Can I Name My Baby After the Bad Guy?

If a rare name is well known for being a bad character in legend, mythology or a story, does it mean you can't use it?

- Notorious Mom



One challenge of writing a baby name advice column is that you can't change names to protect the innocent. If you're wondering whether Mathilda is too old fashioned, you have to say Mathilda. Similarly, if you're wondering if your favorite name is too evil, you have to spell it out. Because when it comes to names, bad is sometimes bad, sometimes good, and sometimes downright cruel to children. It all depends on the individual name.

How can bad be good? I wrote about one way in my column, "Is My Nephew the Spawn of Satan?" An appearance as a demon child in a horror movie has launched hit names from Adrian to Gage. If the evilness doesn't take the name over too completely, it leaves behind a fashionably dark gleam. The same dark magic can work for stylish adult villains, like Lucius in the Harry Potter series, Circe in Greek mythology and even Delilah in the bible.

When the bad guy isn't stylish though, things get ugly fast. Harry Potter's cousin Dudley has effectively killed off that name. Star Wars' Jabba the Hutt has no namesakes at all. Ditto for Rumpelstiltskin, the Grinch, and Medusa. (Medusa actually has some flair, but that snake hairdo is just too much.)

More seriously, there are limits to the villainy a name can handle. The name Delilah may have shaken off its bad associations, but Jezebel is still borderline and Lucifer well over the line. Though believe it or not, nine American boys were named Lucifer last year, proof of the rehabilitative powers of fashion.

To judge the evil-tinged name on your short list, try placing it in one of the categories above. Then consider: Are there positive associations with the name as well? Will the other kids in school be familiar with the evildoer? When you suggest the name to friends, do they laugh, in the sincere belief that you're joking? And, above all, imagine introducing yourself by this name. Do you feel proud and confident, or nervous about what will come next?

What associations does your name have? Share your experiences here. And if you have your own question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.