Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What's in a name? Quite a lot, apparently.

Every once in a while I write a story that really catches my imagination. That gives me such pleasure - nay, glee - to write that I can't believe people are actually paying me to do this job. This week, I had such a story, all about baby names, which, I have to confess is one of my favourite topics of all time.

I love names. I love the anguish that goes behind choosing a baby's name. I love seeing whether the baby grows into the name or the name grows onto the baby. I even love that illicit thrill when a friend or family member names their child - and all you can think is WTF? Seriously, you think you know a person, and then they name their children (not that I've ever had this feeling with regards to my own family and friends, I hasten to add).

The best names always belong to other people. Who name their children - true stories, for these are all examples from a lengthy conversation on the Fibro Facebook page today - Chaos, Rowdy, Epiphany, Jesus, Sunshine, Handsome, Precious, Dolly Rockstar, Jonny Wolf, H (just the letter), Shanthony, Xanadu, Bluegum, Rubella, Shame and Waynette. And that's just a selection.

In the course of my story - you can read the whole thing on Kidspot here - I spoke to social researcher Mark McCrindle, whom I would add to my next dinner party guest list in a heartbeat. We talked about why the class of 2030 will be full of children named Kate, Will and Pippa. We talked about why biblical names are making a comeback (Hepzibah, anyone?) and why the top 20 names in Australia has remained fairly much the same for the past ten years. Nay, longer. We talked about why some names rise to the top and stay there, and others are merely flashes in pans (Britney?).

We discussed the fact that chasing a 'unique name' has become a trend in itself, perhaps a backlash from people who'd endured years at school as Melinda A, Melinda B, or Melinda C, and wanted their own child to have a name that stood on its own and would never be confused with anyone else in the class. We talked about how some of those names might be difficult to live with. Particularly in an era when our name is so much a part of our identity - it's everywhere (Facebook, email, everywhere).

Eight years ago, when the Builder and I were naming Mr7 (then not even with us), we endured the agony that is choosing a child's name. We ran the gamut of options - with girls he started at Charlie and I began with Audrey, so we had some ground to cover. We had a boys' name within minutes and a girls' name pretty much with just minutes to spare before the birth. It was HARD.

Now, as a writer, I get to choose names all the time. I have three different baby books and love to check out the 'popular names' sites on Google for inspiration. The beauty of those sites is that you can find names for characters from any era. All your characters born in the 1970s? The top 10 names is at your fingertips (Michelle, Nicole and Lisa, in case you were wondering).

I also get to use up the names that I loved but didn't quite make the grade for my actual children. Not Audrey, not yet, but soon....

Did you find it difficult to name your children? Did you have 'leftover' names?

[image: from BBLLSS/etsy]


  1. LOVE this post. I love baby names. My mum and I read the newspapers to follow the updates on births and baby names in the some way some parents and their children catch up together over the footy stats.
    I'm still constructing my ever-growing list of baby names. A few local place names and street names constantly haunt me (Alice, Helena ... Pippa was one of our girl names, although I've gone a bit off it. A little too horsey, if you know what I mean ...)
    Our boys have pretty original names as I went to school with 5 other girls named Karen Jane something-or-rather. I didn't want that for my kids.

  2. Well, we only had 1 girls name we could agree on, and thankfully we had a girl! We had nothing for a boy - chances are if we'd had a boy we'd still be trying to decide. And I gave birth almost 3 years ago.
    I think the worst name I've encountered thus far is Le-a. Pronounced 'Lee-dash-ah'. According to the mother 'because the dash don't be silent!'

  3. I love baby names too, but I am a baby name snob. I hate uneek names.

    I have a cousin called Kloi....yeah, that's right, Chloe.

    As for Irish names spelt wrong...hello Ciara...not Keira, Niamh or Neve.

    But really, who cares what I think, so I don't share them. I expect lots of people hate the names I love...old ones for girls especially. I would have loved to name my first Mabel, but Mr H would not go there.

    Names get people so worked up!

