The Ultimate Geek Name?

Jan 19th 2011

Scanning a list of names that users recently added to Namipedia, one leapt out at me: Zaphod. Yes, as in Zaphod Beeblebrox. (If you haven't read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, now's a good time. Go ahead, I'll wait.)

Is a two-headed alien a good enough reason to keep such an unlikely name in our baby name encyclopedia? My first instinct was no, but my husband disagreed. A certain sort of person, he argued, will indeed want to learn about the name Zaphod. He works for Google, so I accept his expertise on that "certain sort of person." It made me wonder...has anyone actually named a baby in honor of Mr. Beeblebrox?

Sure enough, the U.K. is home to at least three Zaphods and even more boys with that middle name, all born since the Hitchhiker's series premiered.

This prompted a family discussion: is Zaphod the geekiest of all names? My husband questioned whether Zaphod was really any geekier than, say, Gandalf. My 10-year-old daughter, who is currently reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time, responded that Gandalf is a COOL name, thank you very much. Such is life in the Wattenberg household.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there are many candidates for the ultimate alpha-geek name. America welcomes about a hundred baby Anakins and Neos every year, along with a couple of dozen Aslans, Enders and Atreyus. Then there's the grand new crop of video game baby names, like Fenix, Ryu and Alucard. And let's not forget Kal-El.

Yet there's something about Zaphod. It has a certain geek purity, perhaps because the original Zaphod wasn't some sleek, all-powerful force of light or darkness. He had a self-confident charm, but was voted "Worst Dressed Sentient Being in the Known Universe" seven times. Plus unlike Anakin, Neo and friends, his name does not follow a fashionable rhythm. Plus he had three arms.

So to me, the name Zaphod represents an apex of authentic, committed geekhood -- at least among names borne by multiple real people. I'm sure there are some fine examples I'm missing, though. Any nominees?

Comments

1
By kgstar (not verified)
January 19, 2011 10:57 AM

Hubby's cousin is named Jorel (Superman's dad) (JOR-ell) and with baby boy #1 one due any day, the chosen name is of course--Khalel (CAW-ell). I think his wife is a good sport!

2
By kgstar (not verified)
January 19, 2011 10:59 AM

oops! Khalel pronounced CAWL-ell. Forgot the first L!

5
By kelly @kellynaturally (not verified)
January 19, 2011 11:12 AM

Okay, I guess I just came to terms with my own geekiness then, because I don't think any of those names are uncool. Willow was on our list, and I always dreamed of naming a child Elora Dannon. :)
And Atreyu? Rock. And. Roll.

7
January 19, 2011 11:35 AM

I like sci-fi and fantasy books well enough, but don't read to many of them. My husband, on the other hand, reads several dozen a year (with several dozen more science and/or history books for good measure). It occurs to me that although many of the characters in the sci-fi/fantasy genre have wonderfully inspired (okay, geeky) names, the authors usually don't. Maybe they're too nervous that their books won't sell to take on monikers like Alucard themselves? Or maybe their publishers frown on this?

8
January 19, 2011 11:42 AM

Funny, I know an Atreyu and an Anakin, and I think of those as super-geeky. But compared to some others listed, I guess not so much!

9
By Feb (not verified)
January 19, 2011 12:02 PM

But with the correct spelling, yes? Kal-El. No h; big K, big E, dash in the middle. Going with "Khalel" is perfectly legitimate, but seems like an attempt to fly under the radar a little bit, rather than proclaiming the geek pedigree loud and clear.

Plus random nerds would correct it all the time. :)

10
January 19, 2011 12:04 PM

Zaphod was also the name of a dominant male meerkat in the Meerkat Manor series. Thus the name might conceivably appeal to animal lovers, as well as Hitchhiker fans.

11
By Feb (not verified)
January 19, 2011 12:34 PM

(My previous comment was intended as @kgstar, if that wasn't clear)

By the by, the most geeky name I've encountered was the acquaintances -- lastname Reynolds -- who plan to name their son Malcolm.

That's the best kind of geeky, in my opinion, as it means something to other geeks (especially Browncoats) but sails right over the heads of everyone else, without earning the kid too many funny looks. A big part of being a geek is membership in something like a secret society, after all.

