Welcome to the first article in the Badass Baby Names series! In an attempt to give your future child a more awesome life, I am writing about the most badass names I can find: The way they sound, the nicknames they offer, the famous people to whom they were given, and the lifestyle they might promote.
The first name in the series is “Salazar”. With a sinuous “S”, soft “L”, and commanding “Z”, Salazar hints at power wielded from the shadows — but with a good purpose in mind. Salazars overcome challenges by slithering around them, or turning them to personal advantage, rather than smashing them to bits with brute force.
Is “Salazar” the right name for your child? Read on…
Salazar: Top Three Traits
Let’s get one thing clear before we start: Salazar is a name with a hint of villainy.
The best-known Salazars are:
- Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who reigned as a dictator in Portugal from 1932 to 1968.
- Salazar Slytherin, the founder of the infamous Slytherin House, bane of Harry Potter and his wizarding friends.
These historical precedents will not be forgotten in your son’s lifetime. The Harry Potter books will remain popular, at least in the memories of the boy’s teachers and professors. Portugal will continue to exist as a sovereign nation, probably.
However, neither precedent is as dangerous as you’d expect.
Antonio de Oliveira Salazar: Not So Bad, As Dictators Go
Take the Portuguese dictator.
Frankly, it doesn’t seem like his fault that he was a dictator. After all, Spain was also ruled by a dictator over the course of his reign. So, for many years, were Italy, Germany, and most South American countries. If Antonio Salazar hadn’t ruled Portugal with an iron fist, someone else would have.
He was a strict religious conservative, yes — but the only alternatives were monarchy, fascism, and total chaos. (Between 1910 and 1926, before Salazar took power, Portugal was ruled by 43 different governments; the most resilient lasted just over a year.)
And what did he do, this Salazar, with his absolute power? Well…
- He grew the economy by a third, relative to the rest of Europe.
- He brought the literacy rate among children from 33% to 97%.
- He was elected “Greatest Portuguese Ever” by a huge margin on national television, 40 years after his death.
He also stayed neutral in World War II — a decision which kept Portugal’s rival, Spain, from entering the war on Hitler’s side and giving Germany the strength to conquer Britain. The Brits were so grateful to Salazar that Oxford gave him an honorary degree in 1940.
His wartime neutrality also left Portugal with plenty of resources to aid refugees fleeing the rest of Europe; between 1933 and 1945, the country (population six million) served as a passageway for something in the range of five hundred thousand refugees. If your ancestors were hunted by the Nazis but managed to escape Europe, there’s a decent probability that Antonio Salazar had something to do with it.
Also, Salazar hated the Nazis. So much so that he published a book attacking the anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws and wrote a letter to Hitler’s government reminding them that Portugal had nothing to do with Germany’s ridiculous institutional racism. In 2011, one Jewish historian noted that anti-Semitism “failed to establish even a toehold in Portugal.”
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The man wasn’t perfect, of course. He was a devoted colonialist, and while he didn’t kill many of his enemies, he did repress every attempt they made to gain political power. You could also say the former about Winston Churchill and the latter about… just about every leader in the world circa 1930. It was a different time.
(Also, do not name your child “Winston.”)
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I’ll let Salazar’s enemies finish this section for me:
Even the communist historian, António José Saravia, Salazar’s lifelong opponent, recognizes that “Salazar was undoubtedly one of the most remarkable men in the history of Portugal and had a quality that not all remarkable men have: the right intention”.
Salazar Slytherin: He Could Have Been Worse
And what about Salazar Slytherin, founder of the most notorious house in Hogwarts College? He’s a more controversial figure than Antonio, for a couple of reasons:
- The racism
- The giant killer snake he hid in the basement of the school he founded
For which I will present the following defenses:
- We’re talking about a wizard who lived in the tenth century. Everyone was racist back then. Well, everyone except for Godric Gryffindor, and Godric is a silly-ass name for a baby. But I think we can forgive the Pureblood chauvinism, because…
- If this guy really hated Purebloods, he did a terrible job actually following through. His giant killer snake spent one thousand years in the Chamber of Secrets, and wound up with a total of one confirmed kill.
I mean, come on. The Basilisk murdered fewer people in a millennium than honeybees kill in an average year. And then it got taken out in like two minutes by a twelve-year-old and a magical bird.
Given that Slytherin was one of his generation’s most powerful wizards, I doubt he chose an ineffective murder weapon by choice. Personally, I think he just needed a place to keep his giant snake, and the whole “kill Muggle-borns” thing was all Voldemort’s idea.
(Do not name your child “Voldemort”.)
Meanwhile, here’s how HP Wiki describes the type of student Slytherin admired:
“Resourcefulness, cleverness, determination, and a certain disregard for the rules, along with the ability to speak Parseltongue.”
