The Naming of the Shrew

Last week the most popular baby names were announced, which felt incredibly timely as it happened while we were listening to our baby’s heartbeat for the first time, another indication that this is a real person waiting patiently to come out into the world. Oliver and Olivia were pronounced the most popular names of 2016, and while I actually like them both, there's something terribly disappointing about the most common names being the male and female equivalent of each other.

Giving someone a name is hard. I’ve been told by some to wait until the baby is born, stating that we’ll just know what to call them when we see them. Maybe this is true but I’ve also seen the terrible decisions I’ve made while late-night shopping on a Thursday evening desperately trying to find something at 9.55pm to wear for a Friday evening part. I’ve chosen awful fringed dresses, appallingly patterned tops, ill-advised bias –cut skirts, there’s no way I should be trusted to name someone for life in this way.

Both my husband and I have grown up with unusual names, his probably more than mine. We’ve had a lifetime of spelling it to people.  We’ve perfected grimaced acceptance at mispronunciations.  We quietly ignore misspellings from people who’ve known us for years. We’ve even dealt with the disappointment of not being able to get a personalised badge at the zoo. We know all too well the intake of breath you do before having to embark upon something over the phone. We recognise those vaguely similar syllables probably means us when we're called in for an appointment. We are aware introducing ourselves to you will never just be a fleeting comment.

So now we have to work out if we want to inflict a lifetime of that on someone else. Naming someone you don’t know is as bizarre as judging someone you don’t know based on what their parents decided to call them. I am frequently asked by strangers where my name is from. Receptionists often remark on how unusual or beautiful or interesting it is, like I'm going to reply, 'Oh, this old thing? Primark, mate. Only a fiver.' I even had a woman laugh at how ridiculous my name is when I introduced myself over the phone while working at a call centre. Our names define us, they can often be people’s first, and sometimes only, impression of us. They can tell people things that we have absolutely no control over, they can make them warm to us or dislike us, they can remind someone of something and they can make them feel like they know us before they even do.

We talked about names while making breakfast the other morning. Names were vetoed because we already knew someone with that name or there was a character we didn’t like called that or even we just didn’t really like the first letter. We judged names on sounding like the person was from a public school, it rhymes with something and they’d have the piss taken out of them at school or just sounded a bit boring.

Names are difficult. There are reasons why companies have hours of market research groups and development workshops and intense meetings when creating a brand or new product. I suppose us making porridge and rejecting a name because we went to school with someone called that 20 years ago is just our version of it.

Just as long as we have a bit more sense than the groups that decided on Starburst and Cif then I’m sure we’ll be fine.

Currently in need of... 

Maternity wear. Okay, that’s a lie but oh my god. My current bump in no way warrants anything that would accommodate more than a big lunch but my current clothes are giving me that post-Christmas Day pinch. I was working abroad this week and knew I’d be sat in a meeting for a good 8 hours and thought I’d try out a cheap New Look maternity dress I spotted online. OH MY. Yes, it’s likely it was probably more to do with the epic buffet breakfast I greedily consumed rather than my pomegranate-sized foetus but still. Consider me converted.

Currently appalled by... 

High street shops. Actually, let’s make that M&S. Now, I’m a strong believer in M&S. I’ll defend them and their right to a dizzying array of cashmere jumpers but their lack of maternity clothes in-store has got me angrier than the average Question Time viewer. I popped into their Oxford Street store the other day, it’s huge. It has patterned blouses for days. ‘Could you tell me where your maternity section is?’ asked my husband. ‘Sorry, it’s all online.’  I gazed at their shelves and shelves of court shoes and wished I had a bell with me. 



  1. With my three, I had a long list of every name I liked. Then I checked through it to look for any pattern that I might not have overtly thought of. I then cut it down to a shortlist of names and kept in the back of my mind that it might all change when I met them. It did help that I knew the gender ahead of time with the younger two (when I had the first it wasn't allowed to find out the gender).

    Best advice I was given (from multiple sources):
    * Go with something that has meaning somehow - so that you won't look and feel lame when your kid asks you why you chose it later.
    * Don't just test what it looks like written down or spoken, test both.
    * Also check the initials don't spell something embarrassing for the poor kid.
    * Don't get so attached to something that you feel you can't change your mind later.

    ...and don't worry about the naming tables. - Three times I didn't look at them and tried to pick something unusual, special, and tailored to the baby, and three times I ended up with names in the Top 10 for their year of birth.

    Seriously though, don't worry - you guys are professionals who work with words. You're going to rock this!

    1. Thanks for the advice! And yes, we're really not stressing about it too much at the moment as thankfully we still have quite a way to go! :-)


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