  4. I am a fan of looking at baby name books. I have a ridiculously think one that has names for every era from the 1950's to today, crazy name lists, as well as alphabetical listings of boys and girls names. Some of the stuff I have read in that book is hilarious.
    I had my daughter's name picked out when I was 16 (I was convinced my first baby would be a girl and I was right - thankfully it went nicely with my married name and husband liked it too!). For our boys we mulled a few around before settling on what we chose. #2 son was harder that #1 son though.
    Here are some of the names I found extremely funny and wtf from my baby name book:
    Dweezil & Moon Unit (Frank Zappa)
    Pity (??!!!)
    Honestly. People do strange things to their children sometimes.
    I once heard of a mother who (jokingly thank god) called her children Favourite One and Second Best...

  5. I love names! And it is so true that we each have our own vision of what a 'Sarah' or a 'Michael' looks like and in writing in particular, the name of the character has to fit perfectly.

    I take hours, actually days more like it agonising over character names to get the perfect one.

    As for baby names, luckily having girls, we had a plethora of girl names and couldn't really decide on a boy!

    Miss 6 was named in conjunction with friends. Hubby like the longer version, I liked a shorter version and our friends came up with a medium length version which we love.

    With our youngest we chose what we thought was a cute yet sophisticated name and I have to tell you it is so hard. Her name is Elle. Now try getting anyone to understand that is like pulling teeth. They say 'L' or Ellie. and then trying to get her to learn to write Elle. Eee - El - El - Eee. *sigh*

  6. Love this post and love love LOVE talking about baby names. We knew we were having boys both times so had the names picked but there was much negotiating between the husb and I in the beginning with the first.

    Our kids have my surname so I 'let' him pick the second son's first name. He picked our second favourite name from when the first son was born - win/win for me!

    They're uncommon names but not so different that people look at us strangely! I have heaps of leftovers too - I even made a list on Listgeeks just in case there was ever a third child...

  7. I have enough left over names to name a suburb. I to had Audrey set aside after I met a beautiful beagle with that name - cant understand why no one else seemed to like it. I did some reading a few weeks back into whether or not your kids first words shape who they become and what they are interested in. I think names have the same possibilities. My little girl has become her name - curly, a bit loopy and just a bit gorgeous. My son too - sturdy, strong and an old soul.

    Having worked in welfare for a lot of years there are a whole stack of names that I could never consider but reading the names of new babes and the popular names of the time is a great way to waste time. Dont get me started on the names I notice in the obituaries!

    Merry Christmas Al.

  8. I love names too - I had a stash of them picked out for years before I met my husband and then we had to meet in the middle for our three kids. My husband's a teacher and vetoed A LOT of names due to kids he had taught in the past...

    The most unusual name I have come across is Corbz which is the name of the youngest son of my sister-in-law's sister. Everytime I hear it or see it I think corpse instead - however, each to their own!

  9. Love this post! I love the whole topic of names too. We had a name in mind when my son was born but when he arrived, he just didn't suit it. He went nameless for a few days whilst we started again. In the end we chose Sonny - partly after a song of the same name, partly after jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins. Luckily he is of a sunny disposition. It is not that unusual where I live, but my MIL refused point blank to call him it saying it was not a proper name. It used to annoy me so much. When we had a girl, I said I would call her 'Cher' just to annoy her even more but I couldn't go through with it. Couldn't saddle her with that for life!

    There seems to be a trend here for very old fashioned names like Elsie and Grace and Archie and Stan - things that were around in my grandmother's time. Sweet.

    Did you see that baby called Talulah does the Hoola from Hawaii? I think she got made a ward of court!

    I could talk about this for hours.

  10. I love the name Alex. For either gender. I see a lot of names in my line of work, and I've noticed many people who were given unique names in the '70s and '80s are the ones who are now opting for names like Jonathan and Maria etc. I always wonder if it's because they hated having a name that was hard to spell and/or pronounce, and don't want to give their kids the same problem.

  11. I remember back in High School I used to make lists of 'Future Baby Names' and 'Pet Names'. If you're scared to scar your child for life with an exuberant name, at least you can let it rip with your pets (I had cats named Spartacus, Barnabus, Mortimer, Morticia, Hieronymus and a dog named Neptune). I had grand plans for prospective children's names but all that went out the window with my very traditional (and Greek) husband. Our first children were twin girls and the Greek custom is to name your daughter after your husband's mother. My mother-in-law's name is Eurydice (pronounced Evrithiki), so we compromised and I named twin 1 'Ava'. My Dad had passed away before I fell pregnant, so we named Twin 2 'Constance' as a tribute to my father (although I was in two minds over that name, it sounded too close to 'constipation', which indeed she did end up suffering severely from during her toddler years!!!!!).
    When Little Princess number 3 came along 16 months after the birth of our twins, Hubby said I could have free reign. I was leaning towards 'Allegra' or 'Isabella', but we ended up naming her 'Katia', in honour of the town in Greece where my husband and I first met (Katerini).

