Ms. Nomer After Trivia last night, while outside in the garden drinking and smoking and generally enjoying what had been a 93 degree day, I fell into conversation with this week's trivia hosts, a pair of brothers. We got to talking about a mutual friend of theirs who had just had a baby boy, and named him "Titan Robert [LastName]," which we agreed last night (and I believe we can also all agree today) is a really truly terrible name to give a child.
I advanced my theory (which I went into in some detail here on happyrobot a little over a year ago) that you should vet all of your names by running them by a particularly cruel and sharp-witted eight year old before giving them to your child. You can't predict everything, especially as children get older*, but you should at least try to give your child a name that won't immediately ostracize them without giving them a chance to get to know each other; children will only make the additional effort to forge a cruel nickname for you if you turn out to actually be a loser, like I was.
* My own name turned from "Stu" to "Stewage" to "Sewage" over the course of a shitty time in gym in 8th grade, but that was mostly lighthearted; I'd stopped being such a tremendous loser by that point. A couple of years later, my Speech partner started calling me "Minty," for awhile, based on a name progression that went: "Stu" to "Stew" to "Dinty Moore" to "Minty Door" to "Minty."
However, what responsibilities do you have if you, as a friend, missed that window? If your friends didn't consult you on what they were going to name their child, and you didn't have an opportunity to say, "Are you sure? Don't you think you might want to give your child a nickname that doesn't turn into 'Tit' quite so easily?" what can you say if the damage has already been done? Sometimes people have blindspots, and don't think these things out, and you wouldn't want to end up like the woman who spoke at my high school one year, a Chinese Christian with a fine biblical name and a very common Chinese surname, whose parents had no idea what they were doing when they named her Dorcas Wang.
As it turns out, a New York Times blog did an article on this that came out today, but we didn't have access to that last night; not that either the blog nor we-the-last-night-drunks came up with any real conclusions. You can't really insult your friend's baby. All you can do is start to call "Titan Robert [LastName]" by some variation of his middle name and hope that it catches on quickly, before the kid starts associating with any bullies.
What you probably shouldn't do is what the older brother of the two hosts did. He'd been communicating with his friend the new father for some time, talking about the kid and the birth, and then finally, when confronted by the new name Titan, he replied, "Well, at least Titan has a leg up if he ever wants to compete on American Gladiators." He has not heard from the new father since.