12
January 19, 2011 1:17 PM

I am not a big reader of Science Fiction though my hubby is. I will vote for Zaphod but also nominate Sheldon (as in the Big Bang Theory guy). LOVE that show! Sorry to any real-life Sheldon's out there.

Oh and Larksong, thanks for the compliment and the new nn. Zo-ers has kind of a zing to it.

14
January 19, 2011 2:51 PM

Google

Not joking. I was looking at name laws in different countries one day, and apparently they have legitimately proved that there is a kid legally named Google. That said, this is the net, but I'd be willing or gullible enough to believe in a real Google

15
By PJ
January 19, 2011 2:25 PM

I actually like another Hitchhiker name quite a bit, Trillian. I'm sure that gets some use. Ford is not so bad either but I can't see anyone using Fenchurch or Random especially for girls.

On another note, I don't know if anyone else reads the Soule mama crafty blog but she has just announced she's pregnant with #5. Her other kids are Calvin, Ezra, Adelaide, and Harper (b). Ideas for what they will name #5? I'm guessing Josephine or Clara for a girl and Simon or Milo for a boy.

16
By Essy_ (not verified)
January 19, 2011 2:42 PM

@Feb that is freakin' awesome, well done to those parents! nn Mal, with a pet firefly name Serenity?

---

I agree with the article, Zaphod does have a geekiness to it that names like Ryu, Anakin, or Neo don't really - but I think Gandalf is way geekier than Zaphod - I kind of like Zaphod as a name, it's not too far away from Zappa or Zephyr - don't know if I'd name a kid Zaphod but definitely a beloved pet!

I love Fantasy and SciFi and names are definitely part of the attraction.

17
By SarahCV (not verified)
January 19, 2011 2:49 PM

My husband wanted to name our son Adama, after the character on Battlestar Galactica. And I know someone else who named their son Pythagoras (born on March 14 no less!)

I'm so glad we had a girl.

18
By T.R. (not verified)
January 19, 2011 3:22 PM

PJ, I agree about Trillian.
I light-heartedly suggested naming our second daughter that, for the literary reference and partly with the trillium flower in mind, but I knew it was never going to fly in our family, and it's not a real favorite of mine anyway, it's just nice.

19
January 19, 2011 5:33 PM

SarahCV-Pythagoras on March 14th is very geeky! I can't even imagine using a name like that on other days. What do they call him as a nn? Py? Thag? Gorie? Ewww. Makes me think of the most monstery name I can think of-Igor.

20
January 19, 2011 6:59 PM

@zoerhenne - I dated an Igor for a while in high school, thank you very much, and EVERYone in my family quoted "Young Frankenstein" to me. All. The. Time.

Also... if we're going with Py as a nickname for Pythagoras on 3.14, shouldn't it be Pi? AND Mal Reynolds is fantabulous!

21
January 19, 2011 7:18 PM

My son is called Quantum which people often think geeky (could be something to do with both parents being IT geeks :) )

22
January 19, 2011 8:41 PM

velofile-Quantum is pretty geeky.

Rachel Dana-Pi would be more appropriate. I hope I didn't offend you. If I did I'm sorry.

I should probably refrain from saying much more about these kind of names and suffice it to say that they are nms.

23
By Jane 6 (not verified)
January 19, 2011 9:21 PM

I would just like to say that I've been following this blog off and on for like 5 years now, and this is the very first post I've ever gotten my husband to read. His reaction was as enthusiastic as I've ever seen him be about names, partly because he, too, has suggested the middle name Tiberius for our son James.

24
January 19, 2011 9:50 PM

Did anyone here watch JAG? This immediately made me think of when Bud and Harriet named their son James Kirk Roberts, and it turned out Harriet didn't know that was the name of Captain Kirk, and got mad at Bud!

For me, I would never go geeky on a human child's name, but I love to do geeky names for pets, like when my stickfish was named Bregalad, which is the formal name of the Ent known as Quickbeam in Lord of the Rings. Get it, a stickfish....hahaha. It was obscure enough though that I stumped my mother, who is quite an LOTR aficionado.

25
January 20, 2011 12:13 AM

I LOVE Zaphod. I actually suggested it to my hubby but he refused. He agreed to using Arthur as a MN though, as in Arthur Dent ;)

26
By Beth the original (not verified)
January 20, 2011 12:28 AM

This is old-skool geeky, but I have always loved the names Eilonwy and Taran, from the Lloyd Alexander "Black Cauldron" series.

