Why naming your child Hashtag is a bad idea

Toula Foscolos
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On the quest for artificial uniqueness...

While I’m undeniably social-media obsessed, I’ve never been tempted to name a pet after a tag used to identify a key word or topic of interest on Twitter, let alone any offspring.

Toula Foscolos

And yet, recently, a couple thought it completely appropriate to name their newborn daughter Hashtag. I repeat; hashtag. After a word used strictly for social media purposes…

I used to have a problem with Quebec’s civil registrar who occasionally rejects uncommon names it feels will cause children to be ridiculed, because my Libertarian sensibilities don’t generally agree with the idea of governments meddling in people’s personal business.  After all, why should there be a legal entity protecting you from your own stupidity, if it doesn’t endanger others in any way? But I think differently now. Sometimes people do need to be thwarted from decisions they’ll live to regret. Particularly if it’s innocent victims (read: little Hashtag) who will suffer most of the consequences.

Crazy baby names are, sadly, nothing new. (Moon Unit, anyone?)  But it seems that lately a lot more couples are favouring either oddly-spelled or strange names for their babies. In fact, it’s become quite an epidemic, as parents feverishly compete in some misguided attempt to appear more creative and enlightened than the bourgeois parents next door who are naming their kid (gasp!) Paul. Sooo lazy! Did they even try?

In Israel, a couple named their little girl Pie because, and I quote, “they enjoy cooking.” An Egyptian couple recently named their child Facebook as a way to celebrate the role the social media network played in the country’s Arab Spring.

Are commemorating key moments in your country’s history, or the fact that you really really like fruit-filled dessert, good enough reasons to saddle your child with a name other mean-spirited children will be giving them wedgies for? Kids are cruel enough! Must we give them additional ammunition?

Most people have attributed this growing trend to the desire most of us have to stand out, to be different.

"They don't want their child to be a cookie cutter. They want their kid to have a unique identity," says Linda Murray of BabyCenter, a San Francisco-based pregnancy and parenting website.

That’s the problem right there; too many people are associating unique baby names with a unique identity and standing out in the crowd. As if originality and greatness were a birthright, something you just gift a child with; the way your kid inherits your recessive genes or male pattern baldness.  

After all, why should there be a legal entity protecting you from your own stupidity, if it doesn’t endanger others in any way?

Our world has become loud and convoluted, as everything around us competes for our attention. “Celebrities” that grace the covers of magazines and the subject of newscasts are often known worldwide, despite having accomplished nothing of importance. As a result, society has confused superficial uniqueness and strangeness with actual creativity, individuality, and authenticity. A weird baby name is like Nicki Minaj in a pop music world screaming out for attention. ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ Parents, living in a world that’s so desperate for instant stardom, feel that naming their kid something crazy is already giving them that extra push right from the starting blocks.

The thing that irks me the most about this silly phenomenon? The desperate search for artificial uniqueness is as unoriginal as you can be. It’s also hopelessly misguided. It’s not original if you’re trying to be original and rebellious in the exact same way as everybody else! You don’t believe me? Ask the thousands of women walking around with adorable little dolphin tattoos on their ankles right about now. But I digress…

It makes me think of Nicholas Harby’s words in A Long Way Down: “The problem with my generation is that we all think we’re fucking geniuses. Making something isn’t good enough for us, and neither is selling something, or even doing something; we have to BE something. It’s our inalienable right of citizens of the 21st Century. If Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears or some American Idol jerk can be something, then why can’t I? Where’s mine, huh?”

We’ve been brainwashed to believe that simply showing up for the party entitles us to VIP status! Everyone’s child is a special gift to the world. Everyone possesses that special something that will elevate them to being a cut above, so why not get a head start with the name, right?

Ultimately, whether your baby will grow up to stand out in the crowd has very little to do with what you bestow upon him or her as a name, and much more to do with how you go about fostering the kind of creativity and critical thinking that will last a lifetime. But in the meantime, why gamble with your kid’s future greatness? I’m thinking Ampersand has a nice ring to it…  




Organizations: BabyCenter, Twitter, Facebook Quebec Civil Registrar

Geographic location: Quebec, Israel, San Francisco

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