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Don't name your kid Siri

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 12:02 AM EST, Sun December 2, 2012
Sometimes a highly individualistic name for a baby is not good news for a kid, says Dean Obeidallah
Sometimes a highly individualistic name for a baby is not good news for a kid, says Dean Obeidallah
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: A new list of popular 2012 baby names includes Siri, Mac, Luna
  • He says it's not just celebrities with offbeat baby-naming now; it's spreading to the rest of us
  • He says studies show distinctive names can spur teasing and mistreatment
  • Obeidallah: Parents, think twice on names; it could have long-term effect on your child

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog "The Dean's Report" and co-director of the upcoming documentary "The Muslims Are Coming!" Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy

(CNN) -- Siri, Mars, Mac and Luna. I'm not talking Apple products or planetary terms. These are baby names. And not just any baby names but ones that have jumped in popularity in 2012, according to Baby Center.com's just released list.

Baby Siri? Seriously, who would name their bundle of joy after a frustrating Apple product that hardly ever works? And speaking of Apple (see daughter of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin,) that name moved up a whopping 585 places on the list of names for girls born in 2012. So there could conceivably be a family out there with a daughter named Apple and a son named Siri. (Hope that entitles the family to a discount on an iMac.)

There was a time when bizarre baby naming was something only celebrities did to their kids (as if being the child of a celebrity wasn't challenging enough). There's Beyonce and Jay Z's Blue Ivy, Penn Jillette's son, Moxie Crimefighter, Bono's daughter Memphis Eve, actor Jason Lee's son Pilot Inspektor, and the list goes on and on.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

But now this "condition" is apparently spreading to the rest of us. In addition to the offbeat names above, 2011 saw babies sporting such names as: Moo, Draper, Graceland and Tequila.

There are even media reports that this past weekend some parents allegedly named their newborn daughter, Hashtag. That one may turn out to be an Internet hoax, but after last year's story of a child in Egypt being named Facebook (in praise of the role Facebook played in the Egyptian revolution), we can't be too far from babies named Retweet and Spam Blocker anyway. It truly is only a matter of time until you meet a kid named DVR or Playstation 3.

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Apparently some parents believe that giving their child a jaw-dropping name will make him or her more distinctive. News flash: it's not the name that makes your child stand out, it's his or her achievements.

While I don't want to rain on creativity, let's be honest -- these weird names are more about parents showing off their "cleverness" than about finding a name that fits the child. It's not like the parents got to know the child first for a few months and then said, "You know this baby really is a little Siri."

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And do these parents even consider that a baby's name can cause consequences for the child that the parents never imagined, and in many areas of the child's life? When I reflect upon my own name, I realize that my life could have been far different if my parents had followed their initial instincts when naming me.

My Palestinian father wanted to name me Saladin after the famous Muslim leader, while my Sicilian mother wanted to name me Dino. Instead they compromised on Dean.

Growing up in North Jersey, Dean was not a common name. But it actually made me feel different in a good way being the only Dean in my class. And even today in looking at the list of baby names for 2012, I was actually happy that Dean was not in the top 100.

Still, the truth is, if I'd been named Dino, I would have certainly been viewed as more ethnic by teachers, potential employers and co-workers. I would have been required to continually overcome cultural stereotypes.

And if I'd been named the very Arabic Saladin Obeidallah, you could just imagine all the "fun" I would have had in post-9/11 America. I would have likely volunteered for "random" security checks at the airport to make it easier for all involved or simply got used to taking the bus cross country.

But there's a difference between a name that isn't overly common and naming your child after your favorite appliance. A name is a big part of a kid's identity. It can trigger impressions about a child even before we meet him or her -- a particular problem among the closed-minded of the world, but this is the world your child will have to navigate.

For example, studies have found that children with names that linguistically sound like they come from a lower socioeconomic status are less likely to be recommended by school officials for gifted classes and actually more likely to be labeled as learning disabled.

Other research has revealed that boys with feminine sounding names -- such as Shannon or Ashley -- have had more disciplinary problems in school because of their response to teasing. Still other studies have found a link between how much people like their own names and their level of self-esteem.

So, parents, keep in mind that your choice of name will have a lasting impact on your child -- both for good and bad. And if you insist on picking a bizarre name for the baby, then I propose that your child be empowered to rename you with any name he or she chooses. At least then it's fair that a child named Hashtag has parents named Angry Birds and YouTube.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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