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1170 Naming Children

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,170 – Naming Children.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,170. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at ESLPod.com. Become a member of ESL Podcast. When you do, you can download a Learning Guide for this episode. Go to our website for more details – that is, for more information.

This episode is a dialogue about the names that you give your children, and perhaps a few that you don’t want to give your children. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Celeste: So, here is my shortlist.

Albert: A shortlist for what?

Celeste: Baby names.

Albert: We have months to decide. Don’t you think we should wait?

Celeste: No, I want to be prepared. Here, take a look. See what you think.

Albert: Ezekiel?! You want to name our child Ezekiel? He’ll be teased by every kid in school.

Celeste: It’s a family name. I was trying to appease my parents. They’ve been suggesting a lot of family names. We could call him by a nickname, maybe “Zeke.”

Albert: I’m not naming my child Ezekiel. His name would be Ezekiel Eckleman. That’s a mouthful. I also want to steer clear of alliterative names. I’ve never liked them.

Celeste: Okay, are there any names you like on my list?

Albert: Not Alan Phillip. That’s for sure.

Celeste: Why not? I thought we’d name the baby after my grandfather. Alan is a nice first name and Phillip is a nice middle name.

Albert: His initials would be “A.P.E.” – ape! He would never live that down.

Celeste: How about “Mikol”?

Albert: You mean an alternate spelling for “Michael”? People don’t know how to pronounce a name with an odd spelling.

Celeste: Well, are there any names you do like?

Albert: Albert Eckleman Junior has a nice ring to it.

Celeste: As you say, we have months to decide. Let’s keep an open mind.

Albert: Humph!

[end of dialogue]

Celeste begins our dialogue by saying to Albert, “So, here is my shortlist.” A “shortlist” (shortlist) is a list of possibilities, usually a list of names for something that has been selected from a longer list. So, let’s say that you are going to hire someone for your company – you’re going to find a new employee – and you interview 10 people. You then decide that three of these people might be good employees. Those three people then are on your “shortlist.” The shortlist is the final list of possibilities from which you make a selection, from which you pick what you want.

In this case, it’s a shortlist of names that Celeste and Albert are going to give their child. Albert asks, however, “A shortlist for what?” He doesn’t know what Celeste is talking about, which is very common among husbands, I should add. Celeste says, “Baby names.” Albert says, “We have the months to decide,” meaning we don’t have to decide this right now. “Don’t you think we should wait?” he asks. Celeste says, “No, I want to be prepared.” I want to be ready. “Here, take a look,” she says, meaning look at it. “See what you think,” she adds.

Albert immediately doesn’t like one of the names on this shortlist. He says, “Ezekiel?! You want to name our child Ezekiel?” “To name a child” is to give the child a name. The verb “to name” means to give someone a certain name. “Name” can be a noun and a verb. Albert doesn’t seem to like the name Ezekiel. He says, “He’ll be teased by every kid in school.” The “he” here is the baby. “To be teased” (teased) means to be made fun of.

The verb “to tease” means to make fun of someone – to do something or say something that will make other people laugh at a person, or perhaps will make the other person not feel very good about himself. That’s often the result of teasing. “To tease,” however is usually a verb that means not to be mean to someone, but simply to have fun with someone by making a joke about that person. Children often tease other children – make fun of other children – if a child is different in some way, perhaps. Albert is worried that his child will be teased by the other children because of his name.

It’s not uncommon for children to tease other children by making fun of their names. That happened in my family all the time. My name is “Jeffrey Lawrence,” and if you put the initials – the first letters of those two words together – you get “J. L.” Well, “J. L.,” if you say it fast, sounds like the word “jail” (jail). So, my brothers and sisters would tease me by saying, “Jail. You’re going to go to jail.” You know, stupid things like that. Don’t worry, I’m – I’m over it. It no longer bothers me. The psychological counseling has taken care of it.

Anyway, back to our dialogue. Celeste says, “It’s a family name,” meaning Ezekiel is a name that other people in Celeste’s family have had. People often name their children using names from their family – that their grandfather had or that some other relative or member of the family has had. Celeste says, “I was trying to appease my parents.” “To appease” (appease) normally means to try to make someone happy who is otherwise upset or angry – to do something that will stop the person from being angry.

