Sunday, 17 July 2011

Naming a living being

is a responsibility. Giving a child a fanciful name like "Peaches" or "Harper Seven" may seem like fun to the parent but is it fair to the child?
I think I may have said elsewhere on this blog that I once knew a man who was christened "Sean". It is a perfectly sensible sort of name and even common in some places. Put with the surname "Lamb" however and it becomes a target for ridicule. Mr Lamb changed his name on reaching his majority - and rightly so. Nobody should have to live with a name they find offensive or which causes them embarrassment.
But most of us live with our names and they tend to shape our personalities as well. It comes as a surprise to find that someone is not who you think they are. I had a great-aunt. Everyone called her "Doll" or "Aunty Doll". She was the unmarried sister who dutifully cared for her parents. It was not until I was in my teens that I discovered she had been christened "Minette". There were members of the family who did not know her actual name until her funeral. Nobody ever called her "Minette". I often wonder how she felt about that.
Someone else I know is called "Margaret" but her father, a lover of Greek legends, called her "Persephone Marguerite". She is now in her 80's and has never been known by her actual name.
We were talking about this recently and she said, "A bit late now. I feel like a Margaret".
When I glance at the "hatched, matched and dispatched" columns in our state newspaper I often wonder at the names people give their children. There are the trendy names which will date people. There are the unusual spellings of those and other names - sometimes out of a desire to make the name a little different and perhaps sometimes out of ignorance - Sean, Shaun, Sheawn, Shawn and Aaron, Aran, Arran, Auron and even Arren. There is Charlie instead of Charles and Jack as a name where it was once a diminutive. Girls fair no better - and indeed sometimes worse than the boys. Isabel gets a wide variety of spellings, some of them quite traditional but others such as Izzabel which are clearly not - and one child was recently named "Izzy". I feel sorry for her - but maybe she will grow into it and like it. There are other people who never grow into their names or are always known by a diminutive.
You do need to grow into your name. I have been Cat for a very long time. I am Cat to most people and I comfortable with that. I feel like a Cat.


Anonymous said...

Yes, you do need to grow into your name!

Anonymous said...


I am so glad that part of you hasn't grown into your name ... there is a lovely touch of kitten still!

Judy B

Old Kitty said...

We used to go to this fab Chinese restaurant - staffed and ran by the same family for generations. Today its managed by the daughters and granddaughters who all go by their "English" names for the sake of ease of pronunciation. It's a shame because whenever we went we'd always make the effort to say their Chinese names properly but I guess we were the only ones who tried! We couldn't see why we can't reciprocate because they'd always say our names correctly.

I've just read a David Beckham interview where he explained his child's name. Apparently Harper in honour of Harper Lee (Posh's favourite book - To Kill a Mockingbird) and Seven - some kind of spiritual meaning - seven being a perfect number.

Oh well! I hope Harper appreciates this when she's all grown up!

Take care

Catnip said...

My mother named me Leonie after a heroine in a Georgette Heyer novel. It's a lovely name - but it's not mine! Much to her disappointment I have been going by the diminutive Non all my life, even in professional circles.

jeanfromcornwall said...

I used to get annoyed by the range of books in the shop which said "Baby Names" -NO, they are names for people!

In Primary School the names were very sedate and uncontroversial, with lots of duplication. We were using the old double desks and the Headmaster had a little whim to put the ones that shared a name in shared desks - it kept us on our toes!

Our District Nurse was an Irish exile, and told me that one day a new Mum came into the clinic, and signed her baby in, spelling out the name "s-i-o-b-h-a-n: how do you say it?" The nurse said it and then asked "Why didn't you just call her Susan, for that is what it is?" "Oh, I just love the way it looks."

Anonymous said...

My oldest's given name is a diminutive (Rosie) and she loves it. She hates it when people shorten it further (e.g. to Rose).

My second daughter is Alys, and people often think we've just gone for a random, made-up spelling, but it's actually the original Old English spelling of Alice.

So far none of our children hate their names. I never hated mine, but I did used to yearn to be called Tabitha for some bizarre reason! :D

The strangest thing is the realisation that, although you chose your children's names, as soon as you do, they belong far more to them than they do to you - in fact, they become theirs entirely. I know parents who find that really difficult. A boyfriend's mum used to tell people (his friends!) off for calling him Ali when she'd named him Alistair.

Rebecca Brown said...

I never liked my name, mostly because I had problems with R and my surname was R too so it was doubly difficult (not so bad now I've married!) but also I think of Rebecca now belonging to a little girl, usually getting in trouble. I much prefer people call me Becca although I'll answer to Bex or Bec too - NEVER Becky! Oddly a lot of Rebeccas get called Rachel and vice versa - I don't know if this happens with, say, Chris and Colin or Samantha and Sarah?

We had a dilemma when naming our son. We loved the name Daniel but took it off the list because our surname is brown and we didn't want people thinking he was named after Dan Brown of Da Vinci Code fame. But it kept coming up again and again and we went with it in the end. The thing is he couldn't be anything BUT a Daniel so if it ever comes up we'll have to deal with it then! Emily was more straightforward except her middle name seems to have almost become a double-barrelled first name. She tends to be either Emmy or Emily Grace or even Gracie but very rarely gets called just Emily - except on twitter!
Excellent post, sorry about the long response!

JO said...

And - not only interesting names, but interesting spellings. There is a fashion in the UK for 'Shevaune' (honestly!) - presumably from people who like the sound of the Irish name Siobhan but haven't the faintest idea how to spell it.

And I was named 'Joan' - which I loathe. It's all cardigans and talcum powder. An early boyfriend called me 'Jo' - he is long gone (and well rid of) but the name fits well now.

jeanfromcornwall said...

I must come back to Jo with the reminder of a little case of some difficulty between a mother and a teacher: the youngster in the case was spelled "Chevonne". It was quite some time before I realised what the name actually was. I'm not too good at "hearing" what my eyes see!

catdownunder said...

Oh my goodness - thankyou Judy! Yes Old Kitty our Chinese neighbours have given themselves English names too. I suppose because Chinese is a tonal language they run the risk of being called something quite different from their actual names. Catnip! I was surprised to discover earlier that you were a Leonie - you are definitely a Non!
Jean - I agree with the Baby Name books but I suspect they are there to stay.
Jo - I cannot imagine you as a Joan!