27
By Rjoy (not verified)
January 20, 2011 1:38 AM

PJ-I read Soule Mama's blog! Her naming style is one that I can't follow. Meaning it is all over the board for me. The only guess I have is that they are named after relatives but that is just a guess. Such as Ezra...Ezra is so biblical and she is so not. I am guessing they are pregnant with a boy but I don't know. She keeps knitting sweaters that look very boyish. Though I now she says they haven't found out.

28
By Manda (not verified)
January 20, 2011 1:38 AM

My ex-husband was a Geek, Big Bang Theory type geek. His favorite baby name was Zed. I'm not sure if it holds up to Zaphod, but I think Zed is more "useable".

29
By ClaireBear (not verified)
January 20, 2011 2:06 AM

Hi all!
I've never posted here yet, but I was hoping for some help with a few ideas for a girl. My husband and I were just matched for an adoption and are due in two weeks. My husband is pretty traditional, but I'm definitely wanting to be a little more unique.

So far, we have both agreed that we'd be happy with any of the following. Problem is, I want to absolutely love the name, and he's very traditional and likes Alexandra best, which I like but am not in love with.

Alexandr@
Juli@
Claudi@
Rafael@
Estel@
Jos3phin3

Middle name will likely be Kate. I really like the name Indir@, too, but it's too much of a stretch for my husband; so is Rafael@ for that matter. Any ideas for traditional yet somewhat unique names would be appreciated! :)

Thanks!

30
By hyz
January 20, 2011 2:13 AM

I read Soule Mama too! I like the Simon and Milo suggestions for a boy (they go with Ezra and Calvin, I think--but she lost me with Harper--it seems so different stylistically). I'd add Silas, Sylvan, August, Rowan, Ronan, and Orson. For a girl I might think of something like Beatrix, Juniper, Clementine, or Sylvia. Time will tell!

On topic--apparently I am not geeky enough, because I wasn't familiar with Zaphod (saw the movie a long time ago, never read the book) and immediately assumed it was biblical, like Japheth or Jared or Herod or Nimrod (lol). In that sense, it seems like it could blend in with the resurgence of biblical names a bit, and like it might be less geeky than something like Gandalf, which I think is more readily recognized by the average person (and which therefore screams to me "I'm a huge LOTR fan and I think Gandalf is, like, totally awesome"). To me, Gandalf is only marginally better than naming your kid Dumbledore.

31
January 20, 2011 2:33 AM

Love the geeky names :) I'm a geek and so is my husband. I can totally see him suggestiing Firefly names! Zaphod is quite cool in my opinion but not totally my style.

@ClaireBear, I like Josephine, Claudia and Estella best from your list. I love Indira but can see it might be too much of a stretch for your husband.

Other suggestions that may work for both of you:
Brigid
Clementine
Violet
Amelie
Genevieve
Sabine
Susannah
Anneliese
Callista
Romilly
Marguerite

Mix of styles there but many of them are familiar or nickname down to common names. HOpe it helps.

Now, totally off topic but I know some of you have been haning out to know what we are having. JuneBug was totally naughty again and kept legs crossed for most of the scan but it looks like we are having a girl :) It's not 100% but fairly likely so I may still toss some boy ideas around just in case!

32
January 20, 2011 3:30 AM

All the names in the original post are male, how interesting. Now, is that because men are more numerous in sci-fi and fantasy stories? (Possibly, for example, I think two or three female characters are mentioned in The Hobbit but none have any lines, etc.) Or is it that their names just aren't as liked?

Trillian, as mentioned above, is a good example. Another that comes to mind is Eowyn or Arwen. I don't see myself considering Hermione or Hedwig, though. And I don't think I'd use any of these names on my kids, male or female. Maybe a dog or cat, though. I almost named my two black cats Lestat and Louis, years ago.

33
January 20, 2011 9:24 AM

"All the names in the original post are male, how interesting. Now, is that because men are more numerous in sci-fi and fantasy stories? (Possibly, for example, I think two or three female characters are mentioned in The Hobbit but none have any lines, etc.) Or is it that their names just aren't as liked?"

