BRAD CLEMONS: What teachers are really thinking during graduation ceremonies

Monday, May 30, 2011 | 7:54 p.m. CDT; updated 2:47 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 27, 2011

While watching a graduation ceremony this last weekend, when a better man would ponder the potential of each person walking, I couldn’t help but think one thing: Who gave these kids such jacked up names?

Everybody notices that problem. What people do not think about is what pains this will cause teachers. After years of having “Amandas” and “Michaels” and other students with common names, the odds that any of those still standing as options for names the educators can use in naming their own children is very low. Every difficult student steals one more name his or her teacher cannot use. And now, if even the jacked up and creative names are taken, what pain all these potential parents will have.


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See, the odds of not having at least a couple onerous “Kaylas” or “Bryans” over a teaching career are very low. Same with “Joshua” or “Jacob” and their derivatives. In fact, all teachers eventually learn that J names for boys are a bad idea. K names for girls are also bad – “Kristina,” “Khloe” and “Kendra.” It's not worth the risk.

An exception should be made for “Kim,” though. I’ve never had a challenging “Kim," but probably because I’ve only had two, and both were of such quality they were “buffer students” placed between talkers as part of my classroom management system.

Teachers and their spouses have to buy the book of 10,000 baby names and start fighting. “No, we are not using ‘Glen.’ His name would be 'Glen Clemons.' Sounds like a brand of Scotch whisky. Let’s go with ‘Gene.’”

“Are you kidding? Every punk in his class would call him ‘Recessive Gene’ and you know it.”

Celebrities are out. Oh, no! I just thought about Jennifer Lopez, which made me think of Kim Kardashian, so now I’ve lost “Kim.” Also gone because of negative association are “Britney,” “Oprah,” “Diddy,” “Ben,” “Martha,” “Lady” and “Lindsay.”

Cable TV has ruined so many female names that parents have started stealing male names, not caring about the developmental health of boys tattooed with a name that now has ambiguous gender connotations. “Gerri,” “Jesse,” “Shannon,” “Dana,” “Jan,” and “Kim” have been gone a long time; but recently lost is “Charlie,” “August,” “Claude,” “Rory,” “Taylor,” “Alex,” “Page” (usually “Paige” but still), “Gerri” and “Jordan,” as well. I've even heard of a “Bobbi,” I guess as an abbreviation for “Roberta.”

This selfish misandry is likely what caused the Greeks to start using two names to distinguish gender.

Artistic or trendy names are clever for infants and toddlers, not so much when the poor little fools are 15 years old. My name, for example, was handed out for only one short period of time in the 1970s, not unlike the avocado green refrigerator. But a person can replace an appliance.

Some of you easily offended types may have lots of names for me at this point, but this is about the children. Let’s stay focused.

These young teachers will have little left after eliminating state-of-being names like “Joy,” “Grace,” and “Stormy,” which are symbolic in the eyes of the parents, but ironic in the eyes of the teachers who have to say it 20 times each day. “Grace, why did you just stab Andy with a pen?”

Take out names based on action, like “Chase,” “Tanner,” “Hunter” and “Gatherer.” Take out names with violent connotations: “Lance,” “Victor” and “Mel.” Take out “Blake” just because it sounds like “flake.”

Christian names like “Joseph,” “Jacob,” “Paul,” “David” – I understand those because they embody the virtues and promises they represent. But “Adam”? He brought sin into the world and cursed all of mankind into gardening and childbirth. What’s the thought there, revenge?

Some expectant parents get so desperate they start making up names. I know a guy named “Berent,” a girl named “Jecelle,” and an enrolling student on roster named “Jayden,” whom I'm presumptuously putting in my seating chart as a male and, appropriately, not as a buffer student.  I also have a friend named “Wolfgang.” I know that's not new, but it still feels made up.

I knew a lady named “Dorcas.” The Department of Family Services did nothing to stop it. I would lie to you, like I did about the enrolling student, but I'm not right now.

As teachers we don't want to be those parents that give our kids names that are spelled as if by Picasso (if he was “hooked on phonics”). “Aidin,” “Kristafur,” “Brieanha” – whatever.

Teachers understand that people will be forced to spell whatever the parents and kids prefer. There's no arguing. I can name my child “Bestkidever,” and the public would be forced to say it. “Now entering the game at point guard...'Canagetawootwoot! Clemons.'” Therefore, to teachers that is very rude.

Take out geographical names, sexy names and names people pretend to like but secretly hate, like “Princess,” “Precious” and “Chance.”

There isn't much left. It is such a problem that my cousin was almost named “Bocephus Tyrone,” but that was partly because my uncle just wanted to call him “Bow Tie.” Thankfully that one is still available.

In light of these extremely trying conditions, I think eventually teachers will be the first parents to return to the Native American system of calling the child the first object seen after the birthing, like Sitting Bull.

Brad Clemons lives in Columbia. He has a wife and three kids: Bartholomew, Hotdiggidydawg and Unfriendly Nurse.

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Betsy Murphy May 31, 2011 | 2:15 p.m.

Brad, Who'd have ever thought that John and Mary would become edgy, highly unusual names? There's nothing like enshrining a parent's poor taste or inability to spell and shackling that to an infant's fate. Personally, my least-favorite student's name is Ryan: some of whom are either in jail or awaiting sentencing as we speak. Parents: be creative if you must, but PLEASE make it something other people can pronounce or you risk the alienation of his or her teachers down the road!

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