There’s a story that our editor tells about his high school that sounds apocryphal, but he swears is absolutely true. He says that among the graduating classes in the 1970s was a woman named Anita Dick. The proof was in a class photo that hung on the wall with all the other class photos, including his own from 1996. The proof was also in all the arrows marking up the wall around her name, drawing extra attention to it, given that her name was, you know, Anita Dick, or as it was commonly pronounced I-NEED-A DICK. Standing before it, he explains, was almost like a weekly pilgrimage because no matter how many times you saw it, you still couldn’t believe it was real. That is, someone who exists in real life named Anita Dick.
She, though, is far from alone. There’s also, of course, Mike Cox (pronounced MY COCKS) and Mike Hunt (pronounced MY CUNT), whose names might not be as unfortuante as Anita Dick but are certainly more common. So common in fact that it seems like everybody had at least one of them in high school, where they were probably goofed on relentlessly for the euphemistic pun that was their name (and not their fault). Yet what happens when Mike Cox or Mike Hunt leaves adolescence and high school and embarks upon the adult world? Does it get any eaiser? Do all the jokes stop? Can they hand over their credit card or recite their name without someone laughing? For answers, I sought a few such Coxs and Hunts.
The Naming of Mike Cox
“Whenever I ask my parents what they were thinking, they say they didn’t put the pieces together,” says Mike Cox, an actor in Delaware. “I think they only had ‘Michael’ in their heads, not Mike. Either that or they’re just not owning up to it.”
The same goes for U.K. comedian Mike Cox. “They just liked the name Michael,” he explains. “They never considered that it might be rude when shortened.”
Mike Hunt from Texas, on the other hand, chose his name later in life. “I was born with a different name, but when I became an adult, I petitioned the court to change my name to take my grandmother’s last name,” he says. “My dad left us when I was younger, so I didn’t want any attachment to his last name. My grandfather died from war-related cancer at age 50, but growing up, I heard about how great of a man he was. That’s why I took his last name, ‘Cox.’
“[My grandma] couldn’t believe I’d even consider changing my name (I’m type A, very OCD), and was very honored and humbled. She didn’t understand the joke until I explained it to her, but it didn’t matter to me.”
With the assumption that a cruel pair of parents put their sons through a life of pun-filled mocking, the Mikes say they often get people ridiculing their parents even more than their names. “More than once I will get people who say, ‘Wow, you must have shitty parents to do that to you!’” he says. “But I turn it around on them and say, ‘Actually, I did it to myself, dick.’”
“My parents chose Michael, but I’m the one who goes by Mike in person,” says Mike Cox the Actor. “Unless I’m saying my name over the phone, for which I usually say Michael, because if it’s someone typing it out and I ‘use’ Mike, they’re gonna notice it immediately. My social media is Mike though — might as well not hide it.”
Mike Cox the Comedian agrees. “Fundamentally I have to accept responsibility because my name is Michael. I chose to shorten it and create this unnecessary issue merely because I think ‘Mike’ is cooler and less formal than ‘Michael.’”
The Moment of Realization
“Growing up it was tough,” says Mike Cox the Actor. “Especially in middle school and high school — that’s when kids started realizing the implication of Cox following the name Mike. The teacher would call out attendance and get to know everyone, sometimes by last name. I dreaded that, especially since names were in alphabetical order. I knew if there was like a ‘Colletti,’ I’d be up next and it made me really nervous. Some kids laughed most of the time. Then they did nicknames, like Mike Sucks Cox or some shit.”
“It was around high school when I got the most attention for my name — they’d call me Coxsucker, or say my middle name is ‘Likes,’” he continues. “I just took it in stride, being in the spotlight, and cracked jokes about it. Eventually it made me the class clown, so I take that as a positive.”
Mike Cox the Comedian was luckier. “I don’t recall any epiphanic moment for my classmates. They were happy to point out that Cox sounds like a cuss word all by itself, so nothing traumatic beyond that sticks out from my childhood. I got away lightly. Life as an adult comedian has actually been more brutal.”
