If you interview enough musicians, you begin to hear the same phrases used over and over again. The bass player's sudden departure is always "amicable." The new album is always "the best thing we've ever done." Tours are always canceled due to "exhaustion."
But perhaps no cliché is more abused than referring to an album as a "baby," particularly if the band has just parted ways with a major label, is attempting to emerge from the shadow of a well-known producer — or is Angels & Airwaves. And while, yeah, we get the metaphor, it makes us wonder why so many artists are saddling their most precious offspring with such flat-out terrible names.
It's a trend that seems to be gathering steam, as we're now being treated to a bunch of doozies. The upcoming Beastie Boys record will apparently be called The Mix-Up, which sounds like the title of an awful Usher movie or some "Learn to DJ at home!" VHS tape you'd pick up at a yard sale for 50 cents. Speaking of 50 Cent, his Curtis brings to mind a poorly penned autobiography — or one of those films in which a giant anthropomorphic rabbit wreaks havoc on our unsuspecting hero. And Interpol's Our Love to Admire reads like something straight out of a community-college poetry course.
Anyone familiar with children born in the past decade can attest that bad names are hardly limited to the music industry. As evidenced by the current glut of baby-naming Web sites, there's no shortage of people looking to name their spawn something like Beaufort or Makynzi.
So we spoke with a few of the nation's (well, a few of the Web's, anyway) foremost onomasticians — that means "one who studies the origin of proper names of persons or places," you dirtbags — to get their takes on some of this year's most poorly titled albums and to try to understand why good people choose bad, bad names.
50 Cent, Curtis
Anabel Conner, BabyNamesWorld.com: I'm guessing that this is a namesake. [Bingo! 50's real name is Curtis Jackson.] It's not hard to spell, has great nickname potential — a total winner. Curtis is an English-derived surname that became accepted long ago as a first name. It means "courteous." The name-nerd in me gives 50 thumbs-up.
Gary Petrie, BabyNameGuide.com: Curtis means "polite or courteous." Jackson means "God is gracious." James, which is 50 Cent's middle name, has the most profound
meaning: "Move from the usual place; to leave a homeland."
Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare
Conner: Don't call your kid something negative. It is proven that people respond positively to certain names and negatively to others. No one likes nightmares, not even their most favorite one. Your favorite nightmare is still not a good dream. For shame, Arctic Monkeys!
Brooke Wheeler, BabyCenter.com: Don't pick a long name that won't fit into those little boxes on the driver's license form.
Beastie Boys, The Mix-Up
Conner: I think the Beastie Boys are going for something very unique — they're the trendsetting parents. Many parents we advise want to be just like the Beastie Boys when naming their kids. However, that usually doesn't give their kids any advantage. Parents who do "the mix up" on their kids' names usually go for something like throwing a traditional male name on a girl. Some of the most popular examples today are Kennedy (masculine name of Gaelic derivation meaning "misshapen head"), Jameson (meaning "son of James") or the third-most-popular girls' name in the U.S. today, Madison (which is of an English surname meaning "son of Maud").
Wheeler: Starting a name with "the" is a little too common now. Why not "mix it up" by popping in a tasty adjective instead, like "fresh," "hot" or "thumpin' "?
Conner: Björk's the Hippie Parent. Many parents choose names that try to sound crunchy and eco-conscious. Volta is an Italian habituation name (meaning that people were given surnames based on where they lived), and it was routinely given to those who lived by a bend in a road or river. The name is literally translated into Italian as "bend" or "curve," so it is much less dramatic than it seems.
Petrie: The name Volta might have come from voleta, which means "covered by a veil." But Volta is usually a surname. It was the surname of the Italian inventor who invented the battery to produce electricity. With Björk's last few albums having been more serious, we feel that she wanted a more fun, upbeat and electrifying album.
