birth certificate. She won’t move out of the house until she applies for a learner’s driving permit and finally sees her “given name” on an official document. She and her friends will think the name refers to the male sex organ.)

I could go on and on and on, but I’d rather end by addressing Linda Rosenkrantz’ premise. What’s the point of promoting names (however noble) which contemporary American daughters (including your daughter) are likely to dislike. If you already have a daughter, please, please, please read Nameberry’s list of “Neglected Namesake Names” to her. I’m not sure if she’ll break out laughing or suddenly start hugging and kissing you to thank you for giving her a “normal name,” instead of a neglected namesake name.

Like Rosenkrantz, I’m a big advocate of picking names that will inspire your child. (See my article on that subject.) I just re-checked my list of 17 “inspiring” names and estimate that about 14 out of 17 would be more comfortable for contemporary boys and girls than most, if not all, the names on the NNNN list.

High-minded parents may like the idea of picking names which will inspire their children; but if, instead of inspiring your daughter, the neglected namesake name you pick makes your daughter feel bad about herself, giving your daughter a name that’s been “neglected” for good reason will have turned out to be a huge mistake.

The names on the 4N list prove that kids with clunky names can succeed. So does Barack (Obama), Lyndon (Johnson) and the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue.” But that’s not a good reason to give your daughter a neglected namesake name or to call your son Barack, Lyndon, or Sue.