Celeste perhaps thinks that her parents will be angry if she doesn’t name her child after one of the members of Celeste’s family. “To name after” means to give someone the same name as someone else. For example, my brother Frank, or Francis, was named after my grandfather, who also had the name Francis. “To be named after” means to give someone the same name as someone else. It could be someone in your family. It could be someone famous, someone that perhaps your parents like – an actor or a poet or the postman, the guy who delivers your mail. Who knows?

Celeste says she was trying to appease her parents by giving the baby the family name of Ezekiel. She says, “They’ve been suggesting a lot of family names.” “They” here means her parents. “We could call him by a nickname, maybe ‘Zeke.’” A “nickname” (nickname) is an informal name that you use instead of your full name. Sometimes it’s a shorter version of your full name. Someone whose name is Christopher might be called “Chris” for short, or Jeffrey might be called “Jeff.”

Nicknames can also be unrelated to your name. When I was in grade school, I was one of the shortest kids in my class, and so I was called “Shorty” (Shorty). I was also one of the dumbest kids in my class, so they could have called me something a lot worse, believe me. Celeste is suggesting that even though “Ezekiel” might not be a name that Albert likes, they could call the baby “Zeke” as a nickname, which sounds a lot better to them.

Albert, however, says, “I’m not naming my child Ezekiel. His name would be Ezekiel Eckleman.” Obviously, Albert and Celeste’s last name is Eckleman. “That’s a mouthful,” Albert says. When someone says something is a “mouthful” (mouthful), he means it’s a lot of things to say or it’s difficult to say. If a word is very long or difficult to say, something like “antidisestablishmentarianism” – no, I won’t explain what that is – that’s a “mouthful.” It’s difficult to say.

Albert says, “I also want to steer clear of alliterative names.” “To steer (steer) clear (clear) of” something means to avoid doing something or not to go near something. If you and your friend don’t agree about politics, you may “steer clear of politics” when you talk to each other. You avoid that topic. Albert wants to steer clear of “alliterative” (alliterative) names. “Alliterative” refers to words that begin with the same letter or sound.

So, “Jeff Johnson” is alliterative because both words begin with J – the “J” sound. “Ezekiel Eckleman” is alliterative because both words begin with the same sound. Celeste says, “Okay, are there any names you like on my list?” Albert says, “Not Alan Phillip. That’s for sure.” He selects another name, actually a first name and a middle name, that he doesn’t like.

Celeste says, “Why not? I thought we’d name the baby after my grandfather.” Again, “to name after” means to give him the same name as another person. “Alan is a nice first name and Philip is a nice middle name.” My first name, as I mentioned, is Jeffrey, legally. That’s the name that I have on my official documents. My middle name is Lawrence. Not everyone in the United States has a middle name, a second name. Many people just have a first name and a last name. But I still think most people have middle names.

Celeste wants to give their baby the middle name of Phillip. But Albert says that if they give their child the name Alan Phillip, “his initials would be A.P.E. – ‘ape.’” “Initials” are the first letters of words. I mentioned how my initials of my first two names are J. L. Well, the child, if he’s given the name of Alan Phillip would have the initials A.P.E., which spells out the word “ape.” “Ape” is an animal similar to a monkey, and perhaps not something that you would want to be called.

In fact, Albert says that the baby, the child, “would never live that down.” “To never live something down” means that people will never forget about something that was bad or embarrassing about you. Celeste then suggests a different name, which is “Mikol” (Mikol). This is not the normal way of spelling “Michael,” and Albert, I think for good reason, doesn’t like that idea either. He says, “You mean an alternate spelling for ‘Michael?’” “Alternate (alternate) spelling” would be a different way of spelling a name.

My name, “Jeffrey,” can also be spelled (Geoffrey), in addition to (Jeffrey), which is the way I spell it. Albert says, “People don’t know how to pronounce a name with an odd (odd) spelling.” “Odd” means unusual or unexpected. And it’s usually used to describe something that’s unusual in a bad way. Nowadays you see many odd spellings of names in English, I suppose. Parents want to be different. They want their child to be unique, to be unlike anyone else, or maybe the parents were just drinking very heavily when they decided on the name. That’s my personal theory.

Anyway, let’s finish our dialogue. Celeste says, “Well, are there any names you do like?” Albert says, “Albert Eckleman Junior has a nice ring to it.” If a boy has the same name as his father – the same first, middle, and last names as his father – usually we add the word “junior” at the end of the name so that you can tell the difference or you know the difference between the father and the son.

