Sunday SummaryDo names really lead to playground teasing?

I ask for two reasons: first, this comment came up during a name discussion on the AppMtn Facebook group:

Does no one remember the cruelty of the schoolyard?

And then, one morning as I walked my six year old daughter Clio to school, I heard one of the boys in her class call out:

Hey, Cleopatra!

There we were.  In the schoolyard.  And another child was definitely calling out a twist on her (unusual) name, one meant to grab attention.

But here’s the thing – it didn’t appear to be cruel.  My daughter didn’t appear to be upset by it.  No one giggled or pointed.  The boy didn’t seem to be taunting her in any way.  In fact, the only one who noticed for more than a second was … me.

Do kids get teased because of their names?  And if so, is that sufficient reason to stick to only the most mainstream possibilities when naming our children?

I know where I come down on this one, but I’m curious to hear your take on the question, too.

Elsewhere online:

  • This!  This post from Anna about discussing baby names with her husband is truly laugh out loud funny!  It reminds me of my conversations with my husband, though I didn’t think to jot them down.  Hilarious, honest, and surprisingly sweet, too.
  • Did you see this post at Duana?  The writer asks if celebrity baby names are just a big joke – do the kids really have normal names, and we’re just being told the parents went with Wyatt Isabelle or Briar Rose?  I had a similar conversation with a dad (who I promise reads very little celebrity gossip) the other morning.  Here’s my take: Nope.  They’re real names.  For two reasons.  First, musicians and actors live in a world where creativity and individual style is celebrated.  Even if you’re not an Oscar/Grammy-winning A Lister, I’d guess that there’s little inclination to choose the ordinary.  (And some impulse to avoid it.)  Secondly – and more importantly – we sometimes find out the kids’ names only when an actual birth certificate is filed.  If you give birth in a hospital in Los Angeles, you’ll have a tough time keeping your kid’s name quiet.
  • Elea covers Theodore.  A classic definitely coming back into fashion.
  • Kelli talks about names that were most popular from 1900 – 1910.  Would Beulah ever have a shot at a comeback?
  • I almost called Beulah a potential hipster name, except what does that mean anymore?  Love this quote from the Washington City Paper’s D.C. Manual of Style and usage, found via Nancy at Away with Wordshipster: a term that is somehow both loaded and meaningless.
  • I’m enchanted by this name from Nomes e mais nomes: Cidalia.  Sort of like Cecilia plus Dahlia – love the sound!
  • What is THE name of the moment?  Baby Name Wizard readers are nominating Elsa and Isis, but remember, it doesn’t need to be a name.  “The Situation” took the title a few years back.
  • Alexia has some advice for parents who like Biblical names that are just a little bit different.   What goes with daughter Shiloh and son Jedidiah?
  • I very much like these names featuring the letter V at The Art of Naming.  It’s hard to choose favorites, but Avalon, Everild, and Vittoria leap out at me from the girls’ list, and Davion, Tolliver, and Harvey from the boys’ list.
  • Swistle readers talked this family out of using Aviatrix. The name they went with?  Beatrix Dare, nickname Bix.  Suddenly, Beatrix sounds like the greatest name ever.

That’s all for this week!  As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Step-kid’s went through a particularly hellish sophomore year. One of her tormenters did use step-kid’s unusual name to create a twitter/facebook accounts to cyberbully her with, but her name was not the reason they were teasing her.

  2. I was a teacher for a few years and saw a TON of teasing (I taught 7th among other, less dangerous, grades) but never for names. I even had a Chester and thought for sure, if a child was going to be teased for his name that would be the one. He never did. If kids want to hurt someone, they’ll go for blood and names just don’t do that (body type, sexual activity or lack thereof–that’s the kind of things bullies are going after). If they don’t want to be mean then they might play around with a name–like Cleopatra–but it isn’t meant to be hurtful.

    Besides that, if your child is getting teased about his or her name you and your child should be grateful that the would-be bullier isn’t more creative!

    1. Andrea, thank you SO much for this comment! And I love the phrase “7th among other, less dangerous, grades” – adolescence is rough, no matter what, isn’t it?

      I’m convinced that “your child will be teased” is just a way of saying “I don’t like that name,” and should be treated as such.

