Saturday, March 12, 2011


Okay, okay, you deserve an explanation. Even given that you will doubtlessly end up with a name that causes fewer raised eyebrows and less social awkwardness than your current moniker, Batman might seem an absurd nickname. It's really not, and let me tell you why.

Think about it: pregnant mothers call their unborn children all sorts of weird shit. On the almost boringly reasonable end of the spectrum are "Bambino" and "The Baby," and only a few skips down the line towards absurdity lie "Bean," "Peanut," and "Egg." (Why are these all edible? Do I really want to know?) Somewhere a little further along is "Skipper" (which would have been cool if I  was five), followed closely by "Kitten" (which cast serious doubt on the supposed father's role in conception), and ending with "Nugget" (which made me worry if the pregnancy was actually just some sort of gastrointestinal incident waiting to happen).

Before we leap straight into the pit of almost unforgivable weirdness, let's consider the context for this type of name. Who ever really notices the cute pet name cooed at a mother's swelling tummy? The answer is EVERYONE. Once a name like this is established, it is uttered in front of not only family and medical providers, but waiters, cashiers, post office clerks, that nice lady who hold the door for you at the mall, some kid passing you on his bike, and literally everyone in between. Total strangers will hear a future father murmering "Aww, I think Snoogly-toes will love this!" or "Is Taco Bob making you nauseous again?" and they will briefly wonder if that man is insane, then likely brush it off as just another pregnancy thing. This is not an issue of being embarrassed, judged, or otherwise seen in a negative light. This is about capitalizing on an opportunity to be awesome and saving others from potentially very awkward situations.

Consider all the things that people name. Dudes and ladies alike name assorted body parts. Tons of people name cars, trucks, boats, bikes, or whatever it is they use to get from point A to point B. Streets and highways are named after famous people, events, or what have you. I know plenty of people who name most any piece of technology they own, from a laptop to a hair dryer (my current one is named Sheila). At this point, I've learned to expect this, especially from the seventh graders I work with now. Pencils take on nuanced personalities with complex personal histories, and heaven forbid I ever remove ANYTHING from my room. The second a crappy file cabinet is gone, they're all up my ass wondering "Where did you put Steve?" or asking if some catastrophe has befallen him. Often it has.

A lot of this naming phenomenon is just garden variety anthropomorphism, which is all very well and good, but sometimes it gets out of control. With my students, I just tell them that Steve is on vacation or something like that, and they are mollified until their hormone-addled brains skip to a new concern. With adults, I just don't know how to react. I once had a conversation with a coworker about who I assumed was his friend "Dave" needing a lot of help. Dave was really struggling to get by, even with the little stuff, and my colleague didn't know if he was going to make it. I compassionately agreed or made sad noises when it was appropriate to do either, and after a few minutes, genuinely felt bad for Dave. It was only when I asked if Dave had any kids that I learned that Dave was, in fact, a lawn mower. This left me frustrated and somehow charmed by my coworker's sensitivity, though I was a little creeped out.

My name in utero was Mordechai Schlepinger. I am 100% absolutely serious about this. Can you imagine my parents wandering around Arlington, Virginia talking about what Mordechai Schlepinger wanted my mother to have for dinner? Everyone must have thought they were SO COOL! On the other hand, my brother, David, had some totally lame pre-birth nickname like "Bun." I can only attribute this to my parents' knowledge that people in Connecticut just couldn't handle something kickass like "Ephraim McGillicuddystein," or on a more subtle note, "The Sweetness."

Put simply, Batman, you need to pick your names carefully. Had my coworker's lawnmower been named Shreddy McGnomeslasher IV, I would never have been put in that awkward position. Rather than always looking at him just a little funny any time he didn't specify that "Mark" or "Angela" was a student - not some sort of household appliance - I would have thought he was completely awesome. Calling you Batman (rather than "Sprout" or "Bump") makes your father and I total badasses. Yeah, some people might look at us a little funny, but we'll know how thoroughly awesome we are, and anyone who actually believes that Batman is making me need to pee every twenty minutes totally deserves their confusion.


  1. You were "Mordy," for short, named by Uncle Donald who promised he would pay your college tuition if we legally named you Mordechai Schlepinger.
    David was "YoYo," not "Bun." He started bouncing around at about 6 weeks, causing nausea for my entire pregnancy. So he was "YoYo," and I was "YoYo's Mama." We were badass...for Connecticut.