WHAT’S IN A NAME, DWEEZIL?

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: "No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

William Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Easy to say for a guy named Bill, but what if your name is Ethel Oink or Beerwart Crapweasel?

I learned from an AP story that Mai Xuan Can, a proud father living in Dai Cuong, Viet Nam, named his fifth child Mai Phat Sau Nghin Ruoi in 1987 and kids have been mocking him ever since. Apparently in Vietnamese junior high, Mai Phat Sau Nghin Ruoi is worse than having a name that rhymes with booger.

I don’t know about Viet Nam, but in America, no one, not even Lane Bryant, wants to go through school with a name like Mai Phat. Mai Tai might be intoxicating, and Mai Space Dot Com would be cyber-cool. Even Lo Phat would be acceptable, but Mai Phat is worse than Mai Zits.

Mr. Mai named his son this because that’s the amount he had to pay for ignoring Viet Nam’s two-child policy. The name Mai Phat Sau Nghin Ruoi translates to, “Fined Six Thousand and Five Hundred.”

Six thousand five hundred of anything sounds extreme enough, but it was 6,500 dong! I don’t know a ding from a dong from a yak, but that’s got to be approximately what an ocean view condo in Hanoi costs, doesn’t it?

As it turns out, 6,500 dong equals 50 cents. For 50 lousy cents this father condemned his son to go through school constantly ducking and probably with only one friend – a boy with Hubble telescopes for eyeglasses and a pituitary gland problem, undoubtedly with an equally insufferable name like, Suc Mai Toe.

Not only does Mr. Mai-son-better-learn-how-to-fight win the Boy Named Sue Horrible Father of the Year Award, but this doesn’t say much for the son either. If my dad had given me a tag like that, I think I would’ve worked the fine off. Don’t they have paper routes in Viet Nam? Or, what about recycling centers? I mean, for three beer bottles and a dozen Pepsi cans he could’ve gotten a release from his father and taken a better name like Trunk Pu-Fu, or Ho Wang Tang, or Scooter Libby.

But mercifully, after 19 years, village leaders have convinced Mr. Mai to change his son’s name. Mai Phat yada-yada-yada is now Mai Hoang Long, which translates to Golden Dragon, but sounds much too much like a porn star to me.

I thought long and hard about writing this column. At present we’re pretty much satisfied with three names in this country (e.g. Moon Unit Zappa) and, being the trendsetter I am, and with the national exposure this column enjoys, I didn’t want to start a long, silly name movement. Ten years ago, I wrote a column about cell phones and now you can’t swing a dead cat in this country without its cell phone ringing. I fear Catholics might jump on this fad and start naming their sons after a long parade of archaic Popes – Linus Evaristu Innocent Hyginus Zephyrinus Felix (sadly, no Pope Oscars). I worry Paul Newman admirers might name their baby boys, Hombre Hud Hustler Harper Hudsucker. I cringe at the thought of Cher (real name Cherilyn Sarkisian) fans naming their daughter, Rhinoplasty Botox Liposuction Silicone Sonny-ectomy.

Sadly, corporations are already getting into the name game. For a few bucks (or half a trillion dong) parents are naming their kids after name brands. Some actual recorded names are Timberland, Xerox, Camry and Pepsi. It won’t be long before this backfires. As soon as Purina Berkowitz starts hearing dogs telling him to whack people or Disney Kay Laterno is convicted of conducting horizontal study hall with a 13-year-old student, I feel confident corporations will abandon this name sponsorship thing and run for the Citigroup hills.

Unfortunately, both of my parents have passed, but I showed the Vietnamese name story to my Aunt Darlene and asked her what my name might be if my parents followed Mr. Mai’s example. I fantasized about such names as Beautiful Boy With Azure Eyes or The Happiest Day Of Our Lives. She thought for a while and said, “I don’t know if I should tell you this, but your name would probably be, See What A Six-Pack Of Schlitz And A Drive-In Movie Gets You.”