What’s in a name?

Published April 29, 2014 | By Greg Hodgson-Fopp

Don’t expect me to give away any secrets here, before you get excited. I know a lot of people are really keen to hear what names we’ve chosen for our children, but I am adamant that some things must wait until the day they’re born. When we introduce the children with their names, the two things will anchor together in everyone’s heads in a way that giving a name without an associated baby just wouldn’t do. People can hate NAMES, but I don’t think anyone can hate a newborn baby.

Extenuating circumstances have meant that Matt and I have had to decide on names early, because we’ve got paperwork and things to fill out, including plane tickets and court orders, and what-not. So, unlike most parents, we will not be given the luxury of deciding ‘on the day’. Instead, we needed to decide, like… now. That sped up the debate about names somewhat I assure you.

Learning that it was girls, the shock of which should probably be a post of it’s own since it stunned me into silence for about 2 months, we hadn’t yet really had any names that had really stuck. Nothing that had really stood out from the crowd as a contender.

I’m bound to offend a few people by saying this – but Boy’s names felt MUCH easier. We had boy’s names ready to go straight away, long before we even started the process. But as soon as we were told it was going to be girls, I drew a blank.

Looking at my own female role-models, none of the names really stand out for us. In fact, most feminine role-model forenames are sufficiently common that I don’t feel like I would be giving the girls something unique and precious. I would be making them simply the next in a long line with the same name.

And we had our criteria laid out. Well, all right, I’ll be honest. I had criteria and it was carefully laid out. My husband on the other hand had his own criteria, that didn’t really have much to do with mine.

His criteria were pretty simple, whereas mine were more involved. I am sure every parent can empathise with this list:

  • Must be easy to spell, and spelt correctly. I don’t want my daughters to have to spell their names out over the phone twenty times a year for the rest of their lives.

  • Must be easy to pronounce, and not contain phonetics (so all the Irish names like Aoife, Sioned, Siobhan are already out).

  • Must be common enough that everyone has heard it before (so they can pronounce it). That means the name must be in the list of top 200-300 names being given out now.

  • Must be uncommon enough that they don’t know anyone else who has that name. That means ruling out all the names in the top 100.

  • Should be obviously feminine, as a ‘could be either’ name just creates confusion down the road.

  • Must match up well with the family middle names we have already chosen in advance.

  • Should be a classic, something which has been in use for at least a few hundred years. With all due respect, I don’t want to name our daughters something that anchor them in this decade. I want them to have a name that worked well 200 years ago, and will hopefully work well in 100 years time.

Very restrictive criteria when you add up all those. Add to that, “Must sound cool and a bit classy”, and “Matt must like the sound of it.”

Equally important to me, there are cultural and racial implications that must be considered. We can’t realistically name a girl child something that will have people automatically make assumptions about them for their entire life. An example of this would be friends-of-friends who both speak Japanese and gave their kids Japanese names. Now when someone reads out their names, they’re looking around the room for the Asian kids and don’t expect the name to belong to the blonde, blue-eyed girl. I know racism is a hot topic, but it’s alive and well, at least where I live, and we will be living in this world, so we have to accept some restrictions on that.

Rules can’t be ignored either – can’t use a name being used by a friend for their kids, and can’t use a name being used by any relative closer than 2nd or 3rd cousin. Because we all know that ends in tears. Oh, and despite some of my friends doing exactly that, it’s really not okay to re-use a pet’s name. Rover was a dumb name for a girl, anyway.

I also wanted the names to act as an anchor to time. I wanted the names to have history, in particular family history. Both Matt and I are ultimately British/Australians, with specific heritage in England (Yorkshire), Scotland and Wales. We wanted some sense of where we came from to be reflected in the names we chose for our children.

Tough call, eh?

Yet, somehow, within the last 48 hours before we had to decide, Matt and I (who rarely agree on anything, let’s be honest), managed to find a pair of names that matched all these criteria, and sound cool, and have the advantage of the fact that neither of us know anyone ever, in all our time on this planet who had those names. Of course, plenty of people exist with these names (they wouldn’t be classics without that). But the important thing is that neither he nor I know anyone who had these names.  You don’t realise how many people you hate until you start to pick a name for a baby!

So we’re now the other side of that decision, and it’s all good. We both really like the names that we’ve chosen, and we’ve committed to them in the form of paperwork, so they can’t actually be changed anyway.

And I’m amazed at how real they now seem in my head, now that they’ve got names. I can actually start to imagine the little people that they’re going to become, and picture the conversations we’re going to have. I’ve even started writing (yes, with a pen and hand-made paper) a diary of sorts for them to read when they have children of their own.

Don’t worry folks, it’s only 94 days between this post and the due date. That’s not long, really