Monday, September 03, 2012

A Different Kind of Naming Debate

I spend a lot of time discussing baby names on this blog, but here's an issue I haven't touched on: the "sign names" of deaf children.

When you have a hearing-impaired child, you have to pick a regular name and then create a sign-language version. That name may just involve signing the individual letters, but it can also be something more creative.

Take the case of 3-year-old Hunter in Nebraska. He signs his name by making a gesture that looks like he's firing finger guns. Because of the violent imagery, the sign name has run afoul of school administrators, according to Hunter's parents.

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The situation appears to be a bit muddled (school officials claim they never asked Hunter to change the way he signs his name). But it ignores a central fact: Hunter's written name also evokes violent imagery. The parents named their child to honor the killing of living things.

Not that they're unusual. The name Hunter cracked the top 100 nationwide in the 1990s and has remained popular ever since, carried by the rising tide of occupational names (though how many full-time hunters are there anymore?).

Hunter is even more popular in Nebraska, ranking 35th last year. In peace-loving California, by contrast, it isn't in the top 100 at all.

So if no one would ever question the name Hunter, why should a little finger-gun action be objectionable?