When billionaire Elon Musk and his partner, the Canadian singer known as Grimes, announced the name of their new baby, everyone’s first question was – “How do you pronounce it?”
X Æ A-12 Musk will have to do a lot of explaining when she gets older, and so far there’s not been any help from the parents about pronunciation, though there has been some Twitter talk about the meaning of the name.
Grimes, real name Claire Boucher, explained the name to her Twitter fans like this:
X, the unknown variable ⚔️
Æ, my elven spelling of Ai (love &/or Artificial intelligence)
A-12 = precursor to SR-17 (our favorite aircraft). No weapons, no defenses, just speed. Great in battle, but non-violent
(A=Archangel, my favorite song)
(⚔️🐁 metal rat)
So we hope that makes everything clear.
Æ is a ‘ligature’ of the letters ‘a’ and ‘e’ known as ‘ash’, appeared in Latin and Old English and is now mostly out of use in English, though it does still appear in Danish, Norwegian and Icelandic. The singer has used Æ before, naming a song on her latest album 4ÆM.
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The A-12 is a Lockheed jet built for the CIA. It was known by designers during its development as Archangel, and later developed into the high-speed, high-altitude stealth spyplane the SR-71 Blackbird (not SR-17 as Grimes tweets).
Grimes also claims that Archangel is her favourite song but does not explain who the song is by.
So far the best bet for pronunciation of the baby’s name is “X Ash Archangel”, but that hasn’t been confirmed.
So is this the weirdest celebrity baby name ever, and is it a good idea to give your child such a distinctive name?
In some territories, the authorities have very strict regulations about names (often because anything too unconventional can’t be recorded on official data systems). In California, where it’s believed little X Æ A-12 may have been born, rules state that no pictographs, ideograms or diacritical marks (such as è, ñ, ē, ç) can be used when registering a birth.
But that’s not the only territory where names have fallen foul of the authorities.
- In New Zealand, the name 4Real was banned because names cannot start with a number.
- Officials in Sweden objected to children being named Metallica, Ikea and Lego
- Other Swedish parents complained against the strict naming laws by calling their baby Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 – pronounced Albin.
- A judge in France refused to accept the name Nutella
- Kim Kardashian and Kanye West called their second child Saint, but the name was rejected three times in authorities in New Zealand. They also rejected ‘III‘, ‘King‘ and “.“, pronounced “Fullstop“.
- Japanese parents were banned from calling their child Akuma, or ‘Devil‘.
- Names rejected in Mexico included Robocop, Scrotum and Facebook
- There’s no letter ‘C’ in the Icelandic language, so even the mayor of Rejkjavik couldn’t call his baby Camilla.
- Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii – that’s one name – complained about her name in a family court hearing at the age of 9, and the judge agreed with her so strongly that her parents lost custody of the girl, who changed her name.
But celebrities seem to think they can get away with practically anything, and in fact seem to compete for the most outrageous names, including:
- Actor Jason Lee’s son, Pilot Inspektor
- Magician Penn Jillette’s son and daughter, Moxie CrimeFighter and Zolten
- Singer Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz’s son, Bronx Mowgli
- Musician Frank Zappa’s children, Moon Unit, Diva, Dweezil and Ahmet
- Singer John Mellencamp’s son, Speck Wildhorse
- Actress Shannyn Sossamon’s son, Audio Science
- Actor Nicolas Cage’s son, Kal-El (yes, the Kryptonian name of Superman)
So is it a good idea to give your children outrageously unusual names, or will it lead to a lifetime of bullying, confusion and mis-filed tax returns? Writer Phoenicia Hebebe Dobson-Mouawad – no, she’s not kidding – suggests the following guidelines based on her own life experience:
- Have you heard the name before? If not, no one else will have.
- Can you pronounce it without having to look it up?
- Avoid hyphens unless both names are easily pronounceable.
- Can a child of primary school age say it?
- Remember that your child’s name should chosen to make them happy, not to prove how cool and creative you are
The alternative is that you could pay Swiss agency Erfolgswelle around £22,000 to create a unique baby name just for you – maybe something catchy and melodious, like Erfolgswelle?