Dear Dave

Friday, 14 September 2007

Naming children

Dear Dave,

You'd better hurry up and think of some names. You don't want Squiggly to become the permanent way of referring to your second child. That would be quite embarrassing for everyone concerned. Maybe not as embarrassing as some of the alternatives but not really a name you want to be shouting loudly in the swing park, nonetheless.

I have discovered a list of all the first names given to children in Scotland last year. Granted, some of them are Gaelic (mostly the ones with far too many consonants) and some are ethnic (mostly the ones with far too many vowels), but there are still plenty of 'interesting' choices in there. What are some parents thinking?

I can see the advantages of giving a child a name that is fairly rare. Having two children with the same name in a class at school is pretty confusing. Lewis was even best friends with another Lewis for a while which led to lots of awkward 'my Lewis'/'your Lewis' conversations with the other Lewis' mum. That's worth avoiding.

You don't want to have something so unusual that people just go, 'Pardon?' when you say the kid's name, though. Aardvark, Zephyr and Asphyxia are simply not great choices. Fun as it might be inventing a new name, chances are that it will not be nearly as much fun to live with. If you want something a little different, go for a name that's slightly out of fashion or from another culture instead. Check the lists, however. You might think a name's not that common but it might just be that everyone with that name is under the age of three and none of them happen to go to the same parent and toddler groups as you. I've never met an Alfie but there were over 3000 born in the UK in 2006. Maybe they're all in London. Or maybe there will be five in Sam's nursery class. Watch out - they're coming to get you.

Don't make a common name unique by changing the spelling. Avoid Kaytee, Sera, Bobb and Androo. Just imagine the problems Squiggly will have giving her details over the phone in later life. ('Yes, Rachel - with a 'y', two 'l's and a silent 'q'.')

Make sure you're happy with the shortened form of any name you choose as well. For instance, if you call the kid Alexander, you'd better be OK with Alex, Xander, Sandy, Alec, Al, Lex and goodness knows what else. Upon reaching puberty, the kid will almost certainly adopt whichever version you like least and then go and mooch around on street corners while wearing a black hoodie. Other grubby teenagers will approach you looking for Big X. Be polite.

Also watch out for unfortunate initials that spell rude or embarrassing words. Give Squiggly a middle name starting with 'J' just to be on the safe side.

Avoid embarrassing middle names that you think no one will ever find out about. You might have sentimental reasons for it, but Squiggly won't thank you when his worst enemy discovers that his middle name is Petunia, Babylon5 or Bowser.

Oh, and if you're thinking of having any more children, don't use up all your best names at once. We gave Lewis and Fraser two middle names each and ran out. If Marie had been a boy, I don't know what we'd have called her. Chewbacca, maybe. Or Bubbles. We were really stuck.

Good luck with choosing. I remember Fraser's name didn't seem real for a couple of weeks after he was born. It felt like an incredible responsibility deciding someone's name. Perhaps it was our first understanding of the power we would have in shaping him as a person and in controlling his life. We could have called him Bermuda Archibald Teacake and I don't think anyone would have been able to stop us. (Apparently, in the UK, the registrar can only complain if a name is offensive. Offensive to whom, is somewhat unclear, but feel free to experiment).

Luckily, we resisted everything outlandish and Fraser suits him well enough now.


It was almost as much stress as choosing his first hairstyle.

Yours in a woman's world,



Anonymous said...

How about Moon Unit Zappa?
You also have to watch the possible rhythmical annunciative pitfalls which haven't always been spotted. My brother's old landlady was called Heidi Moody. There used to be a Scottish Radio weather announcer called Betty NcGinty. These are actually quite nice sounding,but have become comical folklore probably against their owner's wishes.
Also Whitter Watson and John Thomas (I swear it's a REAL person)! I've always liked Rip Torn though....

Anonymous said...

When i was about 9 we got a puppy. He took some time to accept housetraining. So his nickname became ''Piddles''. Then all of a sudden he died aged 15,and we realised that we'd never actually named him anything, his nickname had just stuck. Imagine the looks,one day in the meadows, when he decided to run off and one of us had to call on him.

Mockingbird said...

Oh yes.... indeedy. Mercifully when it came to being named, my father exercised his veto. My mother wanted to call me Octavia Constance. Dad said no. Thank you, Dad.... you have no idea the trouble you spared me. But then they lost their minds, and their marbles.... collectively..... they pushed the boat out..... Sarah Jane Lorna Renalda Agnes Belle.... yup!! No fooling. You should have seen my former husband's face when I told him.... he thought he might have to say all that at the wedding. Which is why in my "old" age I'm more commonly known as Sj (which has the merit of brevity) or Mockingbird....

DadsDinner said...

Woh, Mockingbird! That must have been irritating in exams. Everyone else was on question 2 and you were still writing your full name.

But, goodness, what were your parents thinking?

Mockingbird said...

oh the joys huh! They got carried away.... add on my unspellable surname and life became interesting... that's why I'm plain ol' Sj.

DadsDinner said...

Yep, Sj definitely wins.

And, to think, I thought I had it bad with a name that's a cross between BlackAdder and a litter of pigs...

Mockingbird said...

Edmund is a nice name.... and has the merit of being unusual, without being weird! The added bonus of not being able to convert into something embarrassing in the playground is a godsend too! There should be some sort of rule of thumb when naming your child.... if it can be converted into something to torment your child with, that is a strict no-no.

DadsDinner said...


Main problem I had, though, was that people called me Ed the whole time until they wanted to be serious about something. Then they called me Edward. It was quite distracting.

Since I left home, I've tried to make sure everyone calls me Edmund to save on confusion. It's only old school friends and double-glazing salesmen who call me Ed these days.

cheap double glazing said...

"The more things change the more they stay the same" I always say=) People tend to go back to their old habits, naming isn't an exception.

cheap double glazing said...

This reminds me of a Yahoo article I just read about banned baby names across the world. There was actually someone who wanted to name their kid "Devil." I mean, really?