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Call me Cuckoo
by Henry Jacob January 18, 2013
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The writer Milan Kundera once said, “We don’t know when our name came into being or how some distant ancestor acquired it. We don’t understand our name at all, we don’t know its history and yet we bear it with exalted fidelity, we merge with it, we like it, we are ridiculously proud of it as if we had thought it up ourselves in a moment of brilliant inspiration.”

The people of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province are also proud of something, which may sound funny or ridiculous to the outsider but not to them. They have an unusual practice of naming children after inanimate objects (household items and gadgets) and not people. Thus you have kids with names such as Balti (bucket), Glass and Cooker. There is also a boy named Pepsi.

A Pakistani daily says that people are named Number-One, Mobile, Radio, Cassette and Akhbar (newspaper). It is the game of the name, to tweak an Abba song.

The unusual name game is not limited to Pakistan. India too has its share. A well-known actor is called Dimple and her daughter Twinkle; another actor is called Tulip; the surname of a north Indian politician is Lovely, while the first name of a South Indian politician is Baby. A popular surname in the eastern Indian state of Odisha is Panda.

The wife of the former chief minister of the Indian state of Bihar, Rabri Devi, is named after a well-known Indian sweet. Her sisters have also names based on Indian sweets: Rasgulla and Jalebiya.

In the blockbuster Hindi film Munnabhai MBBS, actor Arshad Warsi is called Circuit. A well-known Pakistani film, Curfew Order, is also the title of the hero’s name, because he was born during a curfew.

The oddity of names isn’t the sole preserve of South Asia; some English names are singular too, though constant use of them may have effaced their strangeness. You have surnames such as Winterbottom, Sidebottom, Gladstone, Oldman, Young, Redgrave, Makepeace (the middle name of a well-known author), Styles, Stork, Winehouse, and, rather the odd-sounding and risque Balls (wonder what the reaction of women would have been if James Bond introduced himself to them as “Balls. James Balls”).

Some are either named after flowers (Rose, Hyacinth, Daisy, Jasmine, Lily), plants or herbs (Greengrass, Thyme, Rosemary, Sage), colours (Grey, Black, White, Purple, Violet), planets (Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Pluto), metals (Brass, Irons), birds (Sparrow, Crowe, Hawke, Swift), professions (Goldsmith, Potter), natural phenomena (Gayle, Storm) or qualities (Blunt, Best, Goodwill). I guess a name is a name, and the odder it gets, the more it would “smell as sweet,” with due apologies to Shakespeare.

Even the world of sports is not without its odd nomenclatures. An American professional basketball player who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers is called Metta World Peace. Some other sportsmen with wacky names are World B. Free, who played several seasons in the NBA, God Shammgod, Mookie Blaylock (also basketball players) and Deuce McAllister, a former American football running back.

There are other players with odd titles too. There are cricketers like Napoleon Einstein (India), Neil Broom (New Zealand) and Stuart Broad (England), golfers like Tiger Woods, footballers like Peter Crouch, the list goes on.

Some celebrities have pretty peculiar names: Gooding, Underwood, Mayweather, Lamb, Goodman are a few.

The singer, Alicia Keys, has created a new interactive bedtime story, The Journals of Mama Mae and LeeLee. The singer composed music for the application, which tells the story of a young girl from New York and her relationship with her grandmother. Keys says she was inspired by her experience of motherhood. Guess what Keys’ son’s name is? Egypt.

But she is not the only one to have her children possibly inspired by a country. The actor Chris Hemsworth’s baby girl is called India, while Alec Baldwin’s daughter is called Ireland.

Is giving a child weird, outlandish names a celebrity trait? Perhaps it is their way of staying in the public eye. Here are some what would be called off-the-wall examples.

Arthur Ashe’s daughter is called Camera, and Sting’s daughter is called Fuchsia.

The actor Gwyneth Paltrow calls her daughter Apple.

The American composer and singer songwriter Frank Zappa has chosen even more unusual nomenclatures for two of his children: Moon Unit and Diva Muffin.

The actor Jason Lee has named his first son Pilot Inspektor, the musician John Mellencamp calls his baby Speck Wildhorse, while Australian actor Rachel Griffiths calls her son Banjo.

Where Hollywood is concerned, perhaps this example takes the cake: the father is called Forest (Whitaker), and the children are called Ocean, Autumn, Sonnet and True.

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