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*Disclaimer. Several common names are explicated and tortured on this page. 

I admit that at the start of each semester, I pore over the names on my class rosters. Within seconds, and without seeing faces or meeting them, I can draw conclusions on which students stand to be pills. And I do this with about 71.4 percent accuracy.

Which is why when it came time in that BackYard Burger restaurant late in the summer of 2013 with Laura across the table, every name we said out loud nearly made my butt clench and my face flushed. You see, I estimate I’ve taught somewhere between 1,400 and 1,700 students in the last 10 years. Laura is not too far behind me. Between the both of us, we’ve taught students with just about every name, and just about every variation of spelling on those names. Nicole. Nikole. Nichole.

And with those names comes a buffet of delicious and nauseating memories, which makes baby naming quite difficult.


Dustin? Probably going to be a pretty good guy, you’d think. I remember my first newspaper editor at THS. Good kid. Ah, but that yet-to-be-serial-killer in my night class also shared that name.

Andy? Short for Andrew? This broke one of my rules (i.e. the name could not be shortened). It also rings out “family dog name” instead of a future CEO or president. Can you really take a name like Andy seriously? Not to mention everything it rhymes with, which never helps on the playground. Candy. Randy. Gandy.

Jordan? Loved this name initially, but it broke another of my rules (i.e. the name could not be unisex). Despite my historically good luck with students by the name of Jordan (including one sweet girl at SJA), the toolbag in my 5th hour class in 2005 shattered my faith in the name.

Dylan? To be honest, this name was in my top 3 for years. What an honor it would have been to pay homage to one of my favorite students from ONW. Then, another Dylan showed up in 2012. His contribution to my class included sexually harassing the disabled girl in the corner and filing a grievance against me because I wouldn’t let him turn work in late. I assume he’s either dead or in jail.

Zachary? This name met an important requirement: I wanted it to sound Biblical. But it also broke rule #1 (can’t be shortened) as well as another rule: It should only be spelled one way. Zac. Zach. Zack. Next.

Then, of course, I turned to the names in our families. Donald? That’s old. Have you met a Donald younger than 60? Howard? Sorry, but that makes me think of that weird 80s movie Howard the Duck. 


And have you met a Howard younger than 40? Thomas? Cool name, but can be shortened. Tony? I have a cousin Antoinette. A step-grandma Antoinette. Both go by Toni. My dad is Tony. My brother is Tony. My nephew is Tony. Clearly we have a creativity problem in my family. Or a fierce loyalty to preserving a name — a strong, Italian name at that. Either way, that was off limits.

And don’t even get me started on the girl names. During this marathon name-generating massacre, we had yet to find out the sex of the baby. Laura’s requirements included those listed above with one additional: It couldn’t sound too girly. That eliminated nearly every heterosexual-sounding female name. And we had permanently blacklisted the names Brittany (a beastly creature from my journalism teaching days), Courtney (someone on Laura’s $hitlist), and Danielle (just a terrible all around human being), among dozens of others. We also were adamantly opposed to the so-called most popular girl names like Emma, Isabella/Bella (Twilight is SO last decade), and Abigail/Abby (Have you READ The Crucible?).

My personal favorite for a girl was (and is) Adriana. Not pronounced AdriANNA, but AdriAHNA. Laura hated it because of this dumb B on the Sopranos who liked to shoot up heroin.


Laura loved the name Charlotte for about two weeks. Pretty, but …

wilbur and char

We eventually settled on a girl’s name, which I cannot reveal in case we, for some reason, decide to torture Luke with a sibling.

For the boy, I pulled out my ace card — the name that, throughout the years, never let me down. “How about Luke,” I mouthed in between bites of burger and fries. “I like Luke.”

It started with, of course, Luke’s gospel — still my favorite book of the Bible, filled with truisms that I still can’t seem to follow. It also is a variation of the name Luca, which is the boy version of my Nonna Lucia. And then there came the carousel of Lukes in my classrooms throughout the last 10 years. Never a jerk. Always an achiever. Predictably goofy. Slightly awkward. Fiercely loyal. Eyes always on the prize. And it offered me years of tirelessly uttering this phrase:


Perfect. Can’t be shortened. Everyone can spell it. Biblical. No A-hole students that bring about PTSD symptoms when I utter the name.

So there you have it: How We Named Luke. It works well on this little guy, don’t you think?