    If we were ever to have a fourth child and if he was a boy, I like the names Alexander and Xavier. xxx

  12. laughing at Coffin!

  13. I love love love names. Alas my husband and I don't quite see eye to eye so it's been a long nine months of debate with each both of our babies! I'm completely stumped as to what we'd call a third baby as we've gotten our selves into a bit of naming rut: both girls have a sensible first name but are called by their middle names, 5 letters, beginning with S!

  14. I picked names that weren't faddish at the time, only to have a million people follow suit within a year or two.

    I've made pages in my kids' albums that explain why we chose their names, and what the alternatives would have been.
    My Princess is tickled by the thought that she would have been Ashley James if she'd been a boy.

  15. I found a whole list of girls names that I had back in 1996. Now looking back at that list, I am rather glad I stopped at two boys. :)

  16. Having had a surname my whole unmarried life that elicited a pause from whoever was attempting to read it out, my one rule for my kids' names is that they are pronounced the way they look!

    I had one boy name that I loved and have used it already and I have one girl name that I love. Am waiting to see if I ever get to use that girl name because it is awesome! Unusual, but not toooo out there :)

  17. I love baby names too. The Mr and I had a terrible time agreeing on the boys' names. He was such a pain in the arse about names that I pretty much let him choose our 1st boy's name and then I lobbied for what I wanted with our second given he had taken the lead on the 1st. I told my mum we wanted to name our first son Cole and she had a violent hate reaction to it and I just couldn't have her hate the name. We did use it as the middle name for our second though. I have a bunch of leftover girl names, Elodie and Juliet being my favourites and Gabriel / Gabe is my main leftover boy name. On a related note, the morning my brother rang me to tell me about the birth of his second daughter and told me they'd named her Zinfandel I totally faked my "oh what a delightful name" reaction. He and & his wife are mad about their wine and so named her after a varietal, as you do! Off to check out your kidspot article now.

  18. My favorite names were mostly girls names guess what I had boys.

  19. Well, A. I think about this stuff all the time too, love, B. x

  20. My Little Bird was named after my favorite teacher. She has his last name as her first. I didn't find out what I was having, but I just knew it was a boy. Of course, I was wrong, but I kept the only name I'd chosen. It suits her well. And it's very unique- especially for a girl :)

    Still, most people just call her Bird!

  21. I've never been one to pick random names because they sound pretty or unique. I'm all for meaning behind the name and a good story to go with it. Perhaps that's why all my children have namesakes.

  22. As a little girl I picked out what names I wanted for my children, but as I grew up I kept changing them. It's like I want to be prepared if someone leaves a bundle on my doorstep or something! The names I've decided on now are based on people I know and admire, so it's more of a legacy than naming them something original or unique. That said, when I write fiction I look through baby name books and pick a name for my characters that has a meaning that fits their personality.

  23. Love love love!
    This is my life at the moment, trying to negotiate a name for our #3. It is a fierce battle, to find something that works in English and Dutch, that we both like, and that meets my stringent criteria with regard to pronunciation / popularity etc.
    I go to bed every night reading baby name books, it's doing my head in, but I love it.
    Off to look at your FB posts for inspiration! ;)

  24. My former partner and I couldn't agree on a name for our first born. He didn't approve of anything on my list, so I told him that as long as I liked it well enough, he could name her. It took him weeks after her birth. Little old ladies were tutting me in the street when they asked her name. Government agencies were hassling me. He did finally come up with a name, but as a consequence of us having grown used to nicknames, it took her a few years to really grow into her name. We were still calling her 'Baby' when she was six.

  25. I could talk names all night.
    I love getting my class list each year to see what pearlers I have for the year!!

    Being a Sharon, I didn't want my child to have to be ___ B all the time. I was always the Sharon C.

    We chose a strong and uncommon (but not ludicrous) name for our son.
    A colleague had a boy just after me and called her son the same strong and uncommon name. She then enrolled him in my son's class. He will be _______ B anyway!!!!

