29 July 2011

Free Advice Friday: How not to name your daughter

When someone has a book-related problem, I have a totally unsolicited solution! It's the new occasional feature Free Advice Friday.

I'm pretty sure that this article is a prank, but from this week's Dear Prudence:

Dear Prudence,My husband and I met in college in an English class, and our first date was mostly a conversation about our favorite novels. One of my all-time favorite works is LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov. I'm pregnant with my first child, and I want to name our daughter (it's a girl!) Lolita. However, I'm worried that all the ties the name has with pornography and child molestation may outweigh the beauty of the name and significance the book has had in my life. My husband is ambivalent regarding the idea. What should we do?
Lolita Lover

What qualifies me to be an expert on this: Very little. I thought for a few years that I was named for the Beverly Cleary book ELLEN TEBBITS, but not true. And I don't have any children, but I did have six fish and I named them all for characters from GONE WITH THE WIND. Scarlett outlived all the rest, which if you think about it is rather fitting. So what I'm saying is I am a naming expert.

Free Advice Friday responds:

You are worried for a very good reason, and that reason is Are you kidding me?????? Little Lolita may not get picked on more than any other on the playground, but just wait till she grows up! If I met an adult named Lolita as a non-stage name, I would have to excuse myself from the room because I would be too busy dying of mutual shame and/or disbelief.

Are you for real??? 

But very well, in case the pedophilia aspect of the name isn't enough let's consider the character Dolores Haze. (Mild spoilers for LOLITA follow as they must.) As described in LOLITA, part of Dolores' appeal is her ordinariness. She's not ambitious, not charming, not particularly emotional over her own mother dying... Even before Humbert Humbert gets to her, and this is not to excuse him at all, she's not a heroine. Is that the kind of character you want your daughter to emulate? No way, particularly when she gets old enough to read about her namesake and is, likely, horrified at you. (I was 18 when I read LOLITA for the first time, but your mileage may vary.)
While Dolores isn't a bad alternative, it's kind of musty for a little kid. If it's a family name, you might consider it. But surely there are other, better female characters out there. You could use Scarlett, but not if she's a red-head because that's cruel. I personally would go for Rebecca (Becky) Sharp of VANITY FAIR. Now there's a woman who knew which side her bustle was tied.
Argh, now I've gotten so exercised I can't even focus on how nice it was that your husband and you met and bonded over books. That's sweet! We should all be so lucky. Read Dear Prudence's answer here.



Wade Garrett said...

Nobody has ever gone down on a woman named Dolores. True story.

Wade Garrett said...

Similarly, nobody has ever gone down on a man whose first name was Herman.

Ellen said...

I think you're wrong. I don't have any evidence, but guessing you don't either.

Besides, Dolores used to have something of a better reputation.

Elizabeth said...

I couldn't figure out why one of Prof. Nafisi's former students named her firstborn Daisy (after the character from THE GREAT GATSBY), either.

Morgan's mom always wanted to name her firstborn Dagny, but apparently that's obviously a girl's name.

Ellen said...

As opposed to Morgan... Is that why you're reading ATLAS SHRUGGED, or coincidence?

I remember that from READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN and it puzzled me too. Surely it wasn't so explicit as wanting her to grow up not knowing the anguish of the way things were before in Iran in sad contrast to now... right? On the other hand, I read Americans are increasingly naming their kids after the (spoiler) baby vampire from the end of the TWILIGHT series, and don't see anything wrong with that. It is a world that doesn't make much sense.