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Does My Son Need a Secret Identity?

When choosing names for our first child, my husband and I had no problems. We both loved the name Christian Grant. We also both love the idea of giving our unborn second child a name that is related to a comic book character (a superhero, preferably). We found out that Superman's birth name is Kal-El, and Nic Cage gave his son that name. I personally think flat-out calling our son Kal-El is a bit much, so is there a way we can make it less dramatic and more...common?
- Not Superman's Mom

So, you want a mild-mannered alter ego to help super-powered Kal-El fit in with the common folk. Isn't that the same situation Ma and Pa Kent were in when they named Clark?

Your super-name dilemma is a little trickier, though. The Kents were focused on assimilation: hiding young Kal-El's Kryptonian ethnicity so that he would be taken for an All-American boy. You want to celebrate Kal-El's otherworldly style, just in a toned-down way.

Another difference from the Kent family is that Clark was an only child. You've already given your first son a name of classic, elegant reserve. Choosing a whiz-bang superhero name for his brother is a 180-degree style shift that either boy could end up resenting. Sibling names don't have to "match," but they should seem fair, and not suggest that you have different expectations of your kids.

Fortunately, a compromise should be possible. There are several ways you could call your son Kal-El without committing to the actual super-name on his birth certificate. The simplest is to merge the hyphenated name into Kalel. You could also break it into first and middle name: Kal El Smith, who could choose to go by Kal.

If those options don’t fill out the name enough for your tastes, you could expand to a more traditional first-middle pair that shortens to Kal El. For instance, Kaleb Eli looks like a natural brother for a Christian Grant. (The traditional spelling Caleb, or other C names like Calvin, would look even better. If you want people to call him Kal-El, though, you’ll have an easier time starting with a K name.) Alternately, you could just make Kal-El your nickname of choice for any name with a "Kal" in it. And of course, there’s always Clark.

The approach you choose depends on how you weigh the competing values of sticking close to Kal-El, making the name easy to read and pronounce, and fitting in with your eldest son's name. But if you want this Name Lady's vote...Kaleb Eli, called Kal-El, is a pretty slick secret identity for a 21st Century superbaby.


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August 6, 2013 11:57 AM
By With an "e" (not verified)

I don't get the contrast--Christian Grant is very very classy, then the little bro is Wonderwowzie Zookiepop. Stay classy--it will never be dated or unstylish. Don't piddle with spelling either. Caleb Elihu is unusual and gives the Cal-El (hopefully to go along with Chri-Gra).

August 6, 2013 12:05 PM
By AngelaAiea (not verified)

Or use Kal/Cal as a first name, and have a middle name that starts with an L. He'd be "Kal L. LastName".

August 6, 2013 12:11 PM
By Cabo (not verified)

Other options if you don't like Kaleb are Kallum or Kalvin. Besides Eli you could use Elliot or Ellery or Elias or Elijah ...

August 6, 2013 12:14 PM
By AngelaAiea (not verified)

Also, there are other superheroes with less unusual names.

Batman = Bruce Wayne
Spiderman = Peter Parker
IronMan = Tony Stark
Mr. Fantastic = Reed Richards
Professor X = Charles Francis Xavier
6 Million Dollar Man = Steve Austin
Daredevil = Matthew Michael Murdock
Hulk = Robert Bruce Banner
Aquaman = Orin/Arthur Curry
Captain America = Steven Rogers
Cyclops = Scott Summers
Green Lantern = Hal Jordan (among others)

Or if you have a girl:

Black Widow = Natalia Allanovna Romanova
Pepper Potts = Virginia Potts
Rogue = Anna Marie
Wonder Woman = Princess Diana of Themyscira

August 6, 2013 12:32 PM
By Keith G (not verified)

As a teacher, I taught a set of kids whose last name was Batman. Not Bateman, as I had assumed it was, but with an amusing typo…but Batman.

I figured that they got all kinds of comments about their last name, but when I talked to their father at a parent conference, it got even more amusing…you see, he had an uncle out in Indiana whose name was…and I kid you not…Bruce Wayne Batman.

He was born in 1920, and he came first!

August 6, 2013 12:49 PM
By Maranda (not verified)

I like the Name Lady's suggestion (using whatever K and E names appeal to you). Another option is a second name of Kal-El. You can call him that full time, or keep it as a family nickname.

