Sorry About That, Suri


The Daily News' Ethan Sacks (hmm) gives two thumbs down on the name that Tom Cruise and the current-future-missus have named their daughter. Turns out that the Persians and the Hebrews both scoff at the language skills of the America's Scientological sweethearts:

Cruise and his fiancee Katie Holmes named the girl Suri, which Cruise's publicist explained means princess in Hebrew and red rose in Persian or Farsi. Wrong on both counts.

"I think it is a mistake," said Prof. Hooshang Amirahmadi, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University. "In Farsi, it means red, like a fiery color, but there is no such a thing as a 'suri' that means 'red rose,' I can promise you that," said Amirahmadi. He added that the word also can mean "a party or celebration."

In Israel, there was similar confusion.

"Nobody here has ever really heard of it," an announcer on Israel's Army Radio said yesterday.

Avshalom Kor, an expert on the intricacies of the Hebrew language, told Army Radio there is a tenuous connection. Kor said Suri is a nickname for Sarah as pronounced by Jews from Central Europe.

In ancient Hebrew, Sarah is the feminine form of the word for lord. "We seem to have learned a new Hebrew word—and from Tom Cruise, no less," said a Channel 2 TV anchorman.

Whole story here.

Suri not in top 1,000 most popular baby names, according to searchable Social Security database funded by your payroll taxes here.

Whatever happened to the good old days when American aristocracy classily named their kids after plants and stock returns?

Silly name generator here. (And, despite the efforts of the nametarians at, there are only silly names that eventually became normalized with time, money, and suspension of disbelief.)

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  1. “a party or celebration.”

    I wonder if that’s where Laura Nyro got suri down to a stoned soul picnic…?

  2. I wonder if they make infant-sized straightjackets? It would make an excellent shower gift to the new mother.

  3. Personally, I don’t know what all the fuss is about.

  4. If she ever co-stars with her dad in a remake of “Oklahoma!” she’ll be a Suri With The Fringe On Top.

  5. I love it. Now, she needs to start using grossly inappropriate kanji characters to sign her name.

  6. People here old enough to remember that TV series “V”?

    Rember that scene where the alien baby comes out of the womb? I sorta see the Suri birth being like that.

    I’m sorry.. my thetans are making me glib.

  7. I hope a dingo eats their babies.
    Then it will be newsworthy.

  8. Ugh. Bad baby names are something of a hobby of mine. I grew up in a small town in the 1970’s, where half the kids went to college and half hired babysitters for the graduation ceremony. Believe me, Suri has lots of company at the other end of the social scale. One classmate named her oldest son “Denim John,” making me think he’s going to grow up to talk like Gabby Hayes.

    Names that almost require a report to Child Protective Services aren’t confined to the trailer parks and certain ZIP codes in Beverly Hills, either. One of my older son’s preschool classmates was named “Boulder,” after the city in Colorado where he was concieved. His mother told me that, when I met her. (Boulder’s nickname among the other parents was ‘Hannibal,’ as in ‘Lecter.’ The kid had issues.)

    Thus, my best friend and I came up with the following Law of Tasteful Baby Names, which I offer only for amusement purposes:

    1. There must be a form that looks appropriate on both a construction paper animal in kindergarten and on a vellum business card. Thus, “Rhinehart” is out on the first prong and “Tami” on the second, especially if Tami dots the i with a circle and smiley face.

    2. The name may not be choosen from a movie, TV show, or novel purchased at the grocery store checkout. Names of consumer products and models of vehicles are also prohibited. (‘Mercedes’ is an exception to this, since Eddie Benz named his car after his daughter, not the other way around.)

    3. No family surnames as first names unless the surname appears within two generations of the parents themselves.

    I realize this opens me to serious snobbery charges, to which I plead guilty, and, I’m sure, lots of other pathologies if I cared to search for them. I don’t want this enacted into law. I do want to prevent another child from ever being named “Boulder.”

  9. Its a popular name for boys in South India. ‘Suri’ in sanskrit is ‘sage’ or ‘priest’ and not a name for a girl.

  10. Alas, as is often the case with language issues, the papers still got it wrong (or this guy Kor did). ‘Suri’ is not used by Eastern European Jews as a nickname version of ‘Sarah’. Everybody was talking through their hat.
    Turns out you don’t actually have to know anything about language to either make a fool of yourself (Cruise et ux.) or pontificate about it (Israeli Army radio and the New York Post).

