Z Is For Zoe, A Cutie With ZingS

Zoe's adorable, but look out — she bites.

For such a short name, Zoe is full of contradictions. The final "e" gives it a diminutive sound, an undeniable cuteness. And yet the "z" is far from cute — it's tough, hard-edged, a little mean. This may be why Zadie Smith chose to change her name from the softer Sadie, but whatever the case, the letter 'z' lends any name not just zap and zing but also a little danger.

Fictional Zoes have worked the cute angle pretty hard. Zoe was, for instance, the original baby in one of my least favorite comic strips, Baby Blues. Zoe's also a Sesame Street character, described on Baby Name Wizard as "a cute girl monster Muppet." And of course there's Zoey 101, the boarding-school-themed Nickelodeon show that made Jamie-Lynn Spears a fresh-faced star before she became a teen mom.

On the other hand, Firefly fans will recall that Corporal Zoe Washburne was pretty badass — Wikipedia calls her "a tough, deadly fighter." And in reality-land there's Zoe Saldana, who played a very no-nonsense Uhura in Star Trek, and who comes off as far more hot than cute in a recent Essence interview ("I love sex. I love skin. I don't believe the body is something to hide.") But then there's Zooey Deschanel, who embodies all that is most twee about indie culture — perhaps the Saldana/Deschanel divide exemplifies the contradictions inherent in the name.

I see Zoe as the kind of girl who's doted on by all and sundry — probably a youngest sibling long babied by her parents. This can end in one of two ways: either Zoe develops a preternatural confidence, swashbuckling through the world like nothing can touch her, or she becomes entitled and princessy and demands constant adoration. The former is feisty and fearless, the latter is the kind of girl who wants limos for her sixteenth birthday. To increase the odds of Good Zoe, I'd suggest that parents, siblings, and friends avoid harping on how fucking cute she is. She probably knows it anyway.

And so ends our alphabetical tour of girls' names. What will happen to The Name Game next Friday? Only time will tell...

'Avatar' Star Zoe Saldana Wants To Talk About Sex: 'I Can't Live Without It' [NY Daily News]
Zoe (name) [Wikipedia]
Zoe [Baby Name Wizard]

Earlier: Y Is For Yvonne, A Shady Lady
X Is For Xena, Xylina, And Other Xceptional Ladies
W Is For Wendy, Who'll Soothe Your Wounds
V Is For Valerie, A Hot Valentine
U Is For Ursula, Who's Due For A Comeback
T Is For Taylor, A Trend That Should Die
S Is For Samantha, A Soccer-Playing, Hair-Modeling Ninja
R Is For Rachel, From Routine To Rad
Q Is For ... Um ...
P Is For Paula, Who's A Little Bit Nutty
O Is For Olivia: Precocious, Passionate, & Up For A Lesbian Cruise
N Is For Natasha, A Femme Fatale
M Is For Michelle, An Elegant Mystery
L Is For Lisa, Whose Looks Are Deceiving
K Is For Kate, Who Kicks Ass, Takes Names
J Is For Jennifer, The Vanilla Of Names
I Is For Isabel, Who's Snooty, But Earns It
H Is For Hillary, A Barrel Of Laughs
G Is For Grace - What's That Up Her Sleeve?
F Is For Francesca, And I Wish I Were Her
E Is For Emily, Who Seems Sweet (At First)
D Is For Danielle (Or Dani, Who's Apparently Kinda Judgey)
C Is For Courtney, Who's Too Cool For School
B is for Beth (And Barack! And Bandana!)
A Is For Anna: What My First Name Says About Me