In 1969, Johnny Cash released his live-recorded album titled “At San Quentin”. Amongst the tracks that he played at San Quentin State Prison was a song called “A Boy Named Sue”. As you might imagine, it was a song about a boy who was born to a father who made the decision to name him Sue. As the story goes, the boy’s father left before he was three years old, and because of how tough life was being named Sue, the boy vowed to “kill that man that gave me that awful name.” As he grows up, he becomes mean and hardened, wandering from town to town. After finding and fighting his father, the father reveals that he named him Sue so that he would grow up tough because life is hard.
While it would have been highly unconventional back then to find a real man named Sue, we hardly find it surprising, considering all the confusing names we see today. George Foreman named all five of his sons George Edward Foreman. Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple. Jay-Z named his daughter Blue Ivy. But it’s not just celebrities though. A woman was in the news a few years ago because an airline employee had scoffed at the name on her daughter’s plane ticket: ABCDE (apparently pronounced “ab-si-dee”). Cyrus recalled that back when Game of Thrones was popular, some parents even named their child “Khaleesi” after one of the characters.
Given the naming craze and the growing attraction to unconventional names, guest host Father Matthew Spencer spent a segment on The Patrick Madrid Show talking about the process of naming children and the significance of considering Christian names.
“I started to see this when I was ordained a deacon – this was in 2008 – and I started baptizing children … More and more I started to see names – I didn’t even know how to pronounce them, Cyrus! I would look and it would look like a jumble of letters to me,” said Father Matthew. He continued, saying that while he has no intention of criticizing specific names or telling people how to name their children, we as Christians should recognize the importance of a name. Names are so important that we have feasts to celebrate both Jesus’ and Mary’s names. We celebrate people on the feast day of their namesakes. These names connect us to a sacred past that has deep meaning to us as Catholics and Christians.
Father Matthew went on, saying that he is not “against new names”. Obviously, every name was new at one point. There is always an original, but his hesitation to fully embrace unconventional names also comes from the fact that you’re automatically attaching negative ramifications to your child, just like in “A Boy Named Sue”. Life is hard, so why make it harder? Studies have shown that children with unique names often struggle psychologically more than those with traditional names, due to bullying or teasing at younger ages.
Father Matthew pointed out that of course he does not support the bullying of children for their names, but unfortunately, kids can be cruel. Sometimes, a non-traditional name can benefit you, helping you stand out or bring something new to the table. In any case, the point is that names have meaning, and just because you have the ability and freedom to name your child anything doesn’t always mean that you should. “I think there’s a beautiful part of Christian tradition that says we name our children in connection with our Christian tradition because it supports the Faith; because it supports the values that we embrace.” In confirmation, we have the choice to take the name of a saint, somebody we feel a deep connection with and share the values and patronage of. Scriptural names are all rooted in holy meanings, so that’s why they bear such joyful significance to Christians.
Father Matthew closed by saying, “Even if you don’t pick a Christian name for your child, make sure you’re thinking about what meaning that name will convey. As Cyrus pointed out, you’re on a little shaky ground if you name your child after a character from a television show who turns out to be the antagonist and nemesis.”
Listen to the full segment below:
Tune in to The Patrick Madrid Show weekdays 8am – 11am CT