Interesting, isn't it? That was actually a deliberate choice I came to while writing, when I realized that "geek" girls' names have a very different sound. Eilonwy, Kaileena, Amidala, Eowyn...they tend toward the romantic side. So I stuck to the boys for a fairer comparison set.

Plus I suspect there's an imbalance here, similar to cross-sex names. A geek name for boys may sound cool, but is still "geeky." For girls, it comes off as a little more free-spirit confident.

34
January 20, 2011 9:32 AM

I loved the Taran Wanderer series. I was just thinking the other day that I should read it again.

I just finished reading the first of Robin Hobbs's "Farseer" trilogies. Most of the characters have virtue or trade names (Patience, Chivalry, Regal, etc.), but one of the main characters is named Molly. She is a candle-maker. Do any of you know if the name Molly is at all related to candles?

35
January 20, 2011 9:40 AM

moonlady-Laura explained it well and I had a similar feeling. I would much more readily name my child Arwen than Gandalf or Zaphod. hyz said it almost seemed like a biblical name and I will second that.

chimu-Of course it will be a girl, because the girls names will be much harder for you to pick from. :)

ClaireBear-Here are some thoughts for you:
Charlotte; Audrey; Deirdra
Talia; Marcella; Serena
Miranda; Daphne; Phoebe
Cecelia; Dahlia; Celeste

36
January 20, 2011 10:51 AM

Wow! Some very entertaining stories here

@Chimu
It's going to be so exciting when Junebug gets here (cute nn!)

@ClaireBear

Congrats!

Out of your list I like the most :
Alexandr@
Claudi@
Rafael@
the most, as well as Indira

SOme suggestions that haven't been suggested yet are (love them or hate them equally) are :
Naomi
Simone
Jacinta
Cleo
Tamsin
Lilia
Juniper
Nola
Calia
Alessandra
Bronwyn?
Samara
Tamara
Saskia
Lucinda
Romilda
Alba
Anita

@Everyone

Ok, if you guys & girls are up for another name game if you have time , lol, here are the
boy names (still fussy on some ) . If you could make 1 sibling set of 3 brothers (or more if you want), which name pairings would you choose?

(my accent pronunciations provided)

Keegan Bleu kee-gihn bloo
Kieran Asher keer-rin
Orion Archer oh-ry-in
Tristan Rafferty tris-tin rah-fer-tee
Troy Bennet
Callum Troy
Cameron Ross
James Easton
Easton Troy
Lucas Reid
Reid Matthew
Larkin Elliot lar-kin eh-lee-it
Brandon Rousseau roo-so
Blaine Finley fin-lee
Blake Caspian cas-pee-in
Heath Sawyer
West Lawson
Asher Nathaniel/West nah-than-ee-yil
River Jude
Luke Malachi mah-luh-kye
Rory Breccan raw-ree breh-kin
Seth Ridley
Lawson Grey
Nolan Heath
Dawson Perry/Alexandre peh-ree
Harper Elijah
Roarke Logan rorke
Rogan Levi roh-gin
Dylan Storm
Lorcan Everest lore-ken
Cassius Balendin cah-see-ihs bah-len-din (i haven't actually checked the mn pronunciations yet, so might be making a major blooper here lol)

Thanks !

37
January 20, 2011 10:28 AM

I wonder if the reason it's a little boy-heavy could be that the more geeky names are a product of a "you pick the boy names and I'll pick the girl names" agreement between mom and dad.

38
By Guest-knp (not verified)
January 20, 2011 10:50 AM

My husband and I love Taran!! (from the series). It is currently our 2nd choice for a boy, but we don't really like its similarity to Taryn (g).

39
January 20, 2011 11:32 AM

larksong-I will second the suggestions of Lucinda and Naomi for ClaireBear. I think Lucinda is perfect because it is easy to pronounce yet uncommon but with a classic easy nn in Lucy.

For your boy combos I like:
#1-Tristan Rafferty (Love this btw!)
Rory Breccan
Blake Caspian

#2-Cameron Ross
James Easton
Lucas Reid
These were the favs of what you had listed, although there were many names I liked and some I would change up. So if you want more ideas let me know.

40
By guestina (not verified)
January 20, 2011 11:36 AM

Haha! I know a Gandolf. The sibling names are quite ordinary and boring.