Giving up your name as an adult doesn’t come up as much. Sure there are a few algorithms that occasionally deem names to be too vulgar, and Starbucks flubs, but other than that, you could probably go months without telling someone your full name. Still, for the Mike Hunts and Mike Coxs of the world, these times stick out. “I’ve been on conference calls at work where others ask if it’s really my name, and I cringe for them because they’re about to get embarrassed in front of a bunch of senior people when I tell them that yes, that’s my name, and they’re the ones making a bad joke,” Mike Hunt says. “They end up stumbling over their words and say something dumb like, ‘Oh, that’s a nice name.’”
“My name is one of those names that sounds rude straight away, but it’s actually pretty difficult to use in a sentence,” says Mike Cox the Comedian. “I’ve always been interested to see if people can be witty or original with their piss-taking, but they never are. Most of the time people don’t even try; it’s enough for them just to point out ‘your name sounds like ‘My Cocks.’ They tell me as if they genuinely think they’re the first to notice. But I’ve had that happen hundreds of times.”
When he enters the stand-up comedy realm, however, it’s a different story — especially when it comes to open-mic emcees desperate for a cheap joke. “I did the Comedy Store in London, and when the emcee introduced me, there was an audible groan from the audience. They think it’s a stage name and that I’m going to do a bunch of smutty material, so they immediately don’t want to listen and start booing before I even get to the mic. Every time that happens, I have a harder start to the gig. It’s really frustrating.
“Recently, an emcee made a few attempts to make jokes about my name and then said, ‘He probably has a whole set about it.’ I responded with ‘I have no jokes about it because I’m not fucking 12.’ It addressed the elephant in the room quickly and won the audience back.”
Mike Cox the Actor’s experience as an adult has been similar. “Usually people I don’t know well still make fun of my name, but it’s cool — some things never change. There’s an inner kid in everyone who wants to jump at the chance to make fun of my name. But I’m not gonna crack,” he says. “On the occasion that someone completely outs me to a group of people, like, ‘Hey everybody, this guy’s name is Mike Cox,’ I just say, ‘Yep, he’s right.’ No one gangs up on me or belly laughs at it anymore; instead, they think the guy who pointed it out is a dick.”
Overall, the best bet for all three Mikes is to own it. “I used to joke that my parents named me that because I was an accident and they thought I’d off myself by age 12,” says Mike Cox the Actor. “Also, thankfully, I’m blessed with some good looks so it can be used in a flirtatious way, like, ‘Yeah, my name is Cox, and I have the working parts.’”
The Future of Mike Cox
As the Mike Coxs and Mike Hunts of the world navigate the troubled waters of life with a pun-name, they must keep their eyes on the horizon as well. Lest they repeat the mistakes of their parents, they’re forced to take extra consideration into two things that already suck with a normal name: 1) Finding someone to marry; and 2) naming their own children.
“I had to be super careful when naming my child, because I know how creative kids can be with their bullying,” says Mike Cox the Comedian. “My wife liked Harry because that was her grandfather’s name, but I swiftly pointed out that’s going to be an issue. Harry Cox is definitely worse than mine. We settled on Dennis; I think he’ll be grateful.”
“A fun game for my last name is ‘if we ever got married…,” explains Mike Cox the Actor. “Essentially, if someone else has a compatible last name to mine, like ‘Black’ or ‘Small,’ we’d hyphenate it — like Black-Cox, etc. On the plus side, if I ever want to have a career in porn, my stage name is already taken care of.”
As for kids, he’s taking careful consideration not to make the same mistake his parents did. “I’m definitely not gonna name my kid Richard, Ivanna or Harry,” he says. “I don’t want them to experience the same kind of ridicule. Keeping the legend alive is one thing, but not knowing if your kid could handle being ‘Mike Cox’ is another. The Cox name will go on, but no need to add another unnecessary opportunity to mock it.”