I am all over superhero/comic inspired names, but think you need to tread carefully when you already have one child with a very conventional name.

August 6, 2013 1:43 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

A superhero, really? This is the name your child will carry into adulthood - and you'll be responsible for it. Think again before you saddle your child with a "cutesy" name he will have to explain every time he introduces himself. AND just imagine if he becomes the CEO of a large corporation - or even the President of the United States - someday. I don't think you'd want the world to remember President Kal-El (Last Name) in the history books.

August 6, 2013 5:17 PM
By Sally Odgers (not verified)

Batman doesn't raise an eyebrow in Victoria and Tasmania. One of our Founding Fathers was John Batman (1801–39) who, with John Pascoe Fawkner provide the name of the Batman Fawkner Inn (and the Batman Bridge over the Tamar River). Of course a batman was (is?) an army servant. Incidentally, both men were the sons of convicts, which makes it interesting that the captcha I had to type into this site was sficiesa convicts!

August 6, 2013 5:31 PM
By Seasoncolor (not verified)

I have a friend who has twin boys named Peter and Clark, as in Spiderman and Superman. I love that it pays homage to something they love as a couple, it's something their kids can have fun with, and yet they still have strong, classic names at the end of the day.

August 6, 2013 9:17 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Anonymous @1:43 PM, she is asking for a way to spin Kal-El into a more known name.

Kalib seems to me an obvious choice.
Though I think if you remove the hyphen and make it Kalel, it looks fine.

August 6, 2013 9:46 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with Name Lady on this one. Not so much because of the sibling combination but I think you should give your kid a name that can follow them through adulthood and this will be a tough one.

It also got me thinking I would love to know what they decide on. I usually hate follow ups for advice columns but I would love to hear some follow ups from name lady, if she does get them that is.

August 7, 2013 12:17 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I would stay away from anything like Kalel or Kal-El. Superman is always returning to the theater, and one day the name could cause problems (either as something to live up to or as a teasing point). Everybody I know makes fun of Nicholas Cage for naming his son Kal-El.

I like Calvin Elliot, personally. It's classic and rolls off the tongue. And the Kal-El is still there, but secret the way a secret identity should be. It won't traumatize the older brother who will feel left out for not getting a secret of his own (and I recommend finding a way to make up for this). And it fits in with the brother's name nicely.

I'm pretty open to unconventional names and spellings, but I also prefer to be fair with siblings. That's more important at the end of the day. They have to live with each other and one day they'll be grown-up and will need that relationship to tie them together as a family. Pushing them apart from the beginning seems like a bad idea. One day when they're adults they'll commiserate over the silly things that their parents say and do (don't we all do that with our siblings?). Let them have it.

August 7, 2013 1:01 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I like Name Lady's suggestion of something like Kaleb Eli, with Kal-el as a "secret"nickname.

I also really like the idea of Clark or Kent. They could work as first names, but I think they make an even better fit as a middle because they mirror the snappy/simple feel of Grant.

August 29, 2013 5:28 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Names can have such far-reaching effects. Best to give the child a normal name, the less it rhymes with or can be made embarrassing, the better. Be prepared for any nicknames that develop in childhood to fade away.

If the child absolutely hates the name you give him/her - be gracious & once the child settles on a substitute, help with the name change.

Don't give your child a name that will invite misery into the kid's life - and if despite your best efforts, the name you choose at birth makes the child miserable, make one more best effort and help the child get a name the child can live with.

September 5, 2013 7:17 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with the Name Lady and with a lot of previous posters. Even with a compromise though... I constantly see Kal-El on lists of "Weirdest/Worst Celebrity Baby Names." I wouldn't even want Kal-El as a hidden name seeing as it's consistently mocked.

September 11, 2013 12:16 AM
By dennisscott819 (not verified)

In some point you might not need one. Can you also read about

September 11, 2013 4:05 PM
By Melissa (not verified)

I'd go with something like Calvin Leo. If you shorten the name to his nickname and just the middle initial, you would get "Cal L." It could be a nice homage to the man of steel without all the extra baggage.

September 29, 2013 9:04 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

What if you just took 2 names from different Parker Jordan(from Hal Jordan and Peter Parker). Jordan Parker could be for a girl or boy.

I also like Kalvin Elliot (or Elias, Elijah, etc) to get the Kal-El connection.

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