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Penkava: New-fangled names for old-fangled things

I have always wondered what it would be like to be able to pick your own name. What if there was a law that said that your parents gave you a temporary name at birth, but you got to select your permanent name later? They could call this decree the “Personal Branding Selectivity Act.”

That way you could navigate through life for a while, have a few experiences, make a few observations, and then be able to make an informed choice about what you’d like to be called for the rest of your life.

I know what you’re thinking … if we let a 5-year-old pick his own name, we’d wind up with a bunch of Shreks and Spider-Mans and Barbies and Hello Kittys. Now that I think of it, when I was a kid, I probably would have picked something like Pinocchio or Hopalong or some superhero. I could hear the kindergarten conversation now …

Teacher: “Mighty Mouse Penkava … what are you doing lying on the floor?”

Me: “Sorry, mortal human … I tripped on my cape.”

OK, maybe the Personal Branding Selectivity Act needs a little tweaking.

But did you know that there’s a way to allow an unborn baby pick his own name? You could go to the iPhone app store and buy “Kick to Pick.” Here’s how it works: You launch the app, and it generates thousands of names. Then you set it on the mommy’s tummy. It sits there until the baby kicks. That stops the name generator. Whatever name it stopped on is the name that the baby has picked.

There’s a big advantage to this “Kick It and Pick It” method. Your child can never blame you for giving him or her a weirdo name. “I know, Angus, but don’t blame us, you picked it.” “Sorry, Clementine, but that’s what you get for thinking with your feet.”

But it seems that today people aren’t the only ones getting names. Recently the Weather Channel has adopted a policy of naming winter storms. A while ago, we barely escaped being battered by a winter storm named Draco. We used to say, “Man, that blizzard was terrible.” Now we’ll be hearing, “Golly, Gandorf sure packed a wallop” and “Athena was nothing compared to Yogi!”

That got me thinking … we’ve got hurricanes with names and now personalized blizzards … what if we extended this brand-naming concept to other events in our lives? Check out this conversation …

“Honey, sorry I’m late. I was stuck in Traffic Jam Frank on Randall Road.”

“That’s OK, I had a tough day, too. I was shopping at Walmart and we had to deal with Aisle Spill Jill.”

“Sorry to hear that. Do you remember the time we had Price Check Alan at Jewel? That was miserable!”

“I remember. But I can’t stop thinking about Order Mix-Up Joan.”

“That was at McDonald’s when you got a Chipotle BBQ wrap instead of Honey Mustard, right?”

“Yep, I’ll never forget that. Hey, did you hear on the news about what happened in Texas?”

“Was that about Heat Wave Harry?”

“No, a herd of cattle escaped from their pasture.”

“Oh yeah … Loose Livestock Lana. And how about those poor oranges in Florida?”

“Citrus Freeze Cathy?”

“Yes. What is this world coming to?”

“I don’t know, but at least we escaped Mayan Doomsday Donna.”

And on and on it goes. There will be no end to it. Next month, wives will deal with “Monthly Cramps Eddie” and husbands will contend with “Razor Burn Renee.” Our children will become victims of “Milk Spill Mabel” and “Lost Homework Larry.” And don’t forget that the next time there’s no TV signal, we will be at the mercy of “Cable Outage Oscar.”

So, folks, get ready for “Name Saturation Sadie.” Take it from a guy who just survived “Column Deadline Danny.”

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He is currently coping with “Writer’s Block Betty.” He can be reached at

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