What’s in a Name?

Errr, quite a lot actually, Shakespeare! I mean, obviously one hopes this bub won’t be faced with a Montague vs Capulet style family feud in his later life but, seriously, choosing a name for a new arrival causes some serious pressure for parents…

We’ve come across people with names that have us questioning what parents were thinking. The names themselves are lovely, but coupled with their surname, take on a totally different meaning. I won’t list them here, because that would be mean, but I’m talking about names like the notorious ‘Ben Dover’, ‘Oliver Sudden’ and ‘Wayne King’.

Then there are the names that are SO awful, judges have to step in to put a halt to proceedings. Our favourite stories include the French judge who stopped a child being called ‘Nutella’ and The NZ Department of Internal Affairs, who have said ‘NO!’ to names like ‘Anal’, ‘Midnight Chardonnay’ and twins about to be named ‘Benson’ and ‘Hedges’. One name book we looked at had a list of ‘Strange but True Names’… To clarify, these were actually used; no judges stepped in… ‘Mineral Waters’, siblings named ‘One’, ‘Two’, ‘Three’, ‘Four’, ‘Five’ and ‘Six’ and, my particular favourites, four siblings called ‘Tonsilitis’, ‘Meningitis’, ‘Appendicitis’ and ‘Peritonitis’. Staggering.

There are some more great examples here… ‘Messiah’ anyone?

Primrose was an easy choice for us. My brother passed away aged five, on April 19th, which is known as Primrose Day. Her middle names, Nancy (after my Nana) and Harris (my maiden name) were straightforward choices, too. Amongst other criteria, we considered:

– In 17 years of teaching between us, had either of us had taught a ‘Primrose’?
– Do the initials spell anything rude, or create an acronym with negative or humorous associations? We’ve avoid any names beginning with A to avoid the AA initials, for example.
– If it is shortened, do we still like the name?
– Any negative associations with famous people? (Tricky, because this can crop up in the future, so you can never be 100% sure it won’t happen!) For example, I’ve previously taught a student called ‘Isis’, a beautiful name that had strong feminist connotations and was also popular with fans of Bob Dylan. She is the Egyptian goddess of the Moon, Sky, Motherhood, Magic and Fertility, the latter making it a popular choice for parents who’d conceived via IVF. The name now has
– Will it work when they’re 7, 17, 70?
– Does it sound OK with our surname?
– Is it traditional yet unusual enough that she won’t know lots of people with the same name? (Whilst Joanna is less common, I so often hear someone shout ‘Jo’ and turn around only to find that it wasn’t directed at me and that at least one other person has turned around, too.)

Of course, there’ll always be SOMEONE who isn’t keen. In this case, my Nana took the award for ‘Least Enamoured’… Upon telling her we’d given our first born her name as a middle name – a decision not taken lightly – her response was, “Oh that poor child! It’s SO old fashioned!” And so our romantic notion of carrying on a family name was spoiled somewhat.

As with all other things baby-related, people can’t resist the opportunity to pass judgement on names that you like. It’s often easier to not tell anyone until they’re named, though my Dad tells me that, even after my name was registered, some people were quick to say they didn’t like it. Nice. And it hasn’t stopped him making it clear that he DOES NOT like Welsh names, upon discovering we had a Welsh boys’ name on our shortlist. It’s a good job we don’t really care what people think. Sorry, Dad. 😉

Sometimes, though, telling people can be useful. I mentioned to The Tribe a few names that we had on our shortlist and Jules pointed out that two of the rhymed with ‘Prim’. I hadn’t even considered this, and so we added the following to the list this time:
– Does it go with ‘Prim’ or ‘Primrose’ when said in succession? So that’s Flynn off the list.
– Call out both siblings’ names as if you’re in a park. Sound daft? Then avoid!

And so we come to choosing a name for this baby, due in a few weeks. Boys names have been infinitely harder for us. Phil is a PE/Sports Science teacher who has also coached boys’ hockey, rugby and cricket for the past 13 years. Add to this my 4 years of teaching and that’s a lot of names with negative associations crossed off the list. Then there are the names that have been used by friends already, so we’ve discounted names we’d have considered otherwise: George, Freddie, Sebastian, Jasper, Charlie, Albert (Alby), Arthur (Arty)… although the aforementioned avoidance of the AA initial discounts the last two also. Oh, and my Dad has dogs called Dylan and Jasper, too (though he once also had one called Jo so this comes as no surprise).

We’ve even gone so far as finding out the name of the last child born in the building we live in (previously a private stately home, now a school). Frustratingly, it is one of my absolute favourite names but, of all the boys I’ve ever taught, there is one student whose name is at the very top of my ‘avoid’ list. Yep, you guessed it… SAME NAME!

The pressure is immense. And, whilst you can pay to change your baby’s name after they’ve been registered, it’s still not something we want to get ‘wrong’. So, with our baby boy due any day now, we have a limited selection of names to choose from, though our middle names are pretty much decided… First name ‘Blank’?

How did you lovely lot go about choosing your wee ones’ names? Have you ever regretted your choices? Did YOU grow up with a name you disliked? Have you grown to love it? Maybe you even changed it by deed poll? Tell us about it below.

Jo, The Mother Side xx

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