My son holds up six nearly identical Crayola crayons in his hand and presents them to me one by one.
"What's this one called?" he asks.
"And this one?"
"What about this one?"
"No, Mama! What are their real names?"
Oh, how foolish of me. Have so many decades passed that I have forgotten the utter importance of knowing the given name of each crayon in the 120-count box, how I used to line them up according to the coolness of their names, how desperately I wanted to one day grow up and become the person who bestows such greatness onto the highest level of art a kid can ascend to — crayon art?
I read the names to my son: pine green, forest green, middle green, medium chrome green, maximum green and asparagus.
"Oh," my son said.
"Yeah," I replied, matching his disappointment.
Asparagus, huh? Really captured the essence of a kid with that one, didn't ya?
I take names very seriously. Every time I meet someone who says she decided to name her kid Piper or Mary just because it sounds pretty, I start to hyperventilate. A steady stream of questions leave my mouth in a single breath: "Yes, but there are a lot of pretty names in this world. Is it a family name? Do the initials stand for something? What emotions does the name conjure? What connection do you have to the name? What mental image of your daughter does the name elicit? Why that pretty name?" I don't mind the reason, as long as there is one, but most often I'm met with a shrug and the question, "You don't think (fill in any name here) is pretty?"
That's not the point. But for the record, I do not think the name "medium chrome green" is pretty.
My first job out of college was with a toy and licensing company, for which I came up with dirty bumper stickers that you can still find proudly plastered on the backs of rusted-out pickup trucks down dark, seedy alleys in a town near you! It was the perfect post-degree gig for a creative writing major who had no intention of becoming an adult too soon. Every week, there was something new they wanted me to write: shirt slogans for a bachelorette party, "over the hill" gags, princess keychains. No assignment got me more pumped, however, than when fake street signs were dropped onto my desk. Like my dream of one day naming crayon colors, becoming a street sign scribe was high on my bucket list when I became a creative writing major. Growing up on lackluster Allenhurst — when my neighborhood was otherwise surrounded by strong Native names of Sioux and Seneca — I vowed to never allow another kid to live with the shame of a boring street name. Here, at last, I was given my chance! I would name the streets of the country. I would make a difference in this world!
My boss quickly reminded me that I worked for a novelty toy company, not the government. And rather than have me write anything empowering, he said he really would prefer I write something more along the lines of Bong Boulevard.
It was not the shining moment of my career that I had hoped it would be. That being said, more than a decade later, you can still find my fake street signs in gift shops around the country. You're welcome, America!
When it comes to the name game, it seems that pharmaceutical companies have the right idea. The drug names conjure up feelings of your desired results. Lunesta treats insomnia. The name is a combination of "luna," Latin for "moon," and "siesta," a nap. Heck yeah, I want a moon nap! Because you know what a moon nap is? It's sleep — something every insomniac surely craves. Lunesta is a brilliant name. Much better than Allenhurst or Piper or Mary or any other name that was selected without reason.
I think Crayola needs to up its name game and give children's crayons the names that suit their imagination. "Middle green"? I don't even know what that means. But I do know what "slimy swamp creature green" means. What about "witch's wart green" or "cool caterpillar green" or "grass stain green"?
When the best thing you've got going for you is asparagus, it's time for some self-reflection.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.