On Karrueche, Mendeecees, and Name-Shaming

Karrueche Tran (Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for Wynn Las Vegas)
Karrueche Tran (Bryan Steffy/Getty Images for Wynn Las Vegas)

In just a few more weeks, I will have two children. Some weeks back, I threw the most clear vague hint to the ether that I may have another descendent on the way, and well, it's true. I have gone forth and multiplied..again. This time, it's a little boy. Clap for him. Lots of fun and games on deck as the PJ Clan groweth. Of course, for somebody like myself, the name process is an agony unto itself. My daughter has one of the coolest names ever; it screams superstar, creative force of nature, who has a good heart.


One of my friends once told me that her name sounds like the name of a woman (when she reaches this height…Jesus be a machine that slows down time) who is going places. So naturally, I want my son to have a name that also screams he will be going places. Not just Chuck E. Cheese either.  And his mother and I feel like we've achieved this goal. Here's where it gets interesting.

The name we've chosen for Young Homey (one of his current nicknames) is an uncommon, but super familiar name. It's one that you know and have heard a zillion times over. Here's the rub, I've suggested a subtle change to the spelling to give it more flair and make it infinitely more cool. Trust me on this. Soon you'll understand. Fly as the name may be with its little alteration, one truth arises from the ashes: people will misspell his name forever. Family members will misspell it. Friends will misspell it. He will be like Kanye West at some point who famously quipped: "Kanye but my plaques they still say Kayne."

Granted, noboby will mispronounce his name, but they will undoubtedly misspell it. He will always have to correct people. He will have to answer "yes, that's how I spell my name" to those teachers who ask him if it's spelled right on the class roster. Basically, for every person who will have contact with him enough to ever need to write his name down, he (or his parents before he can talk) will have to pre-emptively tell them how to spell his name properly. Over a small, subtle difference. One letter changes everything.

I love the small, subtle difference. But I also wonder if I'm doing a disservice to my child who will now have to receive shit in the mail that has his name spelled wrong. Which begs the question, if you're not going to change the pronunciation, why even change the spelling? His name is his name after all, and like many people, I assume he will defend it with honor like Cuba Gooding in that movie where he almost died. Which I guess is a lot of them. The one in the water. Point is, my child will have a name that we all know that he will have to correct the spelling of for the rest of his life because everybody is used to it being spelled one way and we all default to that spelling. That kind of sucks. But at least nobody is going to mispronounce his name.

Unlike Karrueche Tran. This poor girl has done nothing more than exist and date Chris Brown and her name has been fucked up 37 ways from Sunday. And in some ways, its par the course of fame. If your name is unconventional - at least to the market that you spend much of your time in - it's going to get slaughtered. But there is a certain fuckedupedness to the way that she and others get their names murdered. See, you'd think as Black folks we'd sympathize. All of us come from families where at least ONE person has a name that somebody totally made up. I know I do. I have cousins whose NICKNAMES I have no clue how to spell. Shit, some of us have those names. Some of us have those names like my son will have where the name is easy enough but the spelling is off. There are niggas named Mychal and Kevyn running around right now who have had to correct people for decades. That has to be frustrating.

Now amplify that by having a name that niggas could easily learn especially due to the frequency of hearing it - Karrueche really isn't that hard to say - but like to run thru the mud because of nothing more than your circumstance and the fact that we  tune into their lives. Mendeecees Harris is another one. To be fair, I have to look up Mendeecees every time I type it because there area lot of "e"s in this name and I'm pretty sure that aside from his son, there isn't a single other person on this planet with this name. It's that unique. That name is even unique to people who have created unique ass names like Latundra (real name, no gimmicks). But isn't it fucked up that we relentlessly clown these folks names when they did nothing more than be born and be given those names? Your parents name you. Hell, I don't even know if Karrueche is an odd name in Vietnam (thought it quite obviously could be). It might be like "Maria" is to Mexicans. Yo no se. See what I did there?


I know quite a few people with names I've had to re-inquire about. Then again, the name for which I'm most commonly referred is also the type that causes people to ask me what I said more than a few times. But your name is your name. And my name is my name. We seem to attach assume that certain names mean certain things about the inviduals that own them and that's a bit unfair. Actually, it's a lot unfair. Karrueche and Mendeeceees are "celebrities" so nobody cares that much how they feel. Hell, we had a Blackest name tournament here at VSB and I've participated in slaughtering Mendeecees name so I'm not absolving myself from responsibility. When I see a name that evokes the creative ethos of the African diaspora, I too do a jig. But I do think its fucked up how we slaughter folks names for sport for fun. Your name is your starting point. After your visual its point of entry. It's usually the first question folks ask of you that delves into your personal. Shit, today where folks know tons about folks they've never seen, a name is often the most important currency you carry. It is who you are and how you've defined yourself. But those names that we like to clown, it seems unnecessary.

Largely because of choices they make. Beyonce is one of the most famous people on the planet. As is Lebron James. Neither of those names is even remotely normal. Hell, what is normal. Here's another twist. We LOVE to rail against European socialization and conforming to names that aesthetic. But apparently that has a limit. If we see you publicly and we think you make bad choices, then your name is fair game. The worst part is that we all actually know how to say these folks names even if it does require more brain cells than we're used to using for said purpose. So that means its done purely out of mockery.


When my son is born and I have to correct somebody on how to spell his name, I'm sure I will get questions about why I felt a need to change the spelling. I'm sure of it. Which would be fine if it didn't come from some mother fucker whose parents saw fit to name them after a country that doesn't exist. The easy solution here is to be cool. Nobody clowns folks with different names that are cool. It becomes part of what makes them cool. They're unique so it stands to reason that they'd have a unique name. But if you aren't cool enough to sell millions of records and who happen to become famous because you date somebody who falls out of favor (or catch a drug case or hundred where folks are really trying to understand how you're free), your name is up for grabs in the shame category. And that's no bueno.

Your choices and actions? Cool. Your name, though? Now you're talking about my mama.


And nobody talks about my mama.

Panama Jackson is the Senior Editor of Very Smart Brothas. He's pretty fly for a light guy. You can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking all her brown liquors.



*Slides on the bullet proof vest*

As an educator, yes I name shame. Your children and these super "unique" names gets tossed around in the teacher's lounge w/ witty banter and at happy hour to entertain my friends. Some of the names make me wonder the parents mental state, cause they just set their kid up for a lifetime of ridicule and tossed job applications.