    …grumbled Geoff (who actually makes a living knowing a few things about language…)

  11. I actually think “Boulder” is a cool name.

    “Mercedes,” on the other hand, is a horrible name and should absolutely not be granted that exception. I think it has long since passed into the category of “consumer product,” even if it had a previous life as a person’s name.

  12. Brian24, Laura (my coauthor) and I had a really good friend named Mercedes so we made an exception. That should show you just how rational our system is.

  13. My daughter had a friend named “Montana”. Not too bad a name actually, but I had to resist asking her parents if they read any Vonnegut 🙂

    I like my daughter’s name, but I was a little distressed to see it associated with the poor and uneducated in Levitt’s Freakonomics. Fortunately, it wasn’t dead last, but it was pretty close.

  14. Karen

    I have a friend that worked at a credit union so he was able to see plenty of names on checks. There were the ones with (sometimes multiple)silent letters, names pronounced differently than spelled, combined names (first part of a name + second part of a name) and names that were just words (Rent, Laundry, etc.)

    The worst I ever saw was while working retail. His name was Rod Rape. Now if your last name is Rape, you are already starting life with one strike, but to name the kid some phallic name is just cruel.

  15. The worst name I’ve ever heard was pronounced “Feemali”. Written, it was “Female”.

  16. MNG-

    I’ve heard the “Mali” (Male) and “Feemali” (Female) story as well, but I’ve also heard that it might be an urban legend.

    To me, the most annoying names are girl names with deliberately non-standard spellings: Tifannie, Jennee, Kyrstin, Stacee, etc.

  17. I still like George Costanza’s suggestion of “Seven”….

  18. temujin334,

    Mr. Rape has the worst male name I’ve ever heard, and I was a hearings examiner for the Texas Employment Commission for four years. The worst female name I ever saw was about ten years ago in the Dallas News birth announcements: Heaven Lee Love. The poor girl was doomed to be either an exotic dancer or a televangelist.

  19. Airique (pronounced like Eric) UGH!

  20. Femali is an urban legend. I like the story about the family that had two daughters, Liz and Beth. I bet that is an an urban legend to, but its damn funny.

    Those are good rules Karen, especially the one about looking good in both Kidergarten and the business world.

    While Suri is bad, VH1 has the 50 worst Celibrity baby names and Suri would be lucky to crack the top 30. How about Banjo or Scout? Then of course there is Apple.

  21. Heaven Lee Love? Oh my God, I may hurt myself I am laughing so hard.

  22. Costanza also reccommended ‘Soda’ one time.

    Apple isn’t so bad when you look at Nic Cage’s kid Jor-El or Kal-El, I forget (though judging by the response to the marvel civil war thread the other day, maybe people here will like that one!) and Jason Lee’s kid, Pilot Inspektor.

  23. Karen; good rules.

    I’d add one more: No names where you have to explain how it’s pronounced or spelled.

  24. Another good one, thought probably an urban myth is the set of twins, Orangjello and Lemonjello.

  25. Finally a chance to tell this story… there was an extremely unfortunate young fellow who competed against my middle school track-and-field team with the name of Forrest Andrew Gay… it made me laugh when I was 12, and by God it still does…

  26. A friend of mine has a last name pronounced “Keen.” (I will keep the actual spelling a secret to protect his anonymity.) He wants to have a son so he can name the kid “Ghengis Keen” or “Kubla Keen” or even “Martin Luther Keen.” (My friend is a devout Lutheran.)

    I’m not sure that my friend is joking, but I think his wife would shoot down any such crazy ideas.

  27. Some R&B singer named her daughter “Godislovchild” or something like that.

  28. Years ago a friend’s mother told us the story of how they had had neighbors in Pennsylvania who were from some southern state. The couple had named their two daughters “Honeymoon” and “Marine Corps” (I don’t know if those are the actual spellings , but that’s what they were phonetically).

    My friend’s mother was from Northern Ireland and I got the impression that this confirmed to her her suspicion that there were some really, really strange people in her adopted homeland.

    My friend’s family were Mormons who I have found to be mostly truthful people so I have no reason to doubt the story.

    Leastways, not since it was his mother who told the story. If had had been his Dad I might have thought he was pulling our legs.

  29. Larry A
    “No names where you have to explain how it’s pronounced or spelled.”

    That depends, when I was growing up there were VERY few “Tyler”s. I usually had to spell it to avoid being called Taylor.

    I notice no one has taken a shot at Penn Jillette and his daughter “Moxie CrimeFighter”.

