BIOG: NAME: UPD: 19970205 -TEXT-
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.
All three younger Myers compete in steer wrestling and calf roping.
And it seems they've spawned a whole new generation of cowpokes.
"I've met a bunch of people who tell me they saw my kids' names ... and named their kids the same thing," said Butch Myers, who lives in Athens, Texas. "We were in Houston last year, and a woman told me she named her oldest son Rope and her daughter Tygh. They didn't have any more kids after that, so they named their dog Cash."
Mehrabian isn't laughing, though.
"A name serves a purpose, it isn't a comical thing," he said. "A name sets a person apart, so that it differentiates us from others. When it's too different, though, it can have a disastrous effect."
His advice: Choose a name that will suit an adult as well as a baby, one that isn't on the most popular or unpopular list. Consider possible nickname and first-and-last-name combinations, too, so annoying taunts aren't obvious.
Kids with odd names are more prone to violence, he said.
Mehrabian hasn't done research on this, he but thinks kids with names like Tortellini or Bulldog probably spend a lot of time slugging at Dylan and Christopher during recess.
"That was me," Kokain said. "I spent most of my childhood fighting.
"Somebody would ask me if my mom was strung out on drugs when she had me, and I'd blow up. Now that I'm all grown up, though, I just think they're jealous. They'd like to have my name and they can't."
You can be sure that Kokain's heard all the jokes about his name and endured the terrible nicknames, too.
"Crack," he said. "That's the one I hear the most."
Kokain's teammates, twins Omorrio and Omorrie Franklin, 17, have a different problem. People get them confused, at least on paper.
In person, the two say they're very different, though.
"I'm Little, and he's Fat," Omorrio said. "My mom even calls us that."
Omorrie said he's known at school by his middle name, Dante, just so teachers don't need trifocals to tell the twins' names apart on roll sheets.
Oh, and add yet another unusual name to the Trojans' roster: Simon Debra Owusu. Let's just say this junior kicker doesn't offer his middle name unless asked.
Don't forget coach Dinky Cooper. Christened long before birth, this 375-pound defensive line coach never fails to raise a few eyebrows when he's introduced with the coaching staff - or when he writes a check at his neighborhood grocery store.
Cooper's the first to admit that as a team, Douglass is pretty intimidating - at least in the name department. When the team visits other stadiums, some announcers don't even attempt the first names, especially Kokain's.
But others say they get compliments, rather than complaints, about their unusual names.
Such is the case with sisters Sierra and Montana Mann of Moore. Their parents, Karen and Rodney Mann, chose the girls' names from the mountain region of the United States where Karen was born.
With a third daughter expected sometime in April, the Manns are busy these days checking the atlas.
Karen Mann's favorite name choice is Cheyenne, while Rodney Mann likes Mesa.
Alaska Jones can relate and may someday sympathize with the Mann sisters.
"I've been called every 'A' name in the book," said the teen, whose friends call him Alabama.
But because he's named after his beloved grandfather, he wouldn't dream of changing his name.
"Having a name like this definitely sets me apart," Alaska said.
"People sure don't have to ask what my last name is to know who I am."Archive ID: 676781