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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Namebots on Parade

Some parents when having named their children didn’t realize that a naming convention is not about gathering the seventeen tribes of everyone containing the same first name as their beloved child and holding a weekend conference where they could all gather and bask in the glory of their namesakes. But such is the case we find with those who have a Mikeness.

In truth, each of us knows about 327 Mikes, give or take a stray Mike here or there. But if you lose one, don’t worry — there will be plenty of others. And don’t let them hide behind the Michael persona either — one is just a disguise of the other. In the debate between which came first — the Michael or the Mike — there are several legitimate theories. Michael may be traditionally thought of as the formalized version of Mike, but that’s the easy explanation… and precisely what they’d like you to believe. A competing linguistic theory holds that the name of Mike originated in 3248 B.C. in an upper Indochinese region, translating it to “master rice squatter,” a prestigious title in ancient Asian tradition. Mikes were revered for their uncanny ability to stay in the catcher’s position for hours on end, although many of them did end up getting bum knees and were thereafter relegated to the less respectable designated squatter role.

But it was the inimitable Mike Choi who led the league in squats that year with 26,517, a record which still stands… or squats. From that time forward, about 1400 years later, the name was extended nobility status, but to differentiate the middle class Mikes from the upper class Mikes, the grandiloquent “Michael” was employed, which to this day serves as part of the dignified holier-than-Ralph nomenclature.

That’s the history, but as they say, the history is only part of the story.

Michael as the ideal is an archangel, one of the principal angels in Christian and Islamic tradition. He is viewed as the field commander of the Army of God. He is mentioned by name in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. Meanwhile, Mike is just your neighbor who doesn’t shave half the time. As far as I know, there aren’t very many Mikes in the scriptures. Why not? Nobody would’ve believed them, for one. And Mike said unto the people, curse ye heathens. And the heathens said back to him, but you’re a Mike.

In consideration of Mike lore, when you meet someone new and they say their name is Mike, you’re thinking, “Yeah, you and the rest of the world. Could you be just a little more original?” After all, Mipe is available. Why isn’t there a Mipe revolution? Oh, I suppose ‘k’ is intrinsically better than ‘p’, eh? Additionally, Miatonkajabberwock is also available, but I do feel the need to pick my battles. And somebody out there ought to feel lucky we didn’t have one more child.

Do Mikes feel like clones, in that there’s no shred of uniqueness in their name? Does it make them feel they’re just another Mike in the crowd? Psychology Tomorrow is surely going to have an article stating “The clinical ramifications of being named Mike cannot be overstated… even if you said it 428 times. To be a Mike is to lose one’s identity in a Mike-eat-Mike world.”

You could get a call from somebody you know, and they could say, “Hi, this is Mike.” And you’d have to say, “Which one?” And then unless it was a really uncommon last name, you’d have to say, “Which Mike Simmons?” This is why Mikes have a hard time talking on the phone, because it takes three or four minutes just to properly identify themselves, and by then they’ve usually forgotten what it is they wanted to say.

It’s hard enough to remember people’s names, but now having a glut of Mikes adds another element to the equation. “OK, I know he’s a Mike, but how do I narrow it down from there?” Then you go up to him, not remembering where you’ve seen him before but still wanting to demonstrate that you recognize him, so you say, “Uh, you’re a Mike, right?” Actually, you could do that with anybody and you’d have a pretty good chance of being right. Within fifteen minutes, you could be reminiscing with at least someone in the crowd whom you’ve never met just by using this method.

So why is it that parents keep naming their kids Mike? Is it because there’s some subconscious predilection to the sound of it? “But I like Mike,” they say. Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you have to hate Kate. Or adore Igor. Or esteem Kareem. Or loathe something that rhymes with loathe. The alliterative power of suggestion may be a tad stronger than suspected, at any rate.

Among the more famous but dubious distinction holders of the Michael, we have the likes of Jordan, Jackson, Johnson, Phelps, Douglas, J. Fox, Richards, Nesmith, Angelo, Landon, Caine, Palin, Stipe, Keaton, Medved, McDonald, Bolton, Bublé, Eisner, Savage, Vick, Irvin, Bloomberg, Moore (boy, this list is degrading rather rapidly…). What a truly motley crew of Michaels we spin. Landon and Keaton might be keeping the whole group from going down in flames. And since Little Joe has passed on, that leaves only Mr. Mom to carry the flag for all the Michaels of the world. This could get ugly fast. And while you might say Crichton, I say potato. It’s actually a really strange Belgian pronunciation.

Ever notice the paucity of Mike wannabes? All these supposed accomplished Mikes curiously transformed themselves into Michaels. They’re fleeing from the short to the long like there’s some sort of stigmata attached. This tells us that the cognoscenti have a strong preference for Michaelness over Mikeitude (yes, I know I probably spelled those wrong). In grade school, the aforementioned were no doubt Mike Bolton, Mike Moore, Mike Caine, and then the minute they started becoming famous they shed their Mikeitude (yes, I realize again that Mikeitude was stricken from Oxford’s 12th Edition for purely political reasons, but what can you do?).

