My kid is named Brooks Robinson Streeter-Zervitz, so you know I’m partial to a Charm City-related moniker. So an adorable baby actually called Charm? Yaaass.
When Mayor Brandon Scott and his fiancee Hana Pugh announced the impending birth of their first child, they referred to their prospective bundle of joy as Baby Charm. I assumed it was a sweet play on the Baltimore’s nickname Charm City, as well as a placeholder for their actual name. I assumed wrong. Charm Jamie Scott, the first baby, was born late last month, adorable, healthy and with a fairly unusual and incredibly appropriate moniker.
“Your first act as a parent is to name your child, ” said Malcolm Drewery, associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Morgan State University. “I like it. It’s literally Charm’s city.”
Yes! As a Baltimore native who moved back home to raise my Orioles-named child, and who now gets to tell the tales of my town as a full-time job, I’m completely in love with wearing civic and geographical pride on your chest and your birth certificate. Scott and Pugh have said they were inspired by the Charm City Live festival, where they met.
Geographical names are common, relating to the place where the child’s family is from and where they were born or conceived. That last one always makes me uneasy, because if there’s one thing I don’t want to think about every time I sign a tax form is my own conception.
Both Drewery and his Morgan colleague Ida Jones, associate director of special collections and university archivist, explained that names are, in some cases, a projection of the parents’ intentions for this new little life.
“The city is supposed to be the Charm City, and this can be a man who will be charming as well. Speaking over your child is very much an African American tradition,” Jones said, a way of reclaiming tribal practices after centuries as enslaved people who were literally unable to chose our own names. “That name can be an aspiration, a trait we want to see you grow into. The idea that words have power to manifest themselves can give a sense of presence, even when we can’t quantify it.”
Because Charm’s parents are public figures, there’s been a lot of talk about his name in the Baltimore-specific corners of X, formerly known as Twitter. Some posters find it, well, charming, while some have expressed concern that kids will make fun of him in school . Candice Mitchell, a therapist, frequent local poster and fan of the name for the “super cute” baby, quipped that it obviously meant that the mayor is “counting on reelection, I see.”
I can’t predict the likelihood of teasing in Charm’s future, although kids can come up with any random reason they want to if they want to make fun of you. I think the name is creative and obviously meaningful, although, like Mitchell, I wonder if Scott would have picked it if he thought it might be tied to a town that voted him out of office. (Not that I am predicting that or anything.) I’m petty. If it were me and I lost, I’d be filing that paperwork to change the kid’s name to Towson or Bethesda the very next morning.
The uniqueness of the name also reminded me of celebrity baby traditions, which seem to favor the nontraditional. Behold little Riot Rose Mayer, son of Rihanna and A$AP Rocky, and Tau Techno Mechanicus, son of Grimes and X czar Elon Musk, because rich people don’t care what poor people think about their lives. I think little Tau’s career prospects are probably pretty solid.
For those of us who aren’t gazillionaires, we do think about whether the names we chose for our children will set them up for a bright future. Drewery said he gave his daughter’s gender-neutral names “on purpose, so you can’t tell by looking at a resume if they’re a boy or a girl, because society equates men as having more success.”
Studies have shown that male names, as well as those perceived as Eurocentric, often get more positive attention on those resumes. Drewery noted that trends can be generational. Black kids in the 60s and 70s might have had “more ethnic names, like Tyrone or Deshawn or Demarcus, but in the ’80s and ’90s as we moved more into the middle class, we tended to not have those ethnic names.”
Then again, I’m excited to see a Supreme Court Justice named Ketanji, a U.S. Representative named Jasmine or even a president named Barack, all undeniably Black-sounding. “Many people change their names to make them less ethnic, but nowadays you see it change back, with people going back to their roots,” Drewery said.
It’s hard to say what Baby Charm’s future is, because he’s a week old and doesn’t yet understand that he has toes, let alone what to answer to. All we can do, like the ancestors or even the nice fairies in Sleeping Beauty, is to speak a good, bountiful and happy future over him, as fellow travelers in this city we hope he comes to love. It’s a lot of name. I can’t wait to see what he does with it.