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With a last name like mine, I am in no position to cast the first stone at unusual names assigned to others. But in the case of the name selected for their newborn son by Elon Musk and his partner, Grimes, I may make an exception.

I think it’s possible that a kid with a billionaire father who builds Teslas and space ships and a mom who has created a name for herself (Grimes, as it turns out) as a producer and performer of cutting-edge music will have more than enough attention coming his way as he moves through childhood.

Having a one-word name that contains numbers, a punctuation mark, and a pair of run-together letters called a digraph — unavailable on most modern keyboards — will make his already elevated profile go stratospheric.

The handle Musk and Grimes, birth-name Claire Boucher, came up with for their kid who was born earlier this month is X Æ A-12. The “A” and “E” are merged in the fashion of early spellings of “aeroplane” or “Aesop’s Fables” and, according to Grimes’ Twitter account, represent “artificial intelligence and/or love.” The A-12 part of the name is a tribute to the Lockheed A-12 “Oxcart” spy plane, an aircraft designed to literally fly faster than a speeding bullet at Mach 3.2, at altitudes up to 90,000 feet.

No matter how it’s spelled or pronounced (Dad says X Ash A-Twelve and Mom says X A-I A-Twelve), the name is bound to make life more difficult for the boy over the years.

Maybe the name was created to build character. When mocked by his peers, the kid will either be forced to stand up for himself or to develop a zen-like indifference to such mockery.

In “A Boy Named Sue,” a song from the 1960s made famous by Johnny Cash, a rambling, gambling father gave his son the unconventional name to help him survive “in a world that gets rough, where you’ve got to be tough.”

When the title character of the song attains adulthood and encounters his vagabond dad in a Tennessee bar, he acknowledges the value being assigned the name — after first beating his father half to death in a bar fight.

And like the Boy named Sue in the song, the Musk-Grimes offspring may well conclude that if he ever has a son, “I’m gonna name him Bill, or George, or anything but X Æ A-12!”

Meanwhile, chances are good that at least some babies born during the COVID-19 pandemic will be given names more reflective of the times than the Liams and Emmas assigned to newborns last year.

In the avant garde category, naming a baby of either gender N95 would conjure up images of security and practicality. For boys, the name Fauci carries with it tones of wisdom and courage.

But my prediction for the most popular baby names of 2020 can be traced to the rarest and most sought-after items of the year. Look for Cottonelle to make it to the Top 100 popular names list for girls, with Scott making an appearance on the boys’ chart.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.