Bad Baby Names

I recently received a letter from a father-to-be who was worried that the name he and his wife were considering for their baby might mean something bad in American slang. Fortunately, I was able to tell them that the name was "safe." However, it's a reasonable concern.

Many typical English names have "bad" double meanings. Some, like Dick and Gay, have become unpopular because of this and now only older people use them. Others, like Peter and Randy, are still common because the bad meaning is secondary to the name. As you can see below, many famous people have these names. However, having one may get you teased at school (and talked about at work behind your back, especially if you are an evil supervisor.)

Read on for names to watch out for. BAD FACTOR indicates teasing potential. People with names that are "not bad" are teased less, but none of these names are completely "safe."

GIRL'S NAMES

BOY'S NAMES

Butch
SLANG MEANING: masculine (adjective). Primarily used about gays and lesbians.
BAD FACTOR: Not bad, unless he is openly gay.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Western outlaw Butch Cassidy

Colin
SLANG MEANING: No slang meaning, but if you pronounce it the way Colin Powell does, (KOH-lin) instead of the usual way (KAH-lin), it sounds like you're talking about your intestines.
BAD FACTOR: Bad. I once had a boss who was dating a guy named Colin pronounced "KOH-lin." People tried hard not to giggle when his name came up in staff meetings. And we were adults. Imagine junior high.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: US Secretary of State Colin Powell

Dick
SLANG MEANING: Penis.
BAD FACTOR: Bad. Many older men have this nickname (for Richard) but young men avoid it.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: US Vice President Dick Cheney

Earl
SLANG MEANING: Vomit.
BAD FACTOR: Especially bad in high school and college. No longer a popular name.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Bluegrass musician Earl Scruggs

Gay/Gaylord
SLANG MEANING: Gay (Duh!)
BAD FACTOR: Bad.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Best selling author Gay Talese

John
SLANG MEANING: Customer of a prostitute
BAD FACTOR: Not bad. Most people wouldn't make that association.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Actor John Travolta and a large percentage of the male English speaking population

John Thomas
SLANG MEANING: Penis.
BAD FACTOR: Not bad. Kind of old fashioned as slang.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Toronto Raptors basketballer John Thomas

Johnson
SLANG MEANING: Penis.
BAD FACTOR: A little bad, but how many people use Johnson as their first name?
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Basketball legend Magic Johnson (not his first name either, but it goes well with "magic", don't you think?)

Peter
SLANG MEANING: Penis.
BAD FACTOR: Not bad, and most people with this name go by "Pete."
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Nightly News anchor Peter Jennings

Ralph
SLANG MEANING: Vomit.
BAD FACTOR: Especially bad in high school and college.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Green Party candidate Ralph Nader

Randy
SLANG MEANING: Sexually excited.
BAD FACTOR: Not bad. Guys with this name might joke about it themselves.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Oscar winning composer Randy Newman

Rod
SLANG MEANING: Penis.
BAD FACTOR: Bad. Great name for a porno star.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Rock singer Rod Stewart

Willie/Willy
SLANG MEANING: Penis.
BAD FACTOR: Not bad. Slang term is more common in Britain than the US.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE:
Baseball great Willy Mays

Woody
SLANG MEANING: Erect penis.
BAD FACTOR: Bad in high school, but younger kids don't know about it. That's probably why it was considered okay as the name of the hero in the children's movie Toy Story.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Director Woody Allen

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GIRL'S NAMES

Cherry
SLANG MEANING: virginity
BAD FACTOR: Okay in elementary school, but in middle school or high school, this would be a really bad name to have. The term is most often used to discuss losing virginity.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Actress Cherry Jones

Fanny
SLANG MEANING:
polite word for buttocks (worse, in the UK it can mean vagina.)
BAD FACTOR: Bad at every age.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE:
French actress Fanny Ardant

Mary Jane
SLANG MEANING: marijuana
BAD FACTOR: Okay in elementary school, unfortunate in middle school or high school
FAMOUS NAMESAKE:
Halloween peanut butter candy Mary Janes

Patsy
SLANG MEANING: the victim of a dishonest scheme, or the person who is forced to take responsibility for a crime.
BAD FACTOR: Not bad. Unless their parents allow them to stay up for The Sopranos, kids don't know the double meaning
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Singer Patsy Cline

Pansy
SLANG MEANING: feminine gay man
BAD FACTOR: Okay. Besides the fact that it only refers to men and it's a girl's name, that slang is old-fashioned, so most kids wouldn't know it.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Gay punk-pop band Pansy Division

Priss, Prissy (short form of Priscilla)
SLANG MEANING: overly concerned about getting dirty
BAD FACTOR: Not bad. Probably not an issue after elementary school
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Prissy Presley

Randi
SLANG MEANING: Sexually excited.
BAD FACTOR: Not bad, though somewhat worse for girls than boys named Randy.
FAMOUS NAMESAKE: Adult film star Randi Rage

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