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The name game
January 13, 2009 - Bill Ackerbauer
A number of people scratched their heads and said "huh?" upon reading an unusual name that appeared in a photo caption in Monday's paper. The picture showed young Yxlphrm Burke, age 6, polishing his reading skills with a phonics game on a computer at the Gloversville Public Library.
You've got to love the irony: Phonics, of course, involves learning to read by sounding out the letters of words. Perhaps this kid is a genius when it comes to phonics ... several people asked me if I know how to pronounce his name, which contains only one vowel (and it's a part-timer, at that).
If I had to guess, I'd say it's pronounced "icks-uhl-frim." Quite a mouthful. The name reminds me of Mr. Mxyzptlk, who was one of Superman's otherworldly enemies in the old DC comic books. That character's name was pronounced "micks-uhl-plick," or something along those lines.
I'm going to give young master Burke the benefit of the doubt and assume he was not named by fictional supervillians from the fifth dimension. Perhaps his parents wanted to do him the favor of making his name utterly unique and unforgettable. I checked on Google -- it really is unique. It's sort of a conversation piece he'll carry with him his whole life.
All the comments I've heard about Yxlphrm's name have got me thinking about the significance of names and what an awesome responsibility parents have when it comes to naming a child. I'm reminded of the idiots in New Jersey who named their son "Adolf Hitler" and other goons who have sold the naming rights for their children to the highest bidder. Yxlphrm can be glad his name is not "Diet Pepsi Burke," I suppose. And I'm pretty sure the Internet domain name www.yxlphrm.com isn't taken yet, which appears to be the concern of some parents, as this story describes.
When my wife and I were considering names for our two sons, we agreed to pick names more unusual than our own, the yoemanlike Jennifer and Bill. We also selected names that had some personal significance that Liam and Carter might appreciate as they grow more curious about their origins. Thankfully, when they ask "why did you give me the name you gave me?" we'll have better answers than "because it sounded nice" or "because your mother went into labor during happy hour, and the bartender seemed like a nice guy."
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The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan This photo of Yxlphrm appeared in Monday's paper.