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Babynaming: Would a Kevin, by any other name, smell as sweet?

Posted on: Thursday, 26 July 2012

My sister has entrusted me with quite a responsibility. Yesterday, when she called around with mild labour pains - in the early stages of LABOUR, yes - yes, and she WALKED to our house - mentalist! - presented me with her Babies' Names books and asked me to 'make a list' of the ones I liked. 

It's not completely out of the blue - I am admittedly MAD on names. Mad, I tell thee. The disappointment I felt when my mum revealed they were going to call me Eilis when I was born, (then I actually remained nameless for 6 weeks, THEN they called me Laura - I mean, come on, mum. There were TEN Lauras in my year at school. It was THE name of 1983) still eats away at me. Well, I say eats - I means nibbles. But it's still there.

And, being a teacher, I see the fashions in names changing. Names trending and falling out of favour. Names that are over popular to the point of saturation - enough with the Jacks already! Unusual names that work - and those that really don't, eh, Chandler? 

My friend once bought me a Babies' Names book for a birthday present. I was thirteen-ish and wasn't remotely interested in babies - I just loved names. I went through and starred the ones I liked. That same book is now on my sister's nightstand and the names I picked then - well, the less said about that the better. Which is a worry, is it not?

These are the babies' names rules as far as I'm concerned:

1) Nothing too trendy. That means nothing in the top 30 (or the top 32, the way class sizes are going) - you don't want the '10 Lauras in a year group' issue. Well, your child doesn't. And you might send your child to a single-sex school, where the numbers of Avas and Graces and Charlottes will inevitably double. So that means if little old lady names and flower names are trendy for girls, operate on the edge of that trend. Don't go for Lily, go for Violet. Don't do a David Cameron and go for Florence - try Fleur instead. Pretty, non?

2) Nothing too 'out-there'. It needs to be clever and cool, but tradition must be observed somehow, even if it's just on the birth certificate. Well, in my OCD book it does. Would Katherine Duchess of Cambridge have made it to the Buckingham Palace Balcony if she'd been christened 'Kate'? Or, worse, K8? 

(one of my former colleagues had a primary teacher friend who took on a new class with a little girl called La-a in it. Uncertain as to how to proceed, she called her 'Laa' - like, as in 'The Sound of Music 'Laa'. The mother rang up the school. 'Why are you calling my child Laa?' 'Ummm...' 'It's LA-DASH-AH!' Oh my Actual God. Urban myth or reality? You decide). 

3) Don't land your kid with a complex. I spent my whole life with people mis-pronouncing and misspelling my surname. I was a total arse about it. Not everyone will have the strength of character to be like that. And when it's your first name, I imagine it's even worse. Be kind when it comes to spelling.   

Anyway, the book that she's given me is one that she and Krish bought and it is BRILLIANT. It's the Collins Brilliant Book of Baby Names. Have a look. Ignore that there's a picture of a baby wearing a feather boa on the front. If you're having a baby/know anyone who is, I thoroughly recommend you get them this bad boy - they'll thank you profusely. And what I REALLY like about it is this: it gives you the history of the name, but also an opinion of it. There's no pussy-footing about. Have a look at these:

NOVA - Astronomical term for a star that suddenly increases in brightness, then fades; probably works better for a TV science show than a child. 

PENELOPE - Image of elderly gardening lady in large-brimmed hat has of late been counterbalanced by the dramatic sensuality of Spanish actress Penelope Cruz. Chosen for his daughter by Taylor Hanson, of the group Hanson. (WHAT? TAYLOR HANSON IS OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE A CHILD?! More celebrity baby naming madness here). 

DEMOCRACY - Righteous brother of Peace and Justice - all of whom might have a hard time during playground recess.

And so on. They do like some names, by the way. The bad ones just make for better reading. 

It also has regular selections of 10 names under different headings - obvious ones, such as 'Celebrity Babies Beginning with B', for example, but others that appeal to prospective parents' personal preferences, such as 'Short and Strong Names', 'Names That Sound Creative', 'Names Headed for Oxford' and 'Names That Are Trendier Than You'd Guess'. 

Have you heard any interesting names recently? Do you have names picked out for future use? I'd love to hear them.


  1. Every now and again I moot a name at the husband-to-be (not planning, just LOVE names like you!)- last nights' was Merrion, because we first lived together on Merrion Square... I admit it might have been silly, but at the time I thought it was clever...

    How embarrassing. I love the opinions! Our general idea is to name our maybe children after our grandparents, which is nice, but means I can't keep mooting names...

    1. It's honestly one of my favourite topics of conversation, along with 'what would you do if you won the lottery?' and 'if you could play any musical instrument, what would it be and why?' Love it!

  2. I can imagine this will cause big disputes in my household if we have kids. My husband likes really old man names that I just can't imagine calling a baby! I sense some baby name book reading will be needed if I don't want to have a baby called Malcolm or Archie (no offence to any Malcolms or Archies reading!)

  3. I feel exactly the same about George-too old for a baby! No offence to any Georges

  4. This is a brilliant post! When I first started my blog I seriously considered turning it into a baby name bible. I've also wanted to make a living out of asking pregnant people on the street what their favourite names are but it was a doomed venture because no one wants their best name stolen! My best friend and I text each other almost daily with new (mostly ridiculous, some amazing) names! My boyfriend manages whip-lash quick responses to any baby name proposals which usually make me understand how silly my choice of hippy names sound but I still love 'em!

    1. "A popular name is bad, but worse is giving them what you think is a quietly exclusive name, which in fact turns out to be two-a-penny in Hampstead or Fulham. We thought Felix was hip and unusual but, venture into our local north London playground and the sandpit is full of them. "

      Uh oh. Don't call your child Badger - Torygraph article outlining why here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/8908167/Baby-names-how-do-you-decide.html


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