What’s in a name?


My good friend is pregnant (yay!) and I asked her the other day, had they thought of any names? She sighed and said, “do you have any idea how hard it is to name a person? You are naming them forever!”.

Oh, I know it alright.

The New Zealand Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages has just this week released it’s annual list of Baby Names – the Top 100 names in NZ in 2014. I really love reading these lists, even though there are no (read: NO) more babies coming along in this family. It’s fun to see how some names climb, others fall off completely, and how the influences of pop culture and social media reflect on the name choices.

I also secretly love reading the comments on articles about baby names. People generally sit in one of two categories – there are the people who desperately don’t want their children’s names to appear in the Top 10, and there are those who do. Oh wait, there is a third category – those who don’t care either way. I fall into that category, for what it’s worth.

We didn’t consider the baby names list when naming our three, and, coincidentally, both Princess and BoyChild’s names were 25th on their respective lists. BabyGirl’s name wasn’t on the list at all, which was no surprise since we tailored the spelling from a name we liked the sound of.

You WHAT????? You made up your child’s name?????

Yes, we did. And we love it. But more on that later.

Before I had kids, I always had ideas about what I would name my future offspring. There are a few things that come into the decision that you don’t factor until you are actually on the spot, naming the child.

#1 – you need to agree with the baby’s father. This is a biggie. Not only do you have to find a name that you like, you have to find a name that they like. I was devastated that Mr T wouldn’t even consider the name Oscar. Heartbroken. He said I only wanted to name a baby Oscar so I could hold the baby and say, “I’d like to thank the Academy …”. Okay, I did want to do that. But still, think how cute it would have been!

#2 – you need to consider how the name might effect them through their life. While a lot of people say that the names of today aren’t going to work as adult names (“You’ve never heard of a lawyer called Poppy” etc), I disagree. The Piper’s and Poppy’s and Harper’s of today aren’t such unusual names, so there will come a point when they are all 30-somethings and will be as “common” as Jack and Elizabeth. And probably more so than Mary or Prue.

#3 – You need to factor in spelling and pronunciation. Are they going to be spelling their name for the rest of their life? Are they going to have it said incorrectly for ever? Now, here’s a funny story. My name, though not uncommon, has a slightly different spelling than what most people expect. Mr T’s name is not a common name in NZ (though very common in the UK). I swore, nay vowed, that I wouldn’t give my kids names that they had to constantly spell. And we honoured this with Princess (although, people do still get it wrong sometimes). I hereby apologise to BoyChild and BabyGirl. They will be spelling their names for eternity. I’m very, very sorry about that, kids. On the plus side, Princess has her pick of personalised items in stores, her name is always there. She is, in fact, the only family member to be so lucky. Again, sorry kids.

#4 – Please, PLEASE, look at the initials of their names. Patricia Isabelle Gilbert is a lovely name. PIG is not. Bernard Unwin McGinty? BUM. And, consider the way it is said as well. We all know the urban myth of the man named Wayne Kerr. Or Jack Hunt. Don’t make your kid that person!

#5 – yell the name. 100 times in a row. How does it feel? Because once that child is two, you will be saying it a LOT.

When we were pregnant with Princess, we had a list of 5 names (the majority of which were unisex names). The name she ended up with was not on our top 5. And she wouldn’t suit any other name. Her name suits her to a T.

With BoyChild, it was 600,000,000% harder coming up with a name. We just couldn’t find one we liked. Boys names are perculiar – with girl’s names there are the classic, the unique, and the names-in-the-middle. With boys, there only seems to be really-common, classic and old fashioned (Jack, Edward) or really “you named your kid what?” . We named him (the name that was our “boy” name when having Princess), and then regretted the decision and looked into changing his name. But then, it kind of just “fitted” him. So he kept it. And, again, he has grown into it.

We didn’t find out what we were having with BabyGirl, but right from the start of the pregnancy we had her “girl” name picked. We heard it on TV and, like I said, tailored the spelling to fit us. We made it phonetic, so it is said exactly how it is written. People still constantly get it wrong, but we also get so many compliments about her name. It really is a beautiful name. And, funnily enough, we never did decide on a boys name for her. Lucky she was a girl!

And so, back to the Top 100 list. Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will have 4 other kids with the same name in their class. There were 133 other girls born in NZ in 2009 with Princess’s name, and I have only ever met two kids the same age as her with her name. However, there were 5 Mikayla’s in her kindy class (all spelled differently) – this name doesn’t even feature near the Top 10.

Names are a bit like witches hats, they rise in popularity and sink again, as people move towards or away from them. They rise in popularity until every second person seems to have that name, and then people stop using it. Obviously some people take the piss a little bit (I’m looking at you, Tallulah-does-the-hula-from-Hawaii’s parents), which is why we are lucky to live in a country who put some limitations on naming rights!

The way I figure, if you like the name, your other half likes the name, your kid will fit the name.

And so, to my dear friend, I say – go with what you like. Trust your instincts! And name your child, Elsa Katniss Rapunzel Fantastic Mrs T.

You are welcome.


The full lists, if you are interested ๐Ÿ™‚

2 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. Great minds think alike… Except differently. I’ve just written about this too but I think our choosing process was a bit different! (i.e. we cared a bit about the lists)

    And for what it’s worth, I totally think Mr T should have let you use Oscar. Sounds like a great reason to use a name to me! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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