Welcome to another edition of DocSmo.com, the home of portable, practical, pediatrics. I’m your host, Dr. Paul Smolen. During the day you can find me practicing general pediatrics in Charlotte, NC where I have been a doctor for the past 32 years but at night, I am in studio 1E producing pedcasts–my name for short educational talks about subjects I think parents might be interested in. Which brings us to today’s pedcast.
The other day I was asking one of my office assistants about her cute new infant son, when she surprised me by replying, “You mean Boukie?” I whipped around and said, who? She said, you know Boukie. She acted like everyone calls their infants something like Boukie, or BoBo, or Sweety. That got me thinking about nick names and names for children so I thought, if I’m fascinated by the phenomena of nick names, maybe my listeners would be, as well, so today we are going to take a few minutes and explore the world of nicknames that parents give their children.
Let me start by saying that names matter, be they legal or slang names. The economists and authors of the book Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, have even measured a child’s chance of economic success based on their name and these authors believe, based on their research, that that names matter, affecting a child’s ultimate economic position in life. They believe that names have economic power! Amazing. That may be true for a child’s legal name but what about those nick names we love to create when our children are young? Well, I think that is a different matter. Unfortunately, what’s cute when someone is a baby is not necessarily cute when they are 25 years old. Boukie may not be so flattering to a 25 year old. In fact, according to the urban dictionary, boukie is slang for a suspicious person. Oh no!
So parents, be careful! Not only does a legal name sometime predict job success but those nicknames we love to throw around can be like gum on the bottom of their shoes… almost impossible to remove. And while we are talking about names, have you ever noticed that a lot of politicians have strange names… what’s up with that? Do odd names seem to make people more electable? Really unusual names like Miit, Rand, Strom, and Newt seem to me to be really strange names..
Well, back to little Boukie, the baby that started me thinking. I think that the reason I was taken aback by this cute little baby name was the realization that Boukie might well grow up to be 6’2’’ and 280 pounds of pure muscle. He might be a marine or an astronaught. Nicknames express the way others see you and Boukie might not want to emphasize his cute baby side when he is a linebacker in college. These nicknames give a child a brand, emphasizing something about them that you, their parent, want others to see. But the child might not want to advertise this trait to their friends later in life. Please remember, nicknames can emphasize a positive quality like “ace, tiger, precious, princess, or professor” or sometimes they can create a negative image about the child. Names like “Bubba, Squirt, Stinky, Chubs, or BoBo” do just that in my opinion. I know first hand,, I was a Bubba as a child. Would you hire your doctor, accountant or lawyer if you knew his or her family called them “dumpling” or “sweet cheeks”, or “sugar”? Probably not. So before you give your child a legal or a nickname, think about what “brand” you are putting on them. Remember these names are likely to become permanent. Stop and think, will this name be appropriate if my child becomes a CEO, a carpenter, a journalist, or a Mom… If not, just don’t go there. Boukie, here’s to a great future.
This is DocSmo, thanking you for listening and hoping you won’t have to take the blame, if your child gets a bad nickname. Until next time.