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Some Parents Go Bonkers For Odd Baby Monikers

Tamie Ross Published: February 2, 1997

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Kokain Mothershed thinks his father must have been on drugs when he named him.

Check his birth certificate, and you'll find only that first and last name. Ouch. It's real, all right.

But why in the world would anyone name their child after an illegal substance?

"Well, that's a real good question," the 17-year-old from Oklahoma City said. "I'm just glad (my dad's) in recovery now."

The Douglass High School junior quarterback is as quick on his feet as he is in the pocket. He's already looking at colleges and wants to study computer science.

And he hasn't let the drug connection ruin his life, he said, even though he can't escape the image.

"I've got a cousin. Her name is Marijuana," Kokain said. "But I don't see her much. She's locked up now."

Then there's Alaska - Alaska Earl Jones II, that is. His family's from Texas. He was born in North Carolina. Now he lives in Tulsa.

Alaska isn't baked. He doesn't live in an igloo or have a husky. The 17-year-old does have two cousins from warmer climes, though: Kenya and Africa.

Do Kokain and Alaska like their names?

"I sure do," Kokain said. "I think it's cool."

"I like mine because it's different," Alaska said.

But would they name their children similarly?

"There's no way I'd do this to a kid," Kokain said.

The teens are part of a new generation, one whose name has yet to be decided - literally.

For the past 20 or so years - and especially the last five - some parents have tossed aside tradition and embraced the eccentric as far as baby names go, said Albert Mehrabian, a psychology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The result: a lot of young people with really offbeat names.

Enter Mehrabian, who for a fee will advise expectant parents on selecting the perfect name for their unborn child.

In the late 1980s, Mehrabian and other researchers approached about 3,000 people with names both ordinary and unusual. Their mission: to learn how the public responded if given only a name and sex of a person.

"Impressions are everything," Mehrabian said. "First impressions ... are the longest lasting and most powerful."

From those first reactions to the names, he compiled overall impressions of many monikers and has used that information to advise name seekers and name changers. He's also written a book, "The Name Game: The Decision That Lasts a Lifetime," and has had several journal articles published on the psychological effects of names.

"Names are made up of sounds, and sounds have different connotations," he said. "These sounds can be appealing or not, and it can only be one letter's difference in some cases."

For example, Mehrabian said, names that start with K and J are associated with people who are cheerful and popular, where L and M names are more likely to convey warmth.

But common names with spelling variations are trouble, he said. "Parents make a big mistake there ... that is a negative association for the child its whole life."

Likewise, strange or offbeat names given in infancy often mean a less successful adult, Mehrabian said.

"Think about it from the standpoint of the public," he said. "How are people going to react to your child later if you're self-centered and emotional about its name?"

That answer is an easy one for Butch Myers, 52. He's proud of the rodeo names he helped pick for his three children and said they've suited them well in adulthood.

His son Rope is 27. Daughter Tygh (pronounced tie) is 24. And younger son Cash is 16.

If Butch Myers' name sounds familiar, it may be because he's a champion steer wrestler. Or maybe it's because his nephew is Ty Murray, probably one of rodeo's most famous cowboys.

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