My father’s name was Patrick Dean McQuillan. He named one of my brothers Patrick Dean McQuillan, and so my brother’s name is Patrick Dean McQuillan Junior. When this happens, the father will often add the word “senior” to his name. So my father became Patrick Dean McQuillan Senior. Now, you may be thinking what happens if my brother names his male child, his boy, Patrick Dean McQuillan? Well, he becomes Patrick Dean McQuillan III. And in fact, I have a nephew named Patrick Dean McQuillan III.

What happens if the Patrick Dean McQuillan III names his child Patrick Dean McQuillan? Well, he would become Patrick Dean McQuillan IV, and so on. Now, my nephew did not name his child Patrick Dean McQuillan IV. Strangely, he did name him Patrick McQuillan, but the middle name is different. His middle name is Truman, which is a very unusual name. It’s actually the last name, you may know, of one of our American presidents, Harry Truman. He was named after Harry Truman – that is to say, his middle name.

There is a tradition in the United States of giving someone a middle name that is normally a last name when you are naming them after someone. One of the most famous Americans of the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries was George Washington Carver. George Washington, of course, was the first president of the United States. George Washington Carver’s middle name was Washington, just as my great nephew’s middle name is Truman.

Okay, I know, the dialogue – let’s finish. “Albert Eckleman Junior,” Albert says, “has a nice ring (ring) to it.” When you say something “has a nice ring to it,” you mean it sounds nice. It sounds pleasant. It sounds good to you. Celeste, however, isn’t very happy with Albert’s solution here of naming the baby boy after himself. Celeste says, “As you say, we have months to decide. Let’s keep an open mind.” “To keep an open mind” means to not make a decision yet. Albert isn’t very happy with that. He says “Humph!” He’s not happy.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue – finally – at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Celeste: So, here is my shortlist.

Albert: A shortlist for what?

Celeste: Baby names.

Albert: We have months to decide. Don’t you think we should wait?

Celeste: No, I want to be prepared. Here, take a look. See what you think.

Albert: Ezekiel?! You want to name our child Ezekiel? He’ll be teased by every kid in school.

Celeste: It’s a family name. I was trying to appease my parents. They’ve been suggesting a lot of family names. We could call him by a nickname, maybe “Zeke.”

Albert: I’m not naming my child Ezekiel. His name would be Ezekiel Eckleman. That’s a mouthful. I also want to steer clear of alliterative names. I’ve never liked them.

Celeste: Okay, are there any names you like on my list?

Albert: Not Alan Phillip. That’s for sure.

Celeste: Why not? I thought we’d name the baby after my grandfather. Alan is a nice first name and Phillip is a nice middle name.

Albert: His initials would be “A.P.E.” – ape! He would never live that down.

Celeste: How about “Mikol”?

Albert: You mean an alternate spelling for “Michael”? People don’t know how to pronounce a name with an odd spelling.

Celeste: Well, are there any names you do like?

Albert: Albert Eckleman Junior has a nice ring to it.

Celeste: As you say, we have months to decide. Let’s keep an open mind.

Albert: Humph!

[end of dialogue]

Who’s the greatest scriptwriter in Los Angeles? Well, I believe her initials are L.T., and we want to thank her for writing our scripts here at ESL Podcast.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thanks for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
shortlist – a list of candidates or possibilities that have been selected from a much longer list, but still need to be evaluated before a final decision can be made

* We thought we had submitted a strong proposal, so we were very disappointed when we found out we weren’t on the shortlist.

to tease – to make fun; to say or do things to make another person react, especially to make others laugh

* As a child, Kyle was teased a lot for having bright red hair.

family name – a name that is used often in a particular family

* Melvin is a family name. It has been passed down to the firstborn son for four generations.

to appease – to partially or fully meet someone’s demands or expectations to avoid having that person become upset

* I like painting my house a bright color and I’m not choosing a boring one to appease the neighbors!

nickname – an informal name used instead of one’s full name, sometimes a shortened version of the full name

* Her full name is Kristina, but everyone just calls her by her nickname, Kris.

mouthful – a lot of things to say, or words that are difficult to say together

* Some of these United Nations programs are a mouthful! No wonder people refer to the United Nations Statistics Division's Commodity Trade database as “COMTRADE.”

to steer clear of – to avoid having or doing something; to not go near something

* Let’s try to steer clear of conversations about politics and religions while we’re at my uncle’s house.

alliterative – with words beginning with the same initial letter or sound

* The novel has many alliterative phrases, such as “the rushing red river.”