  26. I went to a party once and there was a 4 year old called "Chardonay".... I KNOW!!!
    Being a high school teacher, I firmly believe that what you name your child will affect their whole life. I have taught many Corey/Kory/Coree etc and without exception they all turned out to be naughty (VERY) - would love to hear of a good corey but never have!
    I could also give you a huge list of misspelled names which are hilarious or sad, depending on your point of view!

  27. I have the most common name out there. Boring.
    It was important to me to try and pick something for my kids that wasn't every second child's name because of that. I think you are spot on with that point!
    I also worked in childcare when I had Bluey so it was equally important to come up with a name that none of the kids I cared for had. That's A LOT of names.
    We did find something, traditional, not weird, but also not common.
    For both kids actually.
    We had Bluey's the day we found out what we were having. We didn't have Greenie's until a week or 2 before I went into labour.

    For me, my kids were just their names. I have seen kids and thought "you look nothing like your name". I have also heard some pearlers for name choices, and it makes me thankful that I get to choose my kids names.

  28. One of my post..... What's in a name? ( yep, that's my title too)... Addresses how and why we named each of our three children the way we did.... And there is a leftover, one I will never use.........

  29. We had names for each sex going into every birth, although the last was the hardest to decide on. Thomas, Daniel and Samuel would have been Sienna, Sophie and Chloe if they had been girls.

  30. I LOVE talking about names, Thank You so much for this post. My Hubby and I struggled to find names we could agree on. He was adamant that our children had to have names that couldn't be shortened! His theory was you give them a name and that's it, it is not to be abbreviated.
    Given our eldest took forever to say her own name (I should have known better being a speech pathologist) we ran all subsequent name choices past her first to make sure she could say them. Helped to narrow the field and got us to finally agree!
    I always think it's such an important task picking a name as it will remain with them for the rest of their lives.

  31. Ah.. one of my favourite topics - baby names! When I had my first child, a son, we were almost fined for not registering him because we could not agree on a name. Finally my mother named him Hamish. Worried that he might find this too Scottish I added a middle name of Rhys. Worried that he would think this too girly as his aunt's name is Reece, I added my maiden surname. Then standing in the queue at the Registry office I worried that he might prefer a more common name. Unable to think of one I overheard the lady in front of me naming her son Craig.. so I added that as well.
    Along came baby no. 2.. a girl and I had chosen the name Savannah. My husband liked Shirley???? my mother in law said that she would call the child 'battered Sav' and so, like her brother she was nameless for 59 days. We settled on the name, Rhiannon ( Fleetwood Mac fans). Added Sarah. Added Sharne after me. At least she didn't have 5 names like her brother. Baby no. 3 was on the way and everyone kept saying, 'We can't wait to hear what Celtic name you come up with this time'. Celtic?.. I liked Kate, Laura and a few other names, definitely NOT Celtic! Under pressure, I bought a book of eltic names and we found 2 names we liked but could not agree. Baby no. 3 had no namefor 3 weeks until one of us (who shall remain nameless) won! Baby no. 4 we knew was a girl. This time I was determined to name her BEFORE we left the hospital. The name HAD to be Celtic..you can't have Hamish, Rhiannon, Siobhan and Anne! We settled on 2 names but once again couldn't agree. The decision was not made easier by an Irish nurse named Roisin who insisted we use that name. Finally I decided to go with my husband's choice but he did a reverse as well and we were back where we started from. Briallen Sian Hannah WAS named before we went home. My eldest daughter is expecting her first baby next April and won't even give me a hint about names. I wonder why?

  32. Hubby and I had a few boys' names we liked, but no girls' names. And we knew we were having a girl. After she was born, while our parents were waiting to come in and see us, we quickly came up with a name and that was it. No looking back. We've put more thought into what we want for dinner some nights, but we still love it, so I guess it was meant to be!

    And I know someone whose granddaughter is named Peekaboo. Shudder groan eye roll.

  33. I'm still a little dirty that #2 ended up Oliver when I really wanted Angus. He is such a Gus - such a steamroller!

    My favourite is from a friend in Tassie who teaches a kid called ABCD. And i am not joking. It's pronounced AbbaseDah.

  34. I agonized over my son's name. Then ended up picking a name that's been on the most popular list since the year he was born...but that was not why I chose it. The Hubs and I have a boys name picked out, but not a girls...in case we ever get pregnant.