Wheeler: Good — it's cool, mysterious and easy to spell, but mind the nickname potential: You could get "Re-Volta" out of this.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Baby 81
Conner: Poor kid. According to the U.S. Social Security Administration, Baby is currently the 954th most popular name for a baby in this country. This is most likely due to people being unable to pick a name for their child at all and leaving the hospital with no name. Come on. You get lots of time to prepare.
Wheeler: Too generic. Remember, your baby is special, and it's your responsibility to name him memorably.
Interpol, Our Love to Admire
Conner: I would have to say that they are going for something romantic or Victorian but were somehow missing the mark. It's an awkward title, and in name-nerd language, we would say the flow is off. Our Love to Admire sounds like a little girl dressed in pink who loves to play with My Little Ponies and sleep in a lacy canopy bed.
Wheeler: Many-worded names can sound too fancy. Keep it simple, folks.
Conner: Many times, people pick a name just because it sounds good. "Kala" kind of has a pleasant sound, so I can see why it would attract parents. It's one of those names that has two entirely different origins. Not only is it masculine (yup, that's right — sounds like a lady but is all man) in its Indian form — mainly a Hindu reference meaning "art" — but it is also of Hawaiian origin and used for both sexes. For a female, it means "lady." For a male, the meaning is "the sun."
Petrie: Kala is a Hawaiian name meaning "sun," and Mia is also a name meaning "wished-for child." I ran a phonetics search for Mia and Kala together, and the answer was Karmina, which means "song." Now we're getting somewhere.
Wheeler: Pronunciation could be confusing: Kah-lah? Kay-la? Kay-ay-el-ay? Don't pick a name that strangers will butcher when they speak it.
Queens of the Stone Age, Era Vulgaris
Conner: I don't think they were going for this, but Era is an Albanian feminine name that essentially means "air." It's also a Latin-based noun that indicates the passage of time, and I am sure that is what they are going for. This is basically saying, "Today is vulgar" or "This is a vulgar time." Unfortunately any kid named this is going to grow up hating life.
Petrie: This has to be a reflection of the times: "The Vulgar Era." If you perform a phonetics search at BabyNameGuide.com for Era and Vulgaris, the answer is Vegas, which can be used as a boys' name. A coincidence, maybe?
Wheeler: A bit too exotic and complex. Can your baby really live up to this name? Remember a name can be a burden or a blessing!
Rick Ross, Trilla
Conner: The made-up name is the name-nerd's nightmare. Every day I have people come to me asking, "What does my name mean?" And it just means nothing because someone threw down some Scrabble tiles and tried to piece something together that sounds pretty. Rick Ross must have a pocketful of tiles.
Wheeler: Intriguing. Easy to pronounce, yet could have multiple meanings. It's straightforward, yet it keeps us guessing.
Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Conner: Absolutely not. Back to the drawing board, Spoon. I went to school with a kid named Todd Todd Todd. Hard to believe parents do this, but they do. Why, Spoon, why? Parents like you make name-nerds cringe.
Petrie: Even though Spoon are from Texas, we believe their heart really lies in Georgia. Why else would they repeat the initials GA so many times? Georgia is a girls' name that means "farmer." Maybe their new album will produce a great crop.
Wheeler: I think this album may get beaten up in the schoolyard and have his lunch money stolen.
T.I., T.I. vs. T.I.P.
Conner: Initials are really important — please make sure your kid's initials don't spell something stupid. This kid would be called Q-Tip every day. Initials don't give off a friendly vibe. Come on, T.I. You can do better than this.
Wheeler: Punctuation within names is a huge trend, but one can go overboard.
White Stripes, Icky Thump
Conner: Jack named his daughter Scarlet White. What a kooky dichotomy. I've seen worse, but I would have advised against [the album name]. Icky Thump is going to get pushed around on the playground. It's kind of like calling your kid Stinky: Choosing a "different" name might seem cool to you, but your child, however, has no choice in the matter.
Wheeler: Never pick a name you have to explain constantly.