A while ago I paid a visit to friends to congratulate them on the birth of a fifth child. They are wonderful people, and fine parents. Their children are exceptional. But an errant thought as I drove home has given me cause for concern.

I was reflecting on the name of this newest daughter: Erin. Then I tried to remember all of the children in order. As I pondered, I realized that the names had a definite pattern: Ashley, Bradley, Christopher, Dustin, and Erin.

They are alphabetizing their children, and that is frightening. There are no real problems yet, of course. The beginning of the alphabet is easy. But what will they do if they get to “Q,” especially if “Q” is a girl? I have just reviewed a volume entitled 20,001 Names For Baby. There are no names for girls that begin with “Q.” They would have to make one up. The possibilities are . . . disturbing: Quinana, Quinilina, Quinaloona, Quinine. And if #17 is a boy and they get to use the book, the prospects are not greatly improved: Quennell, Quigley, Quillan, Quimby, Quinn . . . And what about the letters “X” or “Z”?

Of course, the chances of getting through the first seventeen letters are fairly remote, but you have to think about things like this. If they started the alphabet, they must have done so with the intention of finishing.

In May of 1989 the local newspaper carried the story of a woman in Chile who had given birth to fifty-three kids. Just the thought of it is enough to send multitudes to the nearest monastery. This Chilean mother could have gone through the entire alphabet twice and had one child left over. The story indicated, however, that she gave several of her children not only names beginning with the same letters, she gave them the same names!

Solomon must have done something like that. He had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. How would you like to name the kids from that family! I think Solomon must have appointed a full-time court functionary just to come up with new names for new kids. And 20,001 Names For Baby was not available in Hebrew.

But sooner or later this person in charge of names, like the lady in Chile, would also run out of creativity and, in a family that size, start repeating. That could cause some problems when you wanted a particular son or daughter. If you called “Dave!” and twelve kids showed up, what would you do?

On the other hand, if all the children had the same name, it would simplify some stuff. When I get exasperated and want the attention of one of my children quickly, I get the name wrong about eighty per cent of the time: “Adam! I mean Josh! I mean Robert! . . .er . . . umm . . . Steve . . . well, whoever you are! And don’t think you can keep it a secret. I know where the birth certificates are and I’ll figure out who you are!” If I had named my seven boys Aaron and my three girls Erin, I could have avoided some major family dilemmas. I’d hear a crash upstairs and I would know who was responsible. “Aaron” (or “Erin.” The ears can’t tell the difference), I’d yell. “Cut that out!” And I’d never be wrong.

My next door neighbor lived in a small house and had two daughters: Amber and Brooke. Then his wife discovered she was expecting a third child. Imagine the conversations while they turned pages in 20,001 Names For Baby: Carl, Carol, Chelsea, Clayborne, Christine, Clem, Clementine . . .

I felt obligated to share my concerns: “Do you really intend to do the whole alphabet? Are you going to try for twenty-six kids in twelve hundred square feet?”

Well, they have their third now–a darling little boy. And I guess they have made a decision. They named him Zachary.