Jan 2, 2010 11:33 AM by Mike Celizic
When Shakespeare asked, "What's in a name?" he didn't live in a world where pop stars call their babies Bronx Mowgli and students sit outside a college counselor's office underneath a sign that reads: "If You're Waiting for Marijuana, Sit Here."
Celebrities giving their offspring names that they call creative and others call bizarre is nothing new, as Moon Unit and Dweezil Zappa could tell you. So when singer Ashlee Simpson-Wentz and rocker Pete Wentz had a son in November 2008 and named the tyke Bronx Mowgli, it wasn't that surprising.
But celebrities aren't the only ones who enjoy inflicting challenging names on their children. Take, for instance, the aforementioned Marijuana, whose full name is Marijuana Pepsi Sawyer.
Somehow, as NBC News' Contessa Brewer reported Thursday for TODAY, the woman named after a psychoactive weed and a popular soft drink made it through childhood, college and grad school and became a college counselor. "I've grown into my name because I am a strong woman. I've had to be," Marijuana Pepsi said, adding that she still wonders what made her mother pick that name.
"I want to know, what was it about me that made her go, 'You just look like a Marijuana Pepsi,' " she said. (Perhaps "Marijuana Doritos" didn't have the same ring.)
Brewer found many other otherwise normal people with names that stand out even in a crowd of celebrity babies.
"My name is Tahiti Starship. My parents were hippies," one young woman reported. "They said they were dreaming of Tahiti. And they named me Starship after the band."
There's a man named Yellow Light Bree and women named Cupcake Sanders and Crystal Sunshine Turpin Lemons. And a lovely young girl called Tygerlily Gagnon.
Then there are the names that are plays on words, like Stan Still, Mary Christmas, Justin Case, and the Wood kids, Drift and Timber. And don't forget Rob Morrow's daughter, Tu Morrow.
At least such names are just playful. Others can be embarrassing, like the folks who go through life with monikers that have become immortalized in Bart Simpson's prank calls to Moe's Tavern. That's right: There actually are people named Al Caholic, Oliver Clothesoff, I.P. Freely, Seymour Butz, Ivana Tinkle, Anita Bath and Maya Buttreeks.
You could look it up at Ancestry.com or the U.S. Census, where you'll also find people named Tyranny, Hellion, Devious and Apocalipsis.
David Figlio, a social policy professor, said that parents should be aware that unusual names put unusual pressures on kids.
"If you want to give your kid a unique name, you need to be aware of the fact that no matter how wonderful you think that name is, society reacts to names," Figlio said in Brewer's report. "If you have an uncommon name that connotes low status, you might be treated differently by your teachers. You might end up being picked on more in school."
Brewer noted that she herself has gone through life with a name that's out of the ordinary.
"When I was a little girl, my parents told me my name, Contessa, meant 'little princess,' " she reported. "As I got older, I learned it's actually a title, like countess. And if my parents were going for royalty, why not aim higher?"
What, then, is in a name? Shakespeare said, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
But would a Marijuana Pepsi by any other name be counseling kids about college?