  3. Thanks so much for the shout-out Abby! I did plan to do a follow-up on the names of his that I rejected, but I can’t remember rejecting that many (somehow every name HE said no to is burned into my brain cells forever!), and most of my rejections were pretty boring (too popular, too dated, people don’t pronounce it correctly etc etc). He’s much more dramatic than me.

    I love Beatrix Dare “Bix”. Even though Aviatrix is so cool, I can’t feel sad that they didn’t choose it.

  4. I feel like every time I read the comments section on a mainstream news source’s coverage of baby-name news, the “What kind of a name is that? Do you want them to be teased??” argument dominates. And it’s always in regards to relatively normal names by this generation’s standards (like Imogen)! I think the playground teasing fears are trumped up when someone doesn’t personally like (or is unfamiliar with) a certain name. Teasing happens for a lot of reasons, and I don’t think a person’s name should be singled out as “preventable” teasing-potential. The best prevention is confidence, which parents can exemplify. Kids teased my sister for her short hair in school, they teased me for my (fabulous) spandex bike shorts. The only name that was ever singled out and teased when I was in school was Pia, due to the inherent “bathroom word”, and even then it was more along the lines of: “Did you know your name has the word pee in it??” to which Pia responded “If you don’t know how to spell pee, then you’re just dumb”.

    1. Yes! “The best prevention is confidence …” Love this! And “your kid will be teased” does seem to be another way of saying, “I don’t like that name.”

  5. My daughter’s name – Astrid – is one that’s not hard to make fun of if you’ve a mind to do it. She’s 13 now and over the years, in addition to screwy mispronunciations, she’s heard ostrich, asteroid, and astronaut, as well as less kind variations on particularly the first syllable. However, none of these have spawned long-term, hurtful taunting. They’ve almost all been in the realm of one-offs. Her friends do play around with her name, sometimes in ways that could be seen as hurtful, but she never seems fazed. I think for the most part she appreciates having an unusual name and overall gets more compliments than jibes. And, if they want to tease, kids can find endless ways to do that, whether it has to do with your name or something else.

    All this to say I generally advocate for using the name you love. Childhood is short and you never know what the teasing flashpoint will be for a particular kid.

    1. Plus, Astrid is now associated with the totally awesome character on How to Train Your Dragon so cool points galore.

  6. My son Maximus is only 2, but we’ve had plenty of older kids run up to him at the playground and ask his name. They always just happily say “Hi Maximus!” and then attempt to play with him. Perhaps his name isn’t very tease worthy, but I’d like to think that kids don’t know that a name is “different” or “odd” until they are taught that from their parents, siblings or media influence.

    In the case of Clio, the kid probably just learned about Cleopatra for the first time and made the connection that they sound similar and gave it to her as a fun nickname. But I’m sure there are bullies out there who will use anything, including a name, to tease. I don’t personally remember being teased in a mean way, but people did call me Care Bear for a while. Just my thoughts.

    And thanks for the mention about my Letter V posts 🙂

  7. I think Beulah definitely has a chance. If you go completely by the sound and not association, I think it’s lovely. It reminds me of the word beautiful.

    1. Now that’s an interesting thought, Holly! I’ll be on the lookout for Beulah in Names for Real posts … she’s found Katniss and Veruca/Veruka, so why not Beulah?

  8. I’m not sure the argument that people in Hollywood are creative types per se applies. Anyone who reads Names 4 Real knows you don’t have to live in Hollywood to be creative. We always notice the names that stand out but lots of creative actors and musicians go with names in the top 10. Looking through Celebrity Babies on people, I see a Gus, an Alexandria, a Summer … And it wasn’t Hollywood that gave us Aurora Azraella-Libra. 🙂

    1. Very nice points, k – creativity isn’t exclusive to Hollywood. And, of course, I know plenty of actors and musicians in Washington DC, which isn’t exactly known as a mecca for the entertainment industry. Creative types are everywhere, and nothing says that engineers and mechanics and hair stylists can’t be delightfully creative, too.

      And, well, yes some celebs do choose names that make me yawn!

      I need to figure out how to get a “like” button for great comments like this!