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10th of December 2018

Entertainment



Mocking Abcde’s name was wrong, but so is setting a child up for mockery | The Star

As someone who grew up with an unusual name, my heart goes out to 5-year-old Abcde and the ordeal she recently endured as an airline passenger.

Before a flight from California to Texas this month, the girl’s moniker — Abcde is pronounced “ab-city” — caught the attention of an employee with Southwest Airlines. It was as if the kid had three heads. In an interview with an ABC affiliate in Los Angeles, the girl’s mother recalled what happened next.

“The gate agent started laughing, pointing at me and my daughter, talking to other employees,” said Traci Redford. “So I turned around and said, ‘Hey, if I can hear you, my daughter can hear you. So I’d appreciate if you’d just stop.’”

But it seems the gate agent was just getting started.

“While I was sitting there, she took a picture of my boarding pass and chose to post it on social media, mocking my daughter,” said Redford, who tried to convert the ridicule into a teachable moment.

“(Abcde) said, ‘Mom, why is she laughing at my name?’ And I said, ‘Not everyone is nice and not everyone is going to be nice and it’s unfortunate.’”

Exactly. The actions of this gate agent were unfortunate and unprofessional. No child should be openly teased, especially over something out of her control. There is no excuse. That’s why Southwest apologized.

But at the risk of also blaming the victims in this name-shaming incident, are we just supposed to gloss over the fact this woman named her child Abcde?

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Unless there is a family history here — was Abcde’s great-grandmother a suffragette named Fghij? — why saddle your newborn with a handle that is sure to trigger a lifetime of snickering confusion? Life is hard enough without having to spend the first two minutes of every first encounter saying stuff like “it rhymes with rhapsody” and “my parents love sequences and almost named me 3.1415926535.”

What is the upside? That Abcde will always be called first when attendance is taken — unless there’s an Aaron or Aabcde in her class? That by the time she learns to spell her name, she’ll have mastered 19 per cent of the alphabet?

I blame celebrity worship for the spike in regrettable baby names this century. In a world of Snookis and Bow Wows, no wonder some parents are desperate to mimic heretical stage naming. These folks wrongly assume a peculiar appellation will give their child a leg up when it’s far more likely to yield a thumbs down.

And it’s almost as if the celebrities are trying to corrupt our central name databases with their whimsical absurdity. On Wednesday, during The Tonight Show, Macaulay Culkin told fans they can vote on a new middle name he plans to legally adopt. The short list to replace his current middle name, Carson, includes “Shark Week,” “TheMcRibIsBack” and “Publicity Stunt.”

But for noncelebrities, a weird name will not bring publicity: just shame.

When Abcde reaches adolescence, I guarantee you she will spend hours pouting in her bedroom, wishing she was an Emma or Julia. By then, the airline incident won’t be remembered as a cruel one-off; it will be the first of many humiliations to come.

If you absolutely must give your child an oddball name, at least come up with something on the human spectrum. “Abcde” reads like a shady offshore firm that specializes in tax scams. “Abcde” is a recitation and terrible password.

It is not something an innocent child should answer to.

While I’m generally against the nanny state, I think we need some new baby-naming regulations. We have rules across the board for child safety, right? You can’t just chuck a phone book into the back of your car. You need an approved car seat. You can’t smack a misbehaving kid like they used to do in the old days.

But, what, naming your child Crotchless Panties does not qualify as child abuse?

Right. Tell that to Jed I Knight, Little Sweetmeat, Marijuana, Taco Bell, Espn, Baby McBabyface, Viagra, Jurassic Park, Candida, Dyl Pickle, Bud Light and Jesus Condom.

What some parents don’t realize — and what sociologists ought to study — is the correlation between crime and weird names. I’m not suggesting Abcde will grow up to become an arsonist or an embezzler. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

In recent years, here are the names of a few lawbreakers who made the news: Batman bin Suparman, Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop, Mister Love, Donald Duck, Cherries Waffles Tennis, Obiwan Kenobi and a felon named Fellony. If you name your kid Switchblade, you might as well consider that college fund future bail money. Name your child Night Stalker and prepare to soon sleep with one eye open.

Yes, the Southwest employee was wrong to mock a child. Yes, not everyone is nice. And, yes, the world is harsh, judgmental and prone to ridicule.

But if you want to reduce the odds your child will be mocked, you probably shouldn’t name her Abcde.

Vinay Menon is the Star’s pop culture columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @vinaymenon

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