What’s in a Name?

elon musk baby 0520

All right, I’ve put this off long enough: it is time, and timely, to talk about . . . Elon Musk.

I did this once before, when he was talking up tunnels under metropolitan areas, the purpose being to increase driving surface, although why a guy who owns rockets wouldn’t push for flying cars I don’t know, but it almost seemed like what interested him most was naming his tunneling enterprise: The Boring Company.

Not being a disciple of Mr. Musk, I generally only consider him when his name is in the news, which it has been a lot lately. As is true most of the time for this rather enigmatic fellow, the news is almost always mixed. He seems to have a total disregard for process and protocol, and it’s a rare day when his follow-through is complete. And, as noted in the paragraph above, he spends more time than I do naming things.

Yesterday was a success for him, as his commercial spacecraft lofted from U.S. soil, the first such departure in nine years. I confess I didn’t pay as much attention to this as I would have once upon a time in my life, and I no longer track the comings and goings of astronauts at the International Space Station. It seems, although this probably isn’t true, that people come and go from there all the time.

As I was looking this morning to see if anyone would tell me how long it takes to get to the ISS (answer: they’re arriving as I’m typing this), I got completely lost in a welter of weird names. SpaceX is the company, I’ve got that much, but I’m not clear what “Crew Dragon” is. The two men in the spacecraft? The craft itself? All of that? SpaceX Crew Dragon sounds like badly-translated Chinese to me.

The rocket that launched the spacecraft is reusable and returned just as planned. It is named Falcon 9, which sounds like a standard rocket name.

But the rocket, now being referred to as “a booster” by the CNET article I’m reading, returned to a “droneship,” whatever that might mean, and its name, because everything needs a name, is Of Course I Still Love You. That sounds like a badly-named race horse.

Let’s not forget the name of the mission, Demo-2. I suppose that encompasses everything: SpaceX Crew Dragon, Falcon 9, Of Course I Still Love You, This Is Weird, Right?

But when you’re talking Elon Musk, you frequently are talking weird, and he’s been in the news a lot lately for assorted weirdness. Some of it seems to be standard for him, such as his flagrant disregard for other people’s rules. I have the sense that he loses his temper if people don’t follow his rules, but when others impose rules on him, he balks.

I wasn’t paying enough attention, because I’m not sure what sort of plant it was (Tesla cars, maybe?) in California that he got tired of letting sit idle due to pandemic requirements imposed by the state, but he re-started something without a governmental okey-doke, and then threatened to go elsewhere if he didn’t get his way.

[This did give me some pause about my own state’s governor, because while Mr. Musk was being scolded by California officials, Colorado’s chief opportunist reached out to offer our state as a friendly place to operate. This was while the governor had many existing businesses completely or partially shut down. Money talks. That should be a saying, don’t you think?]

That wasn’t the only trouble he got into with California officials, however. He also got taken to task for naming his baby.

Yes, that is what I said: naming his baby. Let’s review: Boring. Crew Dragon. Of Course I’ll Still Love You.

So, not Noah, Liam, Elijah, Oliver or Lucas, which according to the obviously hip and trendy Babycenter.com are the top 5 boys’ names so far in 2020. Nothing like your traditional biblical winners Matthew, Mark or John. Nothing even like the names his own sons (different mom) have already had bestowed: Nevada, Griffin, Xavier, Kai, Saxon and Damian.

No, Mr. Musk and his girlfriend, oddly named herself (Grimes, which comes from her listing a musical genre — no, I did not know until this moment that “grime” was a musical genre — three times on her MySpace page, prior to which she went by the much-more conventional Claire Elise Boucher) decided to give their son a one-of-a-kind, hopefully-never-to-be-duplicated name: X Æ A-12.

That is — more correctly, was — the baby’s name, not his first mathematical formula.

There were problems with this name, according to the State of California. Up until that moment, I had no idea names were regulated, but indeed there are rules. Hyphens are allowed, but not really between a letter and a number, and while certain numbers in certain cases pass through without comment (I work with James Powell IV, for instance, and I’ve met his dad James Powell III), this number was not okay.

So Mr. Musk and Grimes (it’s not just me, right? This is weird?) went back, although not very far back, to their drawing board, and returned with: X Æ A-XII (or possibly Xii). Well, that just makes all the difference in the world, hm? Last I heard, although my interest waned, California was still trying to decide if this constituted a legal name or not.

For the rest of us, that leaves us trying to figure out how one might go about pronouncing this name, and while you’d think all two of the parents could agree, they didn’t. Mom told us it was “Ex Ash A Twelve” while Dad informed us it was “Ex Ash Archangel Twelve.”

In the meantime, the kid is being referred to as “Little X,” which sounds reminiscent (and thus not so original) of rapper-country star (yes, that’s weird too) Lil Nas X (who started life as Montero Lamar Hill).

The last part of Baby Musk’s name is a tribute to an aircraft, the A-12 (which might be Archangel-12), precursor to the “world’s greatest aircraft, the SR-71.” Why not name the kid SR-71? Or SR-LXXI? Maybe A-12 is just the precursor to a little sibling who gets the real coveted aircraft name, right before “Crew Dragon” makes his debut.

As long as Mr. Musk doesn’t decide, on the heels of two failed marriages, to rechristen his grimy girlfriend: Of Course I Still Love You.

That would be silly.

Weren’t Doug and Bob the McKenzie Brothers from SCTV? It seems fitting they would be the astronauts for this venture.

One thought on “What’s in a Name?

  1. I will confess that I watched the launch and the docking this morning. It felt like a little bit of good news.

    Love him or hate him, Musk, like Jobs before him, has propelled us along towards the future. Like Jobs, he seems a bit crazy in the a**hole kind of way. That doesn’t really bother me. Two people like that in a world of billions pushing us along. Seems like a reasonable trade-off. The problem, to my mind, is that all the other “cool-kid-CEOs” think that’s how they should act but what they do isn’t so much pushing us along as fleecing us (I’m thinking of the guy who ran the WeWork real-estate start-up scam or any of a number of start-up kings – or queens – as in that luggage company CEO who was a real monster to her staff). They and the financing world are so warped regarding useful societal values. It’s a big problem.


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