Nothing wrong with that! The archetypal Slytherin student sounds a lot like Mark Zuckerberg, albeit a Mark Zuckerberg who can talk to snakes.
(Before you ask: I do not have any evidence that Mark Zuckerberg can’t talk to snakes. )
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Overall, I don’t see a problem with Salazar Slytherin as an example for your child to follow, as long as you don’t teach him a tenth-century view of human biodiversity.
Bonus Salazar: Alonso de Salazar
This Salazar is the least famous of the bunch, but might be an even bigger badass than the dictator and the wizard.
In short: Alonso de Salazar stopped Spain from executing dozens, perhaps hundreds, of suspected witches. He did this by convincing the Spanish Inquisition to accept scientific reasoning.
This was a two-step process. First, he did some solo investigating in villages where witchcraft appeared to be rampant, turning up lots of embarrassing mistakes:
In a subsequent report to the Supreme Council in 1613, Salazar severely criticized the procedure of the tribunal during the witchcraft outbreak, not even disclaiming his own responsibility. The inquisitors had failed to keep proper records; they had concealed the fact that the accused were permitted to retract confessions; those retractions which had occurred were sometimes omitted from the records, in the hope they would be withdrawn. The inquisitors had also tacitly accepted violence used against the accused by local authorities.
Then came the logical smackdown:
The real question, Salazar said, was whether one should believe witchcraft occurred simply because of what accused witches claim. In his view, they were not to be believed, since they alleged impossible things such as flying through the air, attendance at the witches’ gathering at the same time that they were in bed, and self-transformation into different shapes. “These claims go beyond all human reason and many even pass the limits permitted the devil”, he concluded. If the devil was involved, how could he allow his machinations to be exposed so easily by children of eight years and under?
Can you imagine your child crafting similar feats of awesomeness as they hunt down the forces of superstition? I can.
Overall, the Salazar name has been associated with a trio of notorious badasses, with no apparent duds in the bunch. Very solid.
“Salazar” can be shortened to “Sal” or transformed into “Sally”.
The former isn’t bad, and even serves as an easy fallback for times when the full “Salazar” might be distracting. And if the latter concerns you — can you think of a single male name that can’t be given a feminine spin by a determined bully? (Michael becomes Michelle, Sam becomes Samantha, Nick becomes Nikki, and so on.)
So the nicknames are nothing to worry about.
Stories of Your Child’s Life as a Boy Named Salazar
Your child’s third-grade teacher glances over a sheet of paper containing the names of her students for the upcoming year. This is her eighth year of teaching; she’s becoming tired of the whole song and dance. Especially the names. Every year, the same damn names.
“Jacob… Katelyn… Jane… Arthur… another Jacob…”
It’s getting late. She puts down the paper, sighs, rubs her eyes. She thinks about going to bed, but decides she’ll finish off the list.
“Sarah… Michael… Salazar… Salazar?”
The paper falls out of her hand. She scoops it off the floor and looks again. “Salazar. What the… honey!”
Her husband walks in.
“What is it?”
“I’ve got a kid this year named ‘Salazar’.”
“No way.” He takes the sheet, reads it, and bursts out laughing. “I want to meet this kid!”
“So do I!”
When your child’s teacher goes to bed, she is looking forward to the first day of school.
Your child sits in a circle at summer camp. This is an icebreaker activity; the campers are introducing themselves. They are between fourteen and sixteen years old; they are here to take a college course and enjoy the first stirrings of independent life.
“I’m Kevin,” says the first boy. “My favorite flavor of ice cream is rocky road.”
“I’m Cole,” says the second boy. “My favorite flavor of ice cream is mint chocolate chip.”
“I am Salazar,” says your child. He pauses to let the name sink in. “My favorite flavor is vanilla.”
He has the group’s full attention at that moment, and will befriend most of them by the end of the day. The most popular boy in the group, a three-year veteran of the camp, will take your child under his wing, recruit him for an Ultimate Frisbee team, and ultimately become the best man at your child’s wedding. Decades later, when they sit out on your child’s patio, watching their respective children frolic on a wide green lawn, your child will ask his lifelong friend:
“What was it that made you pay attention to me that first year at camp?”
“What do you think, Sal? It was that ridiculous name of yours.”
Potential careers for a boy named Salazar
- Your nation’s ambassador to the country of Brazil
- An architect who specializes in modern-day castles
- The COO of a human-resources consulting firm
- The dean of students at a prestigious liberal-arts college
Salazar = 10 out of 10, would name again. I am seriously considering this name for my own children, if I can find a better last name than “Gertler” to go with it.