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PARENTS WHO BESTOW UNIQUE NAMES ON KIDS ARE DOING THEM A FAVOR

Being named Moon Unit Zappa has its advantages. Just ask all the Dave Johnsons, Steve Smiths and Dave Andersons in the world.

Parents who give children unique names take a lot of criticism, but names are supposed to make people unique. If not, we'd all be named Watts A. McAllit. Most who give unique names are just trying to be clever, but they're unknowingly sparing their children a lot of grief. A common name can cause embarrassment, heartache, confusion and monetary loss.Many have read the evening newspaper (a few the morning newspaper) to discover that they're a child molester, or that someone with the same name is. Nonetheless, the damage is done, and they have a lot of explaining to do at work the next day.

A sheriff's deputy showed up one day on my friend's porch with a warrant for his arrest. Apparently, someone with the same name had failed to pay a traffic ticket. Also, the person somehow got hold of my friend's credit records and was using his Social Security number to obtain loans.

We all get telephone calls from people who think we're someone else. We get calls in our office all the time for Brooke Shields. We think they're looking for our boss, Brooke Adams, because Miss Shields has not been in to visit me for at least a year.

Brooke, my boss, once called the director of a movie being filmed in Provo to request a pass for our photographer. The director was glad to hear from her until she found out she wasn't Brooke Adams, the famous actress. Even movie critic Chris Hicks hasn't figured that out yet.

I thought my name was somewhat unique until last year. I was interviewing a couple from St. George and they started laughing when I introduced myself. I checked my fly and asked "what's so funny?" They said St. George's police chief is named Jim Rayburn.

My real name is James, which has caused me even more grief. Two years ago I received several calls from banks and individuals who had been stiffed by an appliance repairman named James Rayburn. It took me months to convince them that I know nothing about washing machines and that I didn't owe them $50,000.

I would like to see a national computer system that automatically issues each person a Social Security number at the time of birth. People would go by the number until the age of 10 and then they could name themselves. We'd use nicknames except we'd have too many Bubbas. When people turn 18 they could change their name if they don't like it. This system would give people a chance to be who they want to be and benefit those who have sex change operations.

Until this system is set up, however, I suggest following another guideline. If your child's kindergarten teacher can correctly pronounce his or her name during the first week of school, the name should be changed. This would eliminate any confusion before it starts.

Don't think using initials will solve the problem either. In the Utah County telephone book I found three M. Johnsons, three M.S. Johnsons, two M.B. Johnsons, and an M.J. and M.M. Johnson. If you're going to use initials, add a number. I hope to find a Z. 93 Johnson listed in the 2010 directory.

Now that I've given my advice, I must confess that I have not followed it. When naming my children I succumbed to pressure from relatives and friends. I wanted to name my son Phly or Seve. Instead, my wife and I named him Jesse James. He's destined to be an outlaw and go down in history as a legend - and it's our fault.

By the way, if you think I'm silly, I don't know that James Rayburn listed in the telephone book.

(Jim Rayburn, Springville, is a staff writer in the Deseret News' Utah County bureau.)