Thursday, November 27, 2008

'I am not sure how to pronounce it. It's alphanumeric.'

Bronx Mowgli Wentz. A press release last week announced that Milli Vanilli wannabe Ashley Simpson and her emo husband Pete Wentz just welcomed a healthy baby boy into their family, and that they chose to name him after Jackie Chan’s favourite New York suburb to ‘rumble’ in. Like most people in the Western world, I am confused and amused by the celebrity impulse to treat child names like vanity license plates, though I have a theory that you can feel free to disagree with: we all secretly wish we had cooler names.

Think about it. You can scoff at Frank Zappa or attribute his creativity to substance abuse, but you are quietly jealous that his kids are named ‘Moon Unit’ and ‘Diva Thin Muffin’. Somewhere out there, Nicholas Cage is watching Superman movies with his son ‘Kal-El’, Jason Lee proudly summons his boy ‘Pilot Inspektor’ to the kitchen for dinner, and the talking dude from ‘Penn & Teller’ is teaching ‘Moxie Crimefighter’ how to ride a bike on weekends. The list is endless. We trudge through this world with names like ‘Brian’ or ‘Justin’ or ‘Alex’ and we just wish that a mere introduction or passing of a business card would be intriguing enough to start a lively conversation, but it never is. Our names are just too plain.

As a foreign teacher abroad, I am granted a unique opportunity. Korean students who are proficient in their English speaking abilities will more likely than not have names in both languages, though the majority of my pupils use just one. Last week I gave my students the opportunity to give themselves new names that we would use in our class together, and just as I suspected, middle-school aged Korean students agree with my theory: cool names are way better than the lame ‘typical’ names we give our children.

Put yourself in the shoes of my students for a moment. If everyone could be Men In Black neuralized tomorrow and had no recollection of your current identity, what would you name yourself? Food for thought.

I now have classes where I get to call on ‘Super Mario’, ‘Adidas’, and ‘Big Wow’. Just yesterday, ‘Huge’ and “ABCDE’ were yelling at ‘Menthol’ in the middle of an activity, so I sent all of them out in the hall so that we could better hear ‘Dumbledore’ speak. We even have a ‘Sean 2’. I made a list of my absolute favourite names and have listed them below, David Letterman style.

10. This kid snags a spot on my list with a clever play on words. Get it? I’m all-in? Points deducted for a dated reference; 2005 called and they want their poker jokes back.

9. Take it for what it is, but this kid actually got into a shoving fight later that class with the kid named ‘Canada’. He still makes the list because ‘Obama’ wins over the name of the kid next to him, which was – no joke – ‘Yes We Can’.

8. This gets points for creativity and confusion. Do you have any idea what the heck he is attempting to communicate?

7. “Dave’s not here, man.”

6. If you haven’t seen the Rowan Atkinson skit called “No One Called Jones” I would take this opportunity to familiarize yourself. I would never explicitly reveal a hidden agenda, but I secretly hoped for the exact situation in the skit when I asked the students to name themselves… thanks for getting me closer to my dream, ‘Ka Ka’.

5. Straight up, I just like this one.

4. Always a popular move, this kid dared to break through the ‘catchphrase’ barrier. While it may seem cool now, there is some poor thirty-something out there named ‘Where’s the Beef’ who might have a different opinion.

3. At least he didn’t name himself Kim Jong Il.

2. This name is a disaster. Naming yourself after a questionable role model aside, you have to adore the spelling errors and the promiscuous add-ons to really round out the nametag. I can hear SexyBody running from here.

1. A dual winner, these names speak for themselves. Globalization strikes again.

Honourable Mention… No, he isn’t making a very controversial political and religious statement. Actually, the kid next to him is named ‘God’.

Honourable Mention… The irony isn’t lost here. I am pretty sure that every single Korean girl could potentially be this, but bless her heart, she is the only one who was honest and up-front.

Post-Script: I unfairly generalized earlier when praising celebrity baby names. The single greatest mistake in the history of human history was when Jermaine Jackson named his son 'Jermajesty'. There are limits to freedom, and leave it to a member of the Jackson 5 to flirt with that line. It's not a toy, Jermaine.


Ashley said...

haha thanks for an entertaining post, sean. these names are hilarious and a little frightening, to be honest. Hope your travels are going well.

-Ash (leeleeleelee)

Kelly Jeffs said...

I'm a big fan of iPod. Could #8 be a misinterpreted verson of ODB's "Baby I Got Your Money"?

Miss you buddy!

roboseyo said...

Hi there. Your blog was nominated for an award for the best Korea blogs of 2008, at The Hub Of Sparkle. Go check it out if you like.

Nikki aka Euphoria Luv said...

Your kids are so funny but smart and creative. Hands down #5 and #2 take the cake in my book!

heartnut said...

Wow, this is just an incredible montage that really speaks to globalization. Got this from a pal on FaceBook.

I agree with Nikki--#5 and #2 are wonderful. All of them are creative, and it really boggles the mind at what kids think of and HOW they think nowadays. Were we really so different than them, or are we just fooling ourselves?