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Cars: Judge John Hodgman on Naming Your Child


Credit…Illustration by Louise Zergaeng Pomeroy

Emily writes: My wife and I are expecting. We want our child to have a hyphenated last name, with both our surnames. I think Otto-McNeill is nice. My wife thinks it sounds like “automobile” and prefers McNeill-Otto. Which is better?

I had my own immediate preference, but as this is a major life decision, I decided for once not to be purely capricious but instead consult the expertise of the professional poet Sarah Kay. I’m relieved that she agrees with me: “Otto-McNeill sounds beautiful!” Kay points out that people will hear “Otto” as “auto” no matter what. To me, “McNeill-Otto” sounds like a car dealership. When Kay says it fast, she thinks it sounds like a Starbucks specialty drink. She adds that “the initials OM are more karmically promising than MO.” So there you have it. Now back to pure caprice: I further order you to name this child “Hybrid.”

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