  30. My brother-in-law knew someone named…

    Steve Orino

    Say it quickly and you’ll know the hell this guy went through…

  31. I think that due to my unique ethnic combination where my first name comes from my maternal culture and the last from my father’s, and the relative low occurrence of my first name in said maternal culture, I may be the only person in history with my name, which is pretty cool to do considering my names not just being pulled out of an ass.

  32. Karen,

    Thank you for the Law of Tasteful Baby Names suggestions! The kindergarten/business card one seems like it would be very helpful.

    How about Banjo or Scout?

    I think those are cute names…for my future Seamonkeys.

    Jason Lee’s kid, Pilot Inspektor.

    I don’t care what anyone says, that’s an awesome name!!!!

  33. A college acquaintance of mine was named Suri. However, I do not not if this was shortened from something else. His family is indeed from India so.

    I found Suri as a girl’s name in “35,000 Baby Names” (or titled something to that effect). It is Todas in origin and it means “pointed nose”.

    As for the true meaning baby Cruise/Holmes’ name: (a) the original explanation sounds like a lie, (b) L. Ron Hubbard’s home in England is located in SURREY, England, this home was used a few years back for a Scientology sponsored/Issac Hayes concert, and (c) I would bet that 90% of the world’s languages have some word similar to “Suri”. Therefore, Tom and Katie can hire their people to research an appropriate meaning (“Why yes Oprah, its Malagasy for ‘open handed palm strike'”).

  34. I knew a lady with, IIRC, an African name that was pronounced “Shi-THADE” but spelled “Shithead.”

  35. The missus and I couldn’t agree, no matter how hard we tried. Finally, we decided that if we had a girl, we’d name her Iris. “And if he’s a boy, we’ll call him Elvis” I quipped. As her belly grew, we both laughed as I patted it and asked “How’s little Elvis doing?” Even after the ultrasound revealed a tiny wiener, we kept the joke running, and used Elvis as a working name.

    The name grew on me, but I had nothing to fear: wifey has common sense enough for both of us. When the time would come, I knew we’d find a suitable replacement. Little did I know, she too had warmed to the name.

    What I didn’t know, until I played around at the SS baby name site, is that Elvis is in the top 1,000 and has been for 95 out of the last 100 years. There’s got to be a bar bet in there somewhere. Thanks Nick.

  36. Hang out a bit on baby/pregnancy boards (like i did when i was pregnant) and you’ll just shake your head in dismay. Horrible names (“Neaveh! It’s Heaven spelled backwards!”) or spellings that will have the poor kid spelling her name for years (“It’s Madison.. M-A-D-D-Y-C-Y-N-N”)

    A personal favorite was the girl who had decided on the (very nice) first and middle name Dylan Thomas. “After the poet?” I asked? “Who?” she replied. At least it’s not a scary name.

    And i totally agree, the notwithoutmyhandbag site linked in the post is hilarious.

  37. I notice no one has taken a shot at Penn Jillette and his daughter “Moxie CrimeFighter”.

    I’ve ridiculed that name before, in other threads. I find it pathetic when people give their kids oddball names – purely to stroke their own egos, mostly. Celebrities can get away with it because their kids grow up in a bubble anyway, but “normal” kids don’t have that luxury. Kids are fucking vicious and anything that adults find “unique”, kids find worthy of teasing or worse.

  38. “My brother-in-law knew someone named…

    Steve Orino

    Say it quickly and you’ll know the hell this guy went through…

    Comment by: My $.02 at April 21, 2006 12:13 PM”

    GO TO YOUR ROOM. NOW. naughty. naughty. unartig. sehr unartig.

    may Abba’s “Take a chance on me” be in your head for the next week…

    naughty. naughty.

    Stevo: give 2cents a spanking. yes. a spanking.

  39. Dot, I loved the Dylan Thomas story. I once spent several days convincing a coworker not to name the daughter she was expecting Alexandra, because her son was named Nicholas. Said coworker had never heard of the Romanovs. The girl was a product of a very expensive private school in Houston, too.

  40. Evis’s Dad,

    My mother had six children and she said with everyone of them she was unsure of what to name them until they were born and she saw them and then she just knew which one of the ones she had been considering was right. She couldn’t explain why but she knew. Perhaps are names are set by fate before we are born and you just happened to have an Elvis.