to name (someone) after (someone) – to give a baby a name in honor of another person, or as a way to remember that person

* They named their child after the Jean’s grandmother, who died shortly before the birth.

first name – given name; a personal name given to baby when he or she is born that is used before the last name

* Please state your last name and then your first name, like this: Brando, Marlon.

middle name – a given name inserted between the first name and the last name, usually not used very often

* There are three Daniels in the kindergarten classroom, so the teacher is using the children’s middle names instead.

initials – the first letter of each word in a name or phrase

* The International Business Machines Corporation is better known by its initials, IBM.

ape – a large primate; an animal similar to a monkey

* Scientists are using smart phones and tablets to research ape intelligence by observing how the animals interact with the devices.

to never live (something) down – for people to never forget about something bad or embarrassing that puts one in an uncomfortable situation

* Blake was sick on his first day in the job and threw up in front of all his new co-workers. They all like him now, but he will never live that down.

alternate spelling – an unusual, non-traditional way to spell something, especially a name

* They like the name Christine, but decided to give their daughter’s name an alternate spelling: Kristinne.

odd – unusual and unexpected, often used in a negative way

* They made some very odd choices when furnishing their home with beds instead of couches in the livingroom.

Junior – a word added to the end of a boy’s name when that child is given the same name as his father

* Did you know that actor Will Smith is actually Willard Carroll Smith, Junior?

has a nice ring to it – to have a pleasant sound; sounds interesting, attractive, or appealing

* “Mary Beth” is an old-fashioned name, but it has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Albert want to steer clear of alliterative names?
a) Because he doesn’t like names that begin with the same letter.
b) Because he doesn’t like names from the Bible.
c) Because he doesn’t like long names.

2. What does Albert mean when he says, “Albert Eckleman Junior has a nice ring to it”?
a) He likes the sound of the name.
b) He thinks it sounds like the name of a successful person.
c) He knows other people with that name in his family.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to steer clear of

The phrase “to steer clear of,” in this podcast, means to avoid having or doing something: “Let’s steer clear of anything pink in the baby’s room, since we don’t know if it will be a girl or a boy.” The phrase “to steer a course” means to select a particular direction or strategy: “The consultants are helping us steer a course for international expansion.” The phrase “to steer (someone) toward (something)” means to guide someone in a particular direction: “Brian touched the blind woman’s elbow and steered her toward the crosswalk.” Or, “What steered you toward a career in healthcare?” Finally, the phrase “to steer (someone or something) through (something)” means to guide someone or something during a difficult situation or challenge: “Her sister steered her through a few low-level jobs that would give her valuable experience for a career in finance.”

odd

In this podcast, the word “odd” means unusual and unexpected, often in a negative sense: “Wearing that skirt with those shoes is an odd fashion choice.” When talking about mathematics, “odd” describes numbers that cannot evenly be divided by two: “The odd numbers are 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc.” The phrase “odd jobs” describes many different, small, and unrelated tasks or jobs: “He has an office job on weekdays, but on the weekends, he works as a handyman, completing odd jobs for neighbors.” Finally, the phrase “the odd man out” describes someone who is not included in a group, or who is different in some way: “Always being picked last for sports teams can make children feel like the odd man out.”

Culture Note
Placeholder Names

Some names are used as “placeholder” (with a temporary position, holding the place for something else) names when the true identify or someone or something is not known.

The most common placeholder names are John Smith, John Doe, and Jane Doe. For example, someone might use these names when speaking about a “hypothetical” (not real, but possible) “contract” (legal agreement): “This paragraph means that if Jane Doe doesn’t pay her bill on time the company can begin charging interest and late fees.”

When someone wants to refer to a company without specifying a name, he or she might choose “Acme.” For example, in the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons, products are often labeled as having been made by the Acme Corporation, but this is seen in other contexts. In a business class, for example, a professor might talk about buying supplies from Acme Corporation so that students can focus on a “concrete” (specific) example without referring to an “actual” (real; not imaginary) company.

Sometimes people don’t know the name for something, so they might refer to it as a “widget,” “gizmo,” or “thingy.” These are “vague” (not specific) “terms” (words) that don’t let the reader or listener know exactly what the speaker or writer is referring to, but do “convey” (express) the idea that some tool or object is involved. For example, someone working in “product development” (the part of a company involved in producing new goods to sell) might say, “Let’s create a gizmo that makes it easier to change bicycle tire tubes.”

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - a