The Astrological Book of Baby Names
by Catherine Osbond
Published by Ulysses Press
406 pages, 2002
What’s In A Name? Plenty!
Reviewed by Linda L. Richards
Books aimed at new parents are always popular. After all, parents are a renewable resource: there are fresh ones being made every day. As with all genres, some of these books are simply better than others. Some are must haves, some are OK and some are just plain silly.
The Astrological Book of Baby Names falls easily into this last category. Unless, of course, you're really stuck for an awful name for the new arrival and don't know where to look. Three entries from the possibilities of names for boys born under the sign of Virgo sum things up pretty neatly. Listed here as they appear in the book: Sextus, Sombrero, Spica. I could add: Seriously? (Though that would have to go at the beginning of that particular list.) The Astrological Book of Baby Names could -- perhaps should -- be subtitled: Names For Children Who Will Be Beaten Up On the Playground.
Unconvinced? Try these -- again, as they appear in the book -- under Libran names for boys: Craddock, Culver, Cupid. Or there's the ever popular Moonwart for Cancerian girls or Lagoon and Lapis Lazuli for Sagittarian boys.
The Astrological Book of Baby Names makes me wish I was an elementary school teacher and I had a class filled with children whose parents had made use of this book. Imagine the roll calls, if you can: Pasiphae, Pelagie, Poppaea, Caius, Violante (not that you'd want to be teaching that little girl), Sapphira, Urania, Canace, Fortunatus, Trigg ("Down, Trigg!"), Candida, Alured, Cream, Zenobia... I could go on. And on. And on.
It's possible that some reader somewhere will pass over these words and be deeply offended. Wounded, even. Especially if their name is Poppaea or Canace or Cupid. If so, I'm sorry, but not deeply so. If you were inflicted at birth with such an unfortunate handle, you should make haste and go and find yourself a less offensive moniker: a David or Pam, a Carrie or a Mike. I know there is a case for original names -- and Bruce Willis and Demi Moore have made the case more strongly than many -- but perhaps some of the original name choosing should be left to those who have left childhood behind and don't have to worry about bullies in cloakrooms whispering or on the playground shouting.
Which brings up another point: Does everyone know how to pronounce Lapis Lazuli? Or Benzoin, Aloysius, Ynyr or even the relatively innocuous Aickin? The lack of pronunciation guide in The Astrological Book of Baby Names causes me extra concern: the only thing more pathetic than a child with a really bad name is a child with a really bad name he or she can't even pronounce.
Thus far, I have been poking a bit of fun at The Astrological Book of Baby Names and, in some ways, that's not very nice of me. (Just thinking about school yard bullies has brought it out, I guess.) In truth, author Catherine Osbond must have gone to a great deal of trouble to put together a book with this many ridiculous names and then grouping them in order of relevance for star signs. It boggles the mind.
In truth, if you have even a passing interest in astrology and a baby, The Astrological Book of Baby Names will provide the type of fun that new parents so crave: thinking about everything to do with baby. In this case, the characteristics of your baby as determined by the stars. Each chapter is a sign and each sign begins with the characteristics, connections and general personality considerations of very young people born under that star. And then the lists of names and names and names. And, truly, not all of those included are as idiotic as those I've included here. The more everyday names are here, as well: just overshadowed by the long lists of otherworldly possibilities.
The Astrological Book of Baby Names will be fun for new parents with an interest in astrology and should also -- and I'm completely serious here -- be quite helpful if you're naming a dog. Sit, Remus! Good boy. | July 2002
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel will be published early in 2008 by St. Martin's Minotaur.