  41. Karen,

    I knew a man, his brain so small
    He couldn’t think of nothing at all
    He’s not the same as you and me
    He doesn’t dig poetry. He’s so unhip that
    When you say Dylan, he thinks you’re talking about Dylan Thomas
    Whoever he was
    The man ain’t got no culture
    But it’s alright, ma
    Everybody must get stoned

    Paul Simon “A Simple DesDesultory Philippic (Or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission)”

    That Dylan Thomas joke has been going around for a while. I am saddened but not surprised by your friend who had no idea who the Romanovs were. I bet she could tell you all about Harriat Tudman and Ceaser Chavez though.

  42. rhywun @ 11:27,

    I’m skeptical. It seems to me that kids will tease other kids mercilessly for no reason at all, especially if the teasing causes the teased to get upset. Couldn’t parents of children with unique names simply sign their kids up for a course in Quick Wit Retort?

  43. I’ve heard the “Mali” (Male) and “Feemali” (Female) story as well, but I’ve also heard that it might be an urban legend.

    I may have said this before, but I know that when my mom was a substitute teacher, she taught a girl named Urine (pronounced “yoo-REE-nuh”). And a girl named Placenta.

  44. According to my farsi-english dictionary, the word for red rose is gil-e suri, but it is often abbreviated to just suri. So, the name might not be formal persian, which is perhaps what Mr. Amirahmadi meant, but it is correct Persian. Can’t speak to the Hebrew.

  45. I can beat all of those. Many years ago the couple who lived next door to my aunt had two children, one boy and one girl. Their first names were, and I’m not kidding about this, Ham and Cheese. I have no idea which was which.

  46. I had a friend in college whose name was Irony Sade. His brother was Omen.

  47. I was checking out a list of 19th century names from the census bureau, and there were several women named Vagina.

    I prefer gold old biblical names like Jehoshaphat and Methuselah.

  48. While I mostly agree with the baby name rules, and I am usually a baby name snob, I confess a sneaking fondess for the town-as-name thing – there are just lots of cool city names I think would work well as names. In Texas alone, I’ve always liked Sheridan, Tyler, Austin, Dallas and Houston. But not Temple, cos a girl named Temple will be either a trailer park single mom working at Dairy Queen or a stripper, and maybe all at once.

    A guy I work with named one of his boys Bexar – prounouced “bare”, which is a large county in Texas. I like that one, too.

  49. There’s a famous (WSOP winning) poker player named Huckleberry Seed. He has a brother, Cotton. Yup. Their parents went to Berkeley.

  50. Just to be a pedant, I must point out that Cotton Mather was named after his mother’s maiden name. His grandfather John Cotton was most famous for his pamphlet debate with Roger Wiliams.

  51. By the way, don’t forget Cruise already has two adopted kids – Connor and Isabella. Did those names come from Cruise and Kidman or from their birth parents?

  52. I like the name Suri. I don’t care where it comes from.

    “Female” is certainly an urban legend. However, I know of a real bad name, a child who is the last of about 9 kids in the family. His name is “DeLast.” It’s for real. An acquaintance of mine was his schoolteacher a few years back.

    One of my favorite bits from Beavis and Butthead is “Hi, I’m Lolita and this is my friend Tanqueray…”

    I really like the name Mercedes. As in Mercedes McCambridge. Very cool.

  53. Worst female name I’ve ever heard of was Anita Dickey.

    We met as she was a client so I’ve never asked anything about the name, but always wanted to know if she married into the name or not. I mean the husband has to be something pretty special if she voluntarily changed her last name.

  54. Sure, yuk it up.

    Uncultured barbarians.

  55. Actually, I’ve noticed that white people these days exclusively use multi-syllable last names as first names. Taylor, Tyler, Brandon, Aiden, Madison, Nathan, etc. Joe? Mike? Chris? Must be Asian.

    Women seem to be more oblivious to the evil power of names–the guys in our office were vetoing most names the pregnant women would come up with. “Nope, that’s a playground beating name.” “Pshaw, I could think of twenty insults with that name in five mintues.”

  56. When I was very young, my sister had a friend I knew as “Boopie Sapp”.

  57. Boopie rhymes with bookie.

  58. I have met and spoken with someone named, not Angela, but ARCHangela…yikes.

  59. i knew a white mom who named her daughter ‘paisley.’ as a word, i like it, but as a name…what a way to trivialize your daughter’s very existence. i can’t imagine that child will ever be seen as anything but cute and inconsequential, unless she develops a personality in defiance of the name.

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