41
January 20, 2011 12:48 PM

I know a little boy named Tiberius. That's probably the geekiest name I know. My husband and I did, briefly, discuss Giles for our son wondering how many people would associate it with the nerdy (but ultimately ass-kicking) librarian. I love geek names, but could never really settle on doing it to a human child. I did tell my husband that our next boy cat or dog will be named Captain Jack Harkness, and I'd prefer him to be called by his full name. I don't think my husband is quite as keen on Captain Jack Harkness as I am though.

42
By EVie
January 20, 2011 2:21 PM

Elizabeth T. - I love Robin Hobb! I seem to remember that the virtue names in the Farseer books were mostly used for the royalty and nobility. There was also Prince Verity (which is interesting to me because I mostly hear that floated as a girl's name in real life), Lady Patience, and my personal favorite, a girl named Celerity. I don't know that there was any particular significance to the name Molly, except that perhaps that as a very ordinary name, it was meant to contrast with the more fanciful names of the nobility. If you like the Farseer trilogy you should also check out the Liveship Traders trilogy, which takes place in the same world and features some crossover characters. There are some great names in those books, too.

re: Tiberius - do people automatically think this is a reference to Captain Kirk? Having been an ancient history major in college, I think first of the Roman emperor. But maybe that just means I'm a different kind of nerd.

ClaireBear - I actually like Alexandra best of those names, but that's probably not too helpful :) Can you maybe find a nickname for it that's on the more unusual side—Xandra or Andra or Lexa or something other than Alex/Lexi/Allie?

43
By Birgitte (not verified)
January 20, 2011 2:53 PM

Robin Hobb fan here too (just finishing the Liveship books and have got my hubby hooked as well).

My geeky girl name contribution:

If we had had a girl instead of a boy we would have called her Valentina, possibly even Stella Valentina, for the first woman in space. Stella of course means star.

From another favorite SF-series there is the name Altair (g).

44
By Anonymous 9876 (not verified)
January 20, 2011 3:13 PM

I once met a Neo-Carter.

45
By Guest -Robin (not verified)
January 20, 2011 5:16 PM

I think that the reason there are more male "geek" names is because the books, etc. that feature those names are all about men. SciFi about female characters is a sub-genre. There's far fewer well-known sories that focus on women. I can think of a dozen books with great female characters and names, but they are all stories that are written mainly for the smaller subset of female readers.

46
January 20, 2011 6:14 PM

@larksong I'll play your game :) I find your boy style different to your girl style. Many more classic names mixed in with more names I'd normally consider 'your style'. I think lots of us have different styles for each sex.

#1 set:
Heath Sawyer
West Lawson
Roarke Orion (I dislike Logan with a passion so made a substitution here)

#2 set:
Cassius Balendin (lovely to see someone else with Balendin on their list :))
Lorcan Everest
Tristan Rafferty (although I'd be tempted to go Rafferty Tristan with this set).

Lots of good options to play with there, I could make countless sets!

47
January 20, 2011 6:27 PM

Here are some unappoligetically nerdy names for girls that I can think of right now:

Elphaba
Glinda
Kabuki
Xanadu
Galadriel
Cheetara
Nymphadora
Katara
Mononoke

48
January 20, 2011 9:41 PM

Zaphod is all Meerkat Manor to me! I love it and I don't think it's geeky at all.

The same goes for Elphaba (girl)!! <3 and I've always thought that Gandalf was pretty cool. :D

I liked Nymphadora until I saw the HP movie featuring it... definitely a bit geeky! The rest of the names on your list there though, Tina, seem fine to me.

49
By Isabelle (not verified)
January 21, 2011 1:13 AM

I have met a girl named Arwen, who would be in her late twenties or early thirties now, so clearly inspired by the books rather than the films. Three years ago, and in a different part of the country, I also met a woman who named her baby daughter Eowyn.

And I agree with the earlier poster who called "Malcolm Reynolds" an inspired choice!

50
January 21, 2011 9:57 AM

Oh my goodness. For a girl, how could I have forgotten Katniss? Though maybe The Hunger Games is a little too new for it to be truly geeky?

EVie - I automatically think Captain Kirk when I hear Tiberius, and the little Tiber I know is definitely named for Cpt. Kirk.