Jack Ohman editorial cartoons and blog

What's in a name? You name it...

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013 - 6:34 am

Having just come down here a few months ago, I haven't quite memorized every single state legislator's name yet, but one jumped out at me today: freshman Assemblyman Bill Quirk.

Bill Quirk. 

Now, Bill Quirk didn't name himself. Nor did I name myself, and I can assure you that I would have named myself something other than Jack Hamilton Ohman. I have spent my entire life spelling my last name, and no one really seems to pronounce it correctly. I feel like my actual name is "Jack OhmanO-H-M-A-N-likeDamienOmenHaHa." My other name is "YesIamaRealJackandNotJohn."

Some names suggest certain things, and the name Bill Quirk suggests that his bills might be...quirky. 

Names that lend themselves to the following should be avoided:

1. Easy transposition to a famous living or dead person.

2. Names that suggest acts.

3. Names that suggest animals.

4. Names that sound like other things or phrases in general.

In point of fact, it's rather simple to determine whether you've picked the right name for your child, who, after all, is your living legacy. You want the child, who is going to have to struggle in life, anyway, to be sure that his or her name isn't going to cause undue stress or even panic.

Run the proposed name by a panel of five of your friends, male, female, or a mixed group, after they've had two (2) drinks. If they can think of anything like a nickname, you must reject that name. Period.

For example, my ex-wife wanted to name one of our children Elliot. I said, well, that sounds a lot like a prissy English boarding-school name that would just be rife with possibilities, although I couldn't think of any immediately. So we went with Eric, which wasn't my first choice, but now seems to work and cannot have the letter "-y" appended to it, as in "Ericy." 

Then she wanted to name our last kid "Marshall," after her grandfather, who, by all accounts, was a fine fellow and a tall rancher. Naturally, I managed to burp out "MARSHMALLOW MARSHMALLOW!!!" immediately, so that my son didn't have to hear that throughout the first twenty years of his life. So we went with the default mode name:


This is why you know so many people named Bob. Couples cannot agree to name their son Elliot or Marshall, you throw out the high and the low, and Bob is the answer. It's almost an immutable law. Second place: Bill.

You can imagine Bill Quirk's parents conversation:

"Look. We have to go with a low-key first name. Our last name is Quirk."

"No, darling, your last name is Quirk. I have a maiden name, and thank God. How about Elliot or Marshall?"

"Well, I want him to be a California state assemblyman, so let's call him Bill. It's a solid name, and won't lead to any future columns in The Sacramento Bee."

I just hope there isn't a family out there named Gutandamend trying to name a future California state assemblyperson. 

I don't know if there is a perfect name, anyway. There is the last recourse of just changing your name, which I know quite a few people have done. Ask former Presidents Bill Blythe and Leslie King, Jr. (Clinton and Ford). If I were going to rename myself, I might just go with something simple, like Bill Quirk. At least he doesn't have to spell it. Anyway, maybe people should be able to chose their own names when they're adults.

There ought to be a law, and I am certain that Assemblyman Bill Quirk would be happy to introduce it.

Read more articles by Jack Ohman

Editorial Cartoonist Jack Ohman

Jack Ohman Jack Ohman joined The Sacramento Bee in 2013. He previously worked at the Oregonian, the Detroit Free Press and the Columbus Dispatch. His work is syndicated to more than 200 newspapers by Tribune Media Services. Jack has won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Scripps Foundation Award, the national SPJ Award, the National Headliner Award, the Overseas Press Club Award, and he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and the Herblock Prize in 2013. He has written and illustrated 10 books, many of them about fly fishing. Jack has three grown children.

Contact Jack at johman@sacbee.com.

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