21.6.15

The Name Game



It is such a responsibility naming  a child. Although I’m sure that, however much thought and care we put into it, the child WILL at some point between the ages of two and eighteen, tell me it hates the name I’ve chosen and wants to be known instead as Roderick or Jezebel. 

Since the 18 and 20 week scans we had showed us it's probably a baby of the girly variety (plus the emergency one on hols where the sonographer pronounced "es la vulva!" excitedly), we've been able to focus in on girls names, but we're still keeping a boy name in our metaphorical back pocket in case of mistaken gender identification. But it does make it a lot easier knowing we only have to have two or three names picked out. 

But, my goodness, is choosing a baby name HARD. Before getting pregnant I had so many fantasies of my quirky named children, then I got pregnant and, rapidly, Juniper didn't seem so appealing a moniker. It suddenly became a rather serious responsibility to bestow upon our child a name it would probably have to carry forever. 

I've always considered myself fairly lucky that my parents picked Elizabeth. It's classic, has soooo many nicknames and variants, is easily understood is most languages (though the direct, sound-a-like translation in Mandarin does mean 'melons'), and suits a baby/child/teen/adult/old lady. My only gripe is that I've had to adopt the nickname Beth (which I do like), because if I introduce myself as Elizabeth it takes approximately fourteen seconds before the person I'm talking to thinks it's ok to shorten it to Liz, and I HATE Liz. I still have friends who insist on calling me Liz, even though I've consciously been Beth for eleven years. Maybe 'tis time to get hardline and cut them out. They've had long enough to adjust. 

But I digress... 

Naming a baby is a serious business, made more complicated because, as soon as I started thinking about naming my progeny, I realised I hate a lot of names, often entirely irrationally. I also have a lot of rules. 
 
The rules: 
+ No surnames as first names. So while I think Parker and Brady and the like are cute, they're not for me. They're also rather... American, and I am not. 
+ The initials can't spell anything weird. I thought this was an obvious one (no FUC or COK or VAG) but I hadn't realised that kids can develop even weirder ways to ruin a child's name when my friend Pippa told me a story about how when she was in secondary school, her friends went through a phase of swapping the first letters of their first and last names, so for example Jemima Harris would become Hemima Jarris. Ok I thought, that's...odd but not too bad. Then Pippa looked downcast and said "Poor Mary Hancock..." So now I have another initials consideration to factor in.  
+ Nothing top 50 for first name, preferably not top 100, but we do have one of those on our long list for a girls first name. 
+ But nothing too unusual. It has to be a commonly accepted name. Not like Apple or Cupboard or Green. 
No made up names. Sorry, Princess Tiaamii. 
It has to work cradle to grave. Pookie or Sunshine might sound nice for a baby, but ain't nobody gonna be taking her seriously at job interviews when she's forty
+ Nothing with two or more commonly accepted spellings. I don't want my child to spend their life having to say "that's with two Ls and one P" after introducing themselves for their whole life. Matt's sister is called Aeisha (EYE-shuh) and she's forever having to spell/pronounce her name for people. My cousin is called Annabel and a family member consistently addresses birthday cards to 'Annabelle'. #awks
One of our front runner names does break this rule and has two/three spellings, but it's a pretty rare name, so I'm hoping they'll be the only one people will have met, so they won't be constantly correcting people.
+ I have to like the nicknames. I don't think you can enforce a particular nickname, especially,once the child goes to school, so I'd like to be ok with all the likely potential nicknames. So that rules out Sebastian for me as I don't like Seb, and I want to avoid anything that shortens to Ellie - I have a friend called Elinor who goes by Nel, which I LOVE, but I just couldn't risk it. Our chosen name might fall down a bit on this criteria, which makes me a leeeeettle bit nervous... 
+ Nothing 'wet'. I can't really explain what I mean by this, but wet names for me include Milly, Rosie, Freddie, Tilly... Actually, maybe it's just names ending in an 'ee' sound (though not all of them, I love Henry for example). 
+ While we're on Henry, that's out because the name can't end in a 'ree' sound, as the baby's surname will (probably) be Reed. I love Henry, but Henry Reed just sounds wrong. 
+ Names starting with an R are also out. Normally I like alliterative names, but not with an R just in case my child has a Jonathan Ross-style speech impediment. Wobert Weed, anyone? Thought not. 
+ Another Reed-related restriction: first name must have more than one syllable. Maybe we should just give the baby my last name... 
+ Nothing that's obviously from another culture. Now I know all names started somewhere else, but I mean names that aren't commonly used by English people. For example, Matt suggested Aoife. I love that name but we have zero Irish heritage, so I think that's a bit weird. Saying that, a couple of the names we like have a bit of a Scandi flavour, so feel free to call me a massive hypocrite when we name our little one Helga or Ragnar (not the names we're considering!) 
+ Nothing someone I know has used recently. I like Joseph and Merryn, but they've both been used recently by people I know. I've got two friends due this week, plus another three due before me, and I am praying that they don't use our favourite name. 
+ Ditto names that are already in the family. I love Meredith, but we already have one in the extended family. That also rules out another one I like, Otto. Darn second cousins and their awesome name choices. 

Despite all our rules, we've managed to settle on a girls name, I think! It was a long, hard slog which ultimately ended in me convincing Matt of my fave lovely ladybaby name (let’s say it’s Sarah, as an example), by focussing on the middle name as if the first name is a done deal and saying “Sarah Grace sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I mean, Grace is a pretty middle name but it just sounds so right with Sarah… yes, Sarah Grace Reed is beautiful…”. I also tried bribing him, but I thought that might be a bit immoral. He's really come around to the idea now though, and now refers to the baby as [my fave name] all the time. At first I tried to put the kibosh on this behaviour, for fear she might not suit the name when she's born, but I'm on a losing streak. We almost constantly refer to her as the name at home, and now I'm really struggling to imagine her as anything else! 

But that doesn't stop me constantly worrying that I'll pick a name that I think is unusual enough, and then it will quickly become apparent that the world and his wife have had the same 'unique' idea, and little Horatio will be one of four in his nursery class. (Confession: I actually really like the name Horatio, but that was one of the many that Matt vetoed off the bat). Or that the name will suddenly become a bit...chavtastic. I had a very middle-class friend who picked a fairly unusual, French name for her daughter (legitimately, as they have French heritage), and recently it has started to pop up everywhere, especially in certain sectors of society. Not great.  

So, barring any friends who use it first or sudden surges in popularity, we're pretty set for a first name. But then there's the issue of middle names. I'd like the baby to have two, but Matt had vetoed that as "too pretentious". He also has a thing about middle names having to have a family connection. I think that's nice, but I'm not hell-bent on trawling through our respective family trees just to have something with 'meaning' (plus, if you're having to look that hard, then surely any meaning is a less...meaningful). I like middle names for their own sake - it gives a child an extra identifying factor, they have a ready alternative if they decide they hate their given first name, and it's just nice. I also think that if you don't bother with a middle name for your first, then you have to stick with that for any future children; my mum didn't get one (despite being the firstborn) but her brother and sister have one each, and I think she felt a bit left out. 

Middle names are now my headache. And I would luuuurve for you to help me sort that shizz out. It can't start or end with an A, as that sounds odd with our chosen first name. Matt isn't a fan of many of the 'granny chic' names I love, and he doesn't warm to anything over two or three syllables. Our front-runner is Grace, which Matt loves but I think is a bit short next to Reed, but I might have to concede this one as I've got my way with the first name. But any and all suggestions welcome. GO!

And don't even get me started on the surname issue... A word of advice, get married before you have kids. 

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