What’s in a name?

Almost 4 months ago, the latest addition to Team Fun™ arrived. As you may know, we now have a second daughter who was warmly welcomed by her brothers, sister, Mum and Dad. As with the arrival of our other three, it was incredible to finally meet her, but for me at least, there was a large uncertainty surrounding her arrival. I know that I will sound like I’m an unfeeling, or at least unsympathetic husband and father to be, but aside from the health of Mrs L. and the baby and the rest of the tribe, one of my main concerns was what to call our baby.

Naming a child is a monumental responsibility and as with all aspects of parenting, everyone has an opinion and all are keen to offer advice. The three most common questions people asked me when I told them that we were expecting again were; “Why don’t you just watch TV like a normal couple?”, “Do you know what you’re having?” (I was always tempted to answer “Yes, a baby”) and “Have you thought of a name yet?”

There are several schools of thought on how best to answer the second question. If you want to play it safe, you can either say that you aren’t sure yet, or that you have decided, but you don’t want to tell anyone. Neither of these responses is guaranteed to placate everyone. You will find that everyone has a suggestion; “Well, I’ve always liked Knud. Such a strong name.” or that you have suddenly acquired a new confidante; “Oh, go on, you can tell me.”

When we were expecting our first, we didn’t want to tell people what names we were considering and so I told anyone who asked that if the baby was a boy  we would name him Caligula as I’d always had a bit of a soft spot for Roman history. If however, we had a girl, I wanted something similar sounding and I’d come across a pretty name which was almost the same; Chlamydia. It was great fun watching people’s reaction. Most would nod and with an incredibly false smile say that they were unique names, and then hurriedly make an excuse, not wanting to be the one who had to tell me what I was naming my child after.

Of course you can tell people the truth, but beware! You will inevitably come across someone, often without children of their own, who offers a less than flattering appraisal of your selected moniker. This happened to me, and for many months preceding the birth of our second, we agonised over whether the boy’s name we were considering did sound a bit too effeminate. Ultimately we decided that whilst other people are entitled to their opinions, we don’t necessarily need to share them.

It’s also possible to share your ideas with just close friends and family, but just remember that these are almost certainly the people, whose opinion you most value, and therefore have the greatest ability to hurt you. Matters are complicated by the fact that these are the people who are most likely to be honest, and even if they’re not, you will probably be better placed to know when they are lying.

When we were waiting for our second baby to arrive, I did tell people the names we were considering, and became very observant to people’s reactions. Not just what they said, but how they said it, their facial response and their body language, and whilst the vast majority of those I spoke with said our ideas were lovely, a handful’s physical reaction tended to suggest that they weren’t being altogether truthful.

As I wrote last week, there are those who choose to wait until their child is born before they think of a name. I can understand religious reasons for doing this but I’ve met many prospective mums and dads who decide that they’ll see what the baby looks like, and see if a name comes to mind. Frankly I’m always astonished that these kids don’t end up being called Cyril or Claude, as almost without exception, newborns look like wrinkled old men regardless of whether they are boys or girls. In any case there have been nine months to consider most if not all the options. As you may have guessed, this is not the way I would choose to do things.

If you are anything like me though, even if you are 99.9% sure of your selection, you’ll still be waking up in a cold sweat, worrying that you’re not potentially inflicting a lifetime of misery upon them with your decision. Or maybe not.

I work in the health service and as a result, meet people from all walks of life. I never cease to be amazed at how inventive people are when naming their children. Perhaps inventive is a little too generous though. A more appropriate word that I could have used is cruel. I won’t and can’t write some of the odder names I have come across, but suffice to say that they would certainly raise a few eyebrows at the school gate. Here in New Zealand, from time to time the Government will step in and prevent a child being legally given a particular name, but in my experience (or opinion) at least, the state turns a blind eye far too frequently.

And is it any real surprise? The most famous people of the planet; those who appear on the Silver Screen, its smaller cousin, and in sporting and musical arenas, have a particular knack for blessing their offspring with the most ridiculous names.

What many parents fail to realise, it seems, is that whatever you call your child will precede and follow this little person around for the rest of their life.

With this in mind I have drawn up a list of do’s and don’ts when the time comes for you.

DO think about whether the name you are considering will suit an adult. Your child will not be a baby forever.

DO try to observe traditional family name, unless the tradition leaves your child socially crippled. If that is likely to be the case, use it as a middle name.

DO your research. Wouldn’t it be terrible if the name you’ve selected was also the name of an African despot or tropical disease.

DO think about nicknames which may conceivably be attached to your offspring’s name. Does it rhyme with anything lavatorial, because chances are that’s what they’ll be called in the playground.

DO consider whether their initials spell something, especially if it’s rude. For example, if your surname is Thomas, it’s probably not a great idea to name your son Finlay Andrew, especially if like me, you are a big boned.

DO try to work out whether your surname coupled with the proposed first name is likely to result in a fair degree of mirth at your child’s expense. Names such as Theresa Green or Russell Prout are going to lead to very many character forming years at school.


DON’T use celebrities as a source of inspiration for our child’s name. They are almost completely lacking in common sense when it comes to this issue.

DON‘T choose a traditional name, but try to make it your own, by respelling it. Ruby does not need to become Roobee and Erica is a lovely name by Airwreka? Really?

DON’T name your child after a product, appliance, car, pet, movie, or sexual position (I’ve seen it!). Use your brain! If you wouldn’t want it as your own name,y our kid probably won’t either. It’s important to remember that your child is a little person not a pet or a fashion accessory.

DON’T select a name which doesn’t look anything like how it’s supposed to be pronounced (Irish names are particularly tricky for this). Your kid will spend their entire adult life correcting everyone who says it incorrectly.

DON’T give your child a “funny” name. I am ashamed to say that I know someone who has given their kid the middle name Danger so that they can say “My middle name is Danger.” I’m fairly certain that the comedy genius who dreamt that little gem up and acted upon it will not be thanked for it. In fact I wouldn’t mind betting that the kid in question will be removing that one from all official documentation as soon as humanly possible.

Finally, and this is the most important one.

DON’T listen to the advice or opinion of anyone and that includes me!