If you’re wondering… the famous Mikes proper, meanwhile, are pretty much Tyson and Myers, and pray for rain. End of story, thank you for playing. So have fun with those. Tyson probably couldn’t even spell Michael if you spotted him the first seven letters, and Myers has so many alter egos one could quite easily convince him that he’s Jerry Lewis’ albatross incarnate, and get away with the charade for a millennia.

Or you could be a football coach, *ahem* Shanahan *ahem* Ditka *ahem* Singletary *ahem* Holmgren *ahem* McCarthy *ahem* Tomlin *ahem* Smith *ahem* Riley. You say Belotti, I say biscotti. These coaching types are known in the parlance as outliers, because it’s not polite to call a man an outlier to his face. Saying an NFL coach is a respectable public figure is like saying Karl Marx eats Cocoa Puffs for breakfast. They simply have no correlation to fact or nutrition. They won’t let you be an NFL head coach any more unless you’ve had your nose broken twice and been through a modicum of street brawls. You have to look like your facial features are in rebellion. That’s the perfect coach for pro football. Now he can go on and chew out his players and they’ll simultaneously respect him for it and be intimidated by it.

But to the point, curious how Mikes gravitate to being NFL coaches. And not only that, but they stay Mikes. Let’s check your resume’ here… It says you possess a tremendous amount of ambition, you have a plethora of experience, and your mother was bad at naming kids. OK, your ceiling here is going to be NFL coach. Hey, if she had only named you Edward or Christopher, you might’ve had a higher calling. Not our fault.

To recap, for those born in the 1990s, Michael was the #1 boys or girls name in the U.S., more popular in its gender than any girls name was in its. For those born in the 1980s, Michael was the #1 child’s name again. For those born in the 1970s, Michael was the #1 child’s name… are you detecting a trend here? For those born in the 1960s, yep, Michael was the #1 child’s name. But for those born in the 1950s, a-ha! It was only the #1 child’s name. Oh wait, that’s the same. Oh, bother.

Michaelmania went an unprecedented five straight decade rampage in full force, as the most popular name in every single one of them. Among all the males you know born from the 1950s to the 1990s, chances are there are more Mike-a-holics than any other name at those ages. And these guys are surely angry, too. You think it’s easy being a marked Mike? That’s almost as bad as being a miked Mark, which is only a lazy way of naming someone Mike without actually coming out and doing it. Mark is Mike with more bark, but Mike is the Mark you didn’t like. It’s a complex diagram, and you wouldn’t want me to draw it up either.

What does this mean? 50 years of the public not getting tired of a name is a little hard to fathom. You think they’d get over it after maybe a decade or two at the outset. I mean, do you want the world’s nephews all having the same names as the uncles, and the grandpas the same as the grandsons? Do we have a specific obsession for Mike-a-thons?

Historians will correctly note that we’ve had 44 U.S. presidents, and interestingly of those 44, exactly zero of them were Michaels or Mikes. Which is a strong indicator that they’d make rotten leaders. Being a Mike apparently prevents one from achieving lofty heights.

Just be a little wary if Mr. Huckabee makes a run at it in 2012. Even if it’s as someone not named Mike’s running mate. Because there have also been 47 vice presidents, of which exactly zero were named Michael or Mike. They really do have a rotten track record in leading countries. Well, I suppose then that would presume that they have any track record at all… But you get my drift. (I have to use that disclaimer to let you know I’m aware that you’re aware)

Think of the Mikes in your life. What are their redeeming qualities, if any? Now, I’ve got nothing personal against any of the Mikes. Heaven knows if I wanted to offend any group, Mikes are the last ones I’d go after, considering their enormously prodigious numbers.

In fact, it turns out there really isn’t a world population explosion problem… after you take out all the Mikes. Because minus them, we’re just fine. And yet you never hear about a Mike explosion, because it wouldn’t be politically correct.

I realize some of you may be Mike sympathizers, and this is understandable. They’ve effectively assimilated themselves into society, where the closest thing to a negative reaction might be, “Oh, you’re named Mike too? Well, that’s a coincidence.” We’ve become desensitized to their threat.

At the same time we have to ask ourselves: Are they trying to take over the world? Will there be a revolt sometime in the near future? Their work of infiltrating our populace may be completed already, in terms of all those they have to name. In the 2000s, alas, Michael is only the second most popular boys name, behind Jacob. But this could be a portend of things to come, meaning that their insemination is completed, so now they’re just waiting for all the Mikes of the 1990s to grow up so they can move on to stage two. I’d also be a tad paranoid that Mike Corleone might lead them. Oh, wait. That’s Michael to me. Have to be proper.

If faced with the dilemma of naming your child (let’s narrow this down to boys, because Michael may be a trendy girls name but it goes against the Genova Convention, which is a little-known Italian convention comprised of sensible people)… what I was saying before I was rudely interrupted is that if you’re faced with the nagging dilemma of applying a name to call your son by, you could name him something that every class he’s in for the rest of his life is going to have seven of, or better yet you could give him something distinctive, individualistic, unique… something all his own to bring him a greater sense of personhood. Keep this in mind in order to resist that pervasive urge to further promote cloning in the 21st century. Or perhaps let’s just make the 2000s the century of Olaf. You may like Mike, but I love Olaf.

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