Will my child spend his life associated with a certain former New York governor?

By James Warren

  

Eliot Warren arrived Friday morning. Perhaps reminding us of the dichotomy between science and mystery, the obstetrician's prediction on weight was off by nearly three pounds. He figured a distinctly light bundle but what came into our lives was nine pounds, ten ounces, and a Shaquille O'Neal-like 23 inches.

 

My wife, Cornelia, and I (but mostly me) probably erred by focus-grouping the name with friends. I had a total aversion to anything on that annual list of favorites published again recently by the government. No Jacob for us. Our five-year-old son, a "Batman" obsessive and clearly a Chicago native when it comes to politics, lobbied for Bruce Wayne Barack Obama Warren.

 

And while our preference generally drew warm responses, there were the few raised eyebrows.

 

 

"Kind of Ivy League, no?" said a female Washington television reporter friend. That preyed on many underlying fears; a name associated with a cerebral snoot who gets his glasses broken, rather than getting the girl.

 

I also feared consigning someone to spend his life correcting others on the spelling of his own name. Whichever way we went---Eliot, Elliot or Elliott---he'd face the same challenge. I just hope that future TSA workers at airports, or cops pulling him over while driving in college, don't immediately assume something nefarious if official documents somehow get it wrong, too.

 

There's no shortage of people who've brought up former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, with a simultaneous raising of eyebrows. I worried about that briefly, then realized the benefits of a culture so deeply ignorant of its own history. And though I do hope Spitzer's future deeds overwhelm his miscues, that inattention will lessen my anxiety even if they don't.

 

Ask most high school kids about Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, even Bill Clinton, and you get a deer-in-the-headlights-look. The dismal state of civics instruction works in our favor on this score.

 

After I told her the big news, an NBC producer in Chicago reminded me Friday night that there was also Eliot Ness, the crime fighter. That was reassuring since I suspect the Ness legend will outlive Spitzer's notoriety.

 

And then there's the reality, only disclosed by a good friend the night before the birth, that he would share a birthday with none other than the late Richard J. Daley, the quintessential big-city political machine boss. That's especially reaffirming.

 

With or without an Ivy education, he may not wind up overseeing thousands of cops, firefighters, patronage workers, lapdog ward committeemen and snow plows.

 

 But if he proves to be tough, stubborn and shrewd, like "The Boss" of political lore, his parents could have done worse. Eliot, new love of my life, good luck.

 

 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2009/05/will-my-child-spend-his-life-associated-with-a-certain-former-new-york-governor/17674/