I do not know much about the Kardashians, nor do I state this fact with any snobbishness. Like Manitoba and spoons, they have simply never aroused in me a feeling of curiosity. But the Kardashians do many things, and I am bound to hear of them; and these things, in seeming odd, inform me of my principles. On what principle do I oppose Chicago West, the name given by Kanye West and Kim Kardashian to their daughter Chicago West?
Is it because the name is grandiose, Chicago being an important city? No, for grandiosity is no mark against a name. We are most of us called after saints, heroes, and virtues. Our parents were not claiming these things but giving us to them. Chicago honors Chicago, not the other way round. Is it that the name is new, Chicago not being a typical name? No, all names were originally new. Do I dislike the city of Chicago? Not really.
The issue lies not with the name itself, but with its relation to other names. Chicago’s sister is named North. (Her brother is named Saint.) Now, imagine that you were named Ruth and your sister were named Bible. Or imagine that you were named Faith and your brother were named Qualities. Or Spoon and Drawer. In all cases, your parents would seem to be stipulating a conceptual hierarchy between the two of you. And this hierarchy, I am able to see today, is problematic.
Chicago is located in her older sister’s hemisphere, in her America, and in her part of Illinois. She lies on a lower ontological plane. If ever I have children, their names will denote conceptual equals: Isaac and Sarah; Charity, Faith, and Hope; Africa and Asia; Dopey and Sneezy; Ruth, Josh, Esther, Daniel, and 2 Chronicles; Abbott and his sister Costella. Sure, Chicago has upsides: It is absurd but not precious, in the way similarly majestic celebrity child names can be; it is unusual but legible; “I am Chicago” has a nice ring to it. But how will Chicago ever individuate herself from North? North is the main way to get to her, from most places on Earth.