When I was a child I had a goldfish named “Weedy”. His name was “Weedy” because he spent so much time hiding in the weeds in the center of our fish tank. I knew even then that “Weedy” was a stupid name, but I was not nearly clever enough to think of something better. I knew, a good name had to say something about the subject’s personality, and goldfish don’t have much personality to work with. Also, I was simply a child, and children are terrible at naming things. So, I chose the name “Weedy” and life went on (Mine at least. Weedy himself didn’t last too terribly long.)
The only consolation is that I didn’t ruin any decent baby names by wasting them on a goldfish. However, if Gideon had been born a girl we probably would have been forced to give them the name “Weedy” because by that point we had run out of decent girl names. But in that case, I was at least prepared to modernize things by spelling it “Wee-D”.
Anyway, my point is, naming things is hard. And children are especially prone to being terrible at giving things names. So, when Gideon climbed into the car the other day with a new transformer toy, and his sisters asked him what he was going to name it, I did not have high hopes for a coherent reply.
He held the plastic robot at arm’s length and articulated the limbs back and forth, and pressed the button that activates the pincer claw at the end of his arm.
Finally, he presented the robot in our direction. “This Robot is named…” He waved his free hand in front of it like a curtain being pulled open. “John Henry!”
“Gideon… Gideon that is actually a surprisingly good name.”
His mouth fell open in a broad smile, and he made the robot hammer at the ground a few times while making “Doomsh Doomsh Doomsh!” noises.
The rest of the car ride he sang over and over in the back seat “Jooooohn Henry! Jooooohn Henry! Joooooohn Henry was a Mighty Man!” while using the robot to fight off invisible bad guys.
I watched him in the rearview mirror and smiled.
The following morning he came climbing into my bed carrying the robot in his pudgy fist.
“Hey Gidbot,” I said, “How is John Henry doing today?”
His forehead furrowed in momentary confusion, then relaxed. “Oh. He not John Henry no more. John Henry not fly.” He made the noise of a rocket and swooped the robot through the air. “Now his name Armor Man!”
“Armor Man?” I asked, trying to hide my disappointment.
“Yeah!” he said brightly.
I shook my head as he dashed out of the room. “At least he had wasted a name he wouldn’t want to use on a child someday,” I hoped quietly to myself. “Of course, that means I can look forward to possibly having a grandson named ‘John Henry’.”