Namers Gonna Name – Why New Parents Shouldn’t Deliberate Too Much About What To Call Their Children
Back in the 1970s, Billy Connolly wrote a song called “Talkin’ Blues (What’s In A Name?)” Here it is in its entirety:
As you can see, it’s a cautionary tale. The line “Life’s pretty hard as an ordinary man, but it must get pretty hellish when you’re Genghis McCann” sums up quite succinctly the perils of bestowing exotic names on your offspring.
Strange word that, isn’t it? Offspring. Sounds like the kind of thing that James May used to bang on about in old episodes of Top Gear.
“This classic car is a work of art. It’s got Overhead Articulated Ratchet Thrumpers and a Fully Lenticulated Offspring. They just don’t make engines like that anymore.”
One thing they do make exactly as they used to is babies. And babies need names. What to name the baby is the subject of many new parents’ first argument after the emotional maelstrom of the birth itself. There’s a whole industry devoted to it. Books, websites, numerological consultants. Every Tom, Dick and Harry seems to want you to give them cash to avoid landing your child with the name equivalent of the disastrous Sean Connery movie “Zardoz”.
If you’re a celebrity, you can call your kids whatever the hell you like. All the other celebrities do it and the children are going to be privileged enough for their stupid names to be irrelevant anyway. And as the late great Frank Zappa once pointed out, it’s their surnames that are going to cause them problems in life, not their given names. Which is probably why he felt he had license to call his kids things like Dweezil and Moonunit.
In the last decade or so, celebrities have started a trend for naming their kids after places, particularly the places where the kids were conceived. Hence the Beckham’s son, Brooklyn. And Boris Becker’s lovechild, “Broomcupboard”.
Except of course, they didn’t actually start this trend off. Florence Nightingale’s parents called her Florence after that sultry and romantic Italian city. And it was indeed a sultry and romantic name at the time. But exotic names do not tend to have a good shelf life. Society moves on and cultural changes tarnish their glitter.
Florence was a name redolent of steamy Italian nights back in the 19th Century. But I do not live in the 19th Century, so when I hear the name Florence, this is who I think of:
Andy Capp’s wife. As romantic images go, it’s not the best is it?
There are other names that have not worn well over the years. Take Ruby, for instance. A beautiful jewel, such as one might find nestling seductively in the perfectly formed navel of The Queen of Sheba. It should be the most glamorous name in the world. Who do I think of when I hear that name? This lady:
That’s Ruby Murray. Granted, in terms of looks, she’s a considerable improvement on Florrie Capp, but unfortunately her name is now rhyming slang for “curry”. Not that there’s anything wrong with curry of course. It’s awesome. It’s just that I’ve never heard anyone ever say “That was the most glamorous and alluring curry I have ever had.” Well, maybe Rick Stein, but he’s a bit of an exception.
And what about Pearl? A name which should conjure images of lithe and supple Japanese girls diving naked to retrieve the precious fruits of the ocean. What image does it actually conjure? An old lady in a housecoat and carpet slipper with a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth.
There’s nothing you can do to lengthen the sell by dates on exotic sounding names. The Anastacia and Shaniah of today will inevitably become the Pearl and Ruby of tomorrow as the owners of those names grow into middle and old age.
You can save your children a great deal of trouble though, by not choosing exotic names at all. Don’t deliberate too much and pick something nice and boring. Or if you must pick an exotic name, make sure it’s one out of the top twenty so you’re children’s misery will have at least some company.
And don’t forget Billy Connolly’s warning. I’ve never met anyone called Ghenghis McCann. I have met someone called Tanya Hyde though. And someone called Michael Hunt. Fall foul of this trap and it’s unlikely that revenge will be taken with rifles, bayonets, screwtops and swearwords. But you might not get to see your grandchildren as often as you’d like and the retirement home you end up in may be less than satisfactory.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2015