    We do have friends (four sisters) who are named Sunshine, Spring, Summer and Season. :)

  35. Names are so much fun! I told my husband the names I liked before we started going out (while swimming in the Solomon Islands)- and then he wouldn't let me change them! My dad wanted something more Scottish and I had a leaning towards that myself but.... nup. I love the names I/we chose, although I was right - my little girl's name is too 'big' for a toddler and she always gets diminutives! I suppose at least she'll have a lot of choices!

  36. I forgot to say - I worked in Tonga for awhile and there were the best names. My workmate was Fololini Nitingali (Florence Nightingale) but there were a lot of Diplomas and Hai Mak (high mark - no r's). I sometimes wonder when I see names we borrow from other languages how appropriate/apt our borrowings are. My daughters name is borrowed from the Japanese and I think it means 'rain at night'... but sometimes I worry...

  37. I think I have mentioned to you before that we also started with Charlie and Audrey. Audrey is still top of my list, should we have another baby.

    A girl I went to school with gave her daughter her own name. Julie. Julie Junior. I thought it was so old fashioned. Did you come across much of this in your research? I had thought it was a dying trend

  38. My husband's cousin called her son Xyz (which is said Zice). My birth name is unusual (but not unheard of) but it has an unusual spelling (an e rather than an i). My son's name is unusual (but not unheard of), it is Baydn (spelt that way rather than Baden or Bayden). My daughter's name is old fashioned but quite common these days (but I loved it). My name by common usage is Bri (as in said like fry not free), short for Briah (said like Briar). Husband's name is very common but his family nickname is Jack (just as common). I have a cousin who have kids called Riven, Aurora and Angel. And another cousin who is Aboriginal and all her (5) kids have Aboriginal names starting with the letters Dj (so Djaran, Djali etc). Names are fascinating!

  39. Rather topical in our house at the moment with 4 weeks to go before our little man is born!! We've found it REALLY hard to settle on a name we both like, one that is different but not too different, if you know what I mean! It feels like such a massive decision. High pressure! Ah well, in a few weeks time, the decision will be done and dusted! Here's hoping we get it right!! x

  40. My firstborn was a girl and hubby chose her name, I had no say in the matter, he insisted. I liked his choice and couldn't really decide for myself, so I went along with it. For my boys, #2 and #4 he immediately vetoed my first choices thinking I was using names of old boyfriends, (I wasn't) so we settled on my second choices. For #3, another girl, we used her aunt's initials, but slightly different names.
    My mum was disappointed with all my choices. She thought I should have chosen some family names. Well, that wasn't happening! We're German and I had trouble all through school with people pronouncing my name wrong, even when reading it off a sheet of paper.

  41. We went into the birth of baby 1 with 2 girls names and 2 boys. Ethan or Aidan for a boy, Mia or Grace for a girl. I didn't 'love' Mia, as the meaning bothered me, but I was prepared to let it go. My baby girl was born by emergency C section due to severe distress. 9 hours later when I woke from the anaesthetic/sedatives a nurse asked me her name. I said I'd name her tomorrow when I met her. She said I had to name her tonight......
    So I looked at my husband and said her name was now obvious, as it was in someone elses hands whether she made it through. So Grace it was. She's an extra special girl with many a struggle behind as well as in front of her, and perfectly named.
    Baby 2 was to be Ethan for a boy and Sophie for a girl. That took about 5 minutes to work out! No stress or drama with that birth thank heavens.

  42. This name thing is such a minefield! And so utterly fascinating. I used to denigrate "bored housewives" who gave their children such unusual names, but can no longer do this... sadly (or perhaps happily), the Munchkin's name is rarer than Sunshine, Zen or probably even Coffin (which I why I can show his face, but not mention his name - it's very traceable!) But it doesn't sound crazy out there, it's a strong name and very, very him. Of course explaining its origin is always fun... it's from very obscure Tolkien - now that's ultra nerdy (I blame hubby, but I still LOVE the name).

  43. My husband's name is Wayne and it's difficult to say without whinging. It also rhymes with a lot of negative words like complain, drain, rain, blame,lame, pain, lame, plain, strain, disdain...I would like him to change his name - I'm sure he'd change from a misery guts to a happy Larry.


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