Book Article

The Call of the Child

Authors recommend against names like Hulk, Alf, and Bubbles

''One reason I don't have kids,'' says writer Andy Meisler, ''is I've always had this urge to name a daughter Crayola.''

It does have kind of a lilt to it, doesn't it? Still, if you're shopping for godparents, you should probably steer clear of Meisler, who with designer pal Michael Rey has assembled a compendium of unsuitable names entitled What Not to Name Your Baby — a fitting retort to all those exhaustively sourced encyclopedias that clutter up the parenting section of upscale book emporiums. Yes, Maynard means ''intense strength.'' So what? It still makes the authors' list of no-no nombres, which seem to fall into three categories: the outmoded (Gertrude, Bertram), the notorious celebrity (Orenthal, Soon Yi), and the just plain silly (Sluggo, Bubbles).

But suppose you, a new parent, are struck by a fit of whimsy. Will giving your child a Lulu of a name have dire consequences for its development?

Psychiatrists, as is their wont, are divided. ''Any name that lends the child to ridicule presents difficulty,'' says Robert Porter, M.D., an associate clinical professor of child psychiatry at New York City's Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, who recalls a troubled patient called Philucius.

But Leon Hoffman, M.D., director of The Parent Child Center of the New York Psychoanalytic Society, disagrees, claiming that ''finding fault with one's name is just a way of displacing the real emotional issues.'' Apparently, only an otherwise unstable child will let a handle like Alf get the better of him. Some resilient kids even use their unusual names to generate star power. (Are you listening, Moon Unit?) Be careful, though. For as Meisler points out, ''if you name your daughter Oprah, you're loading her down with a lot of baggage.''

Originally posted Jun 14, 1996 Published in issue #331 Jun 14, 1996 Order article reprints