What’s in a name?

Written by    Last updated: June 6, 2006

The benefits of giving your child a really unusual name are clear. It marks them out as an individual, it can be as trendy or as original as you like, and if you’re happy to just make something up you’re much less limited in your choices.

whats in a name

Its also a useful option where grandparents might be putting pressure on the choice of name – “We couldn’t decide whether to name him after Grandpa David or Grandpa James — so meet little Pocono Berrywhistle!”

However, its not all a matter of letting your imagination have free reign. Here’s some things you might want to consider before you hit the register office…

Comic potential…

Don’t pick a name that can easily be shortened or extended or rhymed to be something rude. Children are very good at making jokes of even the most standard of names, and you may want to avoid making your child an easy target for the class wag.

Spelling

A ‘normal’ name with an unusual spelling might look nice on the page – but it might also lead to confusion. Many people whose names are spelt with ‘y’ instead of the more common ‘i’ complain of endless incorrectly addressed letters and time spent spelling names over the phone. The same is true of people with silent ‘h’s in their name. Although clearly we should expect more accuracy of people who address these envelopes and take the messages, its sometimes easier to simplify life with a more standard spelling.

Historical accuracies…

If you choose a name from a bygone era or another culture, check that you are aware, and prepared to make your child live with, any connotations of the name. Even if you think Medusa is the most beautiful name in the world, you may want to take into consideration the fact that she was a snake haired goddess with a less than pleasant personality. On the other hand, some names that have fallen out of fashion, such as Mab, Maud and Celia, have beautiful connotations and backgrounds in literature.

Personality match

You may have a flamboyant and extrovert persona, and wish your parents had been more similar to Mr & Mrs Phoenix (children: River, Rainbow and Tree) but this is no guarantee your child is going to feel the same way. Take one David Bowie. Although his son was called Zowie Jones and not the popularly-supposed Zowie Bowie, he still found it too painful to live with and changed his name to Joey for much of his life.

Trend-setter or fashion victim?

We live in an era where many names we live with day to day (usually brand names) have become very direct and almost childlike. This has been because they often belong to complicated companies, and the trend has been to call them simple, accessible names, eg Orange (mobile phones) Apple (personal computers). As a nation, we’re currently fond of this style of name. When choosing a name, it’s often good not to be too influenced by the prevailing atmosphere. Little Pear and Green might not thank you for it later in life.

If you’ve been through this checklist and you still think your chosen name can stand the tests, then watch out for everyone wanting to copy you in a few years time.

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