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'JBC 2.0': a cutting-edge name -- for now


After just 2 1/2 weeks, Jon Blake Cusack 2.0 is up, but probably still not running.

In the digital world, that might be a disaster. But for JBC 2.0, just lifting his head is a feat. He's the infant with the upgrade at the end of his name born on Jan 27 to Jon Blake Cusack and his wife, Jamie, of Holland, Mich. -- and possibly the first child to have such a technological suffix attached to his name.

The boy's dad, a software designer and self-described "engineering geek," said the idea for a numeral name came in part from the movie Legend of 1900 by Italian filmmaker Guiseppe Tornatore, which features an orphan protagonist named 1900. Rather than "Junior" or "II" for his offspring, Cusack thought, why not the more cutting-edge "2.0"?

While experts at the American Name Society, which studies names and naming practices around the globe, say numbers are rarely used in personal names, digits in names occasionally pop up as other than suffixes.

Traditional names Emily and Jacob topped the Social Security Administration's list of most common names for infants in 2002, but more personalized names and spellings have been showing up more often on birth certificates across the country. Still, say the folks at the American Name Society, 2.0 seems to be something altogether new.

"No, I haven't heard of anything like it before," said Dr. Michael McGoff, vice provost at the State University of New York at Binghamton and an authority with the American Name Society. "The main motivation of this fellow is he wants to make a statement, and he wants to get this kid some publicity," suggested Dr. Edwin Lawson of the American Name Society. That statement, he said, might be one about Western superiority over Roman numerals.

If he is seeking publicity, Cusack is going about it quite cautiously. His home voice mail has a message aimed at screening calls from the media, and the only interview he has given is to his hometown paper, the Holland Sentinel. Cusack told the Sentinel he hoped to "differentiate" his son. He seems to have succeeded at that. JBC 2.0 has attracted attention in publications from The Australian newspaper to trade publications like Computer Reseller News.

"I haven't yet seen kids named Linux or Microsoft," said Dr. Cleveland Kent Evans, a psychology professor at Bellevue University in Nebraska and member at large of the American Name Society.

But little 2.0 won't be totally alone out there on the playground. Evans noted several children who have technological roots in their names. Five-year-old Meridian lives in Duluth, Minn., with her mother and father, a salesman for the network solutions company of the same name.

In 2000, the Internet Underground Music Archive (IUMA) sponsored a contest to give 10 families up to $5,000 each for naming their children after the company; at least one Kansas couple did so. Two children are known to be named ESPN, several go by Atari, and a few more answer to Tron, after the 1982 Disney movie about people trapped in computers.

Evans says the new infant may face a bigger issue than teasing. "If he gets called 2.0, people could think that his parents are treating him more as an inanimate object than a person," he said.

But that may be preferable to the problems many people with so-called "legacy" names have. The nickname "junior," Evans says, has come to denote immaturity and even inferiority.

"I've tested people in a local mental hospital, and I've found a significant number of people who are manic-depressive are named junior," said Lawson.

Cusack 1.0 says his techno-naming legacy could continue if 2.0 has a son and dubs him 3.0. But Evans says that idea might need an upgrade.

"Technology changes so fast," he said. "Who knows if the average young person will associate the phrase 2.0 with computers in 30 years?"

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