"Who's Gonna Tell Him?": Woman Encounters a Mom Who Named Her Son Oedipus, Can't Stop Thinking About It

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Dec. 12 2023, Published 6:51 p.m. ET

I'm obsessed with names. Once upon a time, I had the most common name in the America for roughly 12 years. You couldn't throw a slap bracelet in a mall without hitting a kid named Jennifer. When I asked my mom why she gifted me with such an ordinary name, her answer was pretty simple. "It was popular at the time," she said. I later learned my father wanted to name me Melissa, after the cat, so I suppose Jennifer was the lesser of two evils.

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Because of the albatross that is my name, I'm acutely aware of any and all monikers that are out of the ordinary. And, like @itsthemomjeans on TikTok, I too would have lost my mind if I encountered one particular name out in the wild. How could someone bestow this name upon their own child? Don't they know the kid might someday take a Psych 101 class in college? This can only end strangely.

Oedipus and the Sphinx. Found in the collection of Louvre, Paris.
Source: Getty Images

Oedipus and the Sphinx. Found in the collection of Louvre, Paris

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This name is giving us a complex.

A fun day at the zoo with her children became an exercise in obsession for @itsmomjeans, who I'm calling Iris, when she overheard a fellow parent call out for their child. Obviously that's a normal thing to encounter, especially when a kid is at a place as exciting as the zoo, but it wasn't the action itself that gave Iris pause.

"I heard a mom calling for her son and she was like, 'Oedipus! Oedipus, don't walk over there. Oedipus!" Iris is saying out loud what we are all thinking. Who would name their child Oedipus?

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I don't want to assume everyone understands why this is a very weird choice. So, let's briefly get into the significance of the name Oedipus. It comes from a Greek mythology that was made into a play by Sophocles titled Oedipus Rex, per Brittanica.com.

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Obviously I have to cut out a lot but the gist is, Oedipus was a king of Thebes who accidentally murdered his father and then married his own mother. There are other versions with varying details, but the real horrifying crux of this tale is Oedipus marrying his own mother and having children with her.

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You can see why Iris would be perplexed and confused by the decision to land on Oedipus as a name. "You guys, I keep thinking about baby Oedipus," Irish says later in the same video, after a bit of time has clearly passed. "Why would they do that to their child," she asks. "Their child is doomed." I'd say he's only doomed if a certain prophecy comes down the old pipeline.

In order to maintain some semblance of sanity, Iris has convinced herself that these parents were somehow unaware of the Oedipus Rex story. Perhaps they heard it somewhere benign and decided that it sounded stately, because it does! Although, doesn't everyone nowadays google a name before deciding to saddle their child with it, for life?

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In a follow-up TikTok, Iris addressed a couple of the comments she received the most on her original TikTok. The first thing she tackles is the idea that she misheard the name. "It was 100 percent Oedipus," said Iris. "It was not Atticus. It was not Orpheus. It was not Odysseus."

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Something I thought, and clearly I wasn't alone, is perhaps this was a dog. "It was 100 percent a human child," Irish assures us. "We were at the zoo and ironically, you can't bring dogs to the zoo."

I also want to take a second to remind everyone about the Oedipus complex. Iris primarily focused on the Greek story this theory is based on, but the theory itself was posited by famed psychoanalyst and lover of cocaine, Dr. Sigmund Freud. It of course theorizes that children possess a "desire for sexual involvement with the parent of the opposite sex and a concomitant sense of rivalry with the parent of the same sex; a crucial stage in the normal developmental process," per Brittanica.com. It should be noted there is no empirical evidence supporting this theory so Baby Oedipus is probably OK.

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