Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Not To Name Your Baby

When I was younger, it was before the days when being ludicrously creative with the names of your children was the norm and 'Crystal' was considered extreme. In those days, the main test to think about when choosing the name of your child was the Backyard Test.

According to this test, when choosing the name for your baby, you should think about how it would sound when yelled out across your backyard. Names that sound pretty when spoken can turn ugly when yelled. Some of them may be impossible to holler, or embarrassing.

However, after spending a couple of months in paediatrics, I have started to think that we need to encourage new parents to apply new and more post-modern tests to the names of their children. I have encountered some truly bizarre spellings of relatively normal names, names that have completely different and unintended meanings, and names that are entirely made-up. Often, the only way I knew how to say the name was to work out what it was meant to be rather than look at how it was written.

Perhaps somebody should publish a pamphlet to hand out to pregnant parents at the outpatient obstetric clinics, and save millions of children a lifetime of pain. It would be good karma, surely.

With this in mind, here are a few ideas:

1) The Google Test: This should be compulsory before you even seriously consider a name. It is a great way to discover what a word really means. It is also a good way to find out if the name means something really rude in another language.

2) The Serial Killer Test: Sure, Benjamin Barker is a nice name, but do you really want your infant son sharing his name with the Demon Barber of Fleet Street? Even if you don't get the reference, chances are that he will attend school with children who do music classes. Kids remember this stuff and are entirely merciless. Why not avoid the mental scarring?

2) The Takeaway Test: This is another one for those people who like to get extremely creative with spelling. Can the person on the other end of the line write your name down without a five minute explanation of how to spell it? Have you thought about what it would be like to live your entire life like this? Why add all of those silent letters. Think of the extra paperwork!

3) The Classmates From Hell Test: Kids are really mean. If your name rhymes with something awful, and it isn't too much of a stretch, seriously consider whether you like it THAT much. Little Charlotte probably doesn't want to grow up as Charlotte the Harlot.

4) The CEO Test: Say that little Talon or Harley grows up to avoid the biker gangs and becomes a white-collar manager. Uniqua or Sindi may decide to enter a career in law rather than become a professional singer or stylist. Will your name possibly inhibit their career, or at the very least, look entirely out of place on their name plaque? Will people wonder what they are even doing in the building?

5) The "I read it in a book and don't know how to say it" Test: This one is simple. Just don't. There are multiple little boys out there named Guy who have grown up with their mother pronouncing their name "Gooey" because they read it somewhere and thought it was exotic.

6) The Medical Test: This is similar to the Google test, just make sure that you google the name and leave the words "name" or "girl" out of the search. There are are girls out there named Melena and Candida. I have met them, so I can vouch that these are true. There are urban legends of worse names, but nobody seems to be able to confirm these as real. Thank goodness.

7) The Spelling Mistake/Stupid Baby Name Website Test: If the name looks like a spelling mistake when you write it down, please think twice. Also, if the name comes up on at website about stupid baby names, please consider why other people might think that your proposed name is less than ideal.

Baby names are a very individual thing, and it is up to the parents to make a responsible and personal choice. Kids don't thank you for having names that are different or weird. I have friends who grew up with slightly odd names, and they have named their children very pretty but mundane names. To me, this speaks volumes.

They all have horror stories of growing up and being given a hard time by kids, teachers, employers and complete strangers when filling out forms. Those who have first names that are gender ambiguous get letters sent to them addressed to a person of the opposite gender. This gets tiring after a few decades.

A name is for your child to live with, not you, so think of them and their life before you gift or burden them with something just for the sake of being different. Or not. It isn't my place to judge. Just have fun with little Yoda before he is old enough to visit the registry office and don't take it personally when he starts asking everybody he knows to call him "John".


XE said...

I love my quirky unusual name, but it has caused a LOT of problems, given that I'm a woman with a man's name.

XE said...

(There was one time that a supply teacher sent me to the office for impersonating another student -- she was unwilling to believe that I was who I claimed to be).

The Girl said...

My best friend had/has exactly the same problem. To top it off, her first name is the same as that of a very goofy male celebrity, which meant she was the butt of a lot of jokes.

Also, when we told our friends that we were going to the wedding of two people with male first names, they assumed that it was going to be very non-traditional. :P

Dragonfly said...


Noone ever spells my names right. Have learned to live with it.

I have seen baby names spelled wrongly (and differently to the parents intention) 4 times within the first 10 minutes of birth. Special times.

*C said...

An old friend has a French name that she discovered was actually masculine when visiting France. She now works in foreign affairs, and her name causes her some problems when she stumbles across a French speaking crowd.

...You can't anticipate the life your children will lead. Best bless them with a name for all purposes!

Sara said...

I love Xavier's.

I saw a kid named "Magic" - that's so bad. Just bad.

My last name is a bitch to spell (C or K, I or Y, one silent letter). I hate it. If I had a connection to it, it might be different.

The Girl said...

Sara, my maiden name was difficult, too. There are huge pros to having a boring surname. ;)

*C said...

Wow, you're so in tune with the zeitgeist! :P

This was in the Sunday age magazine today:


The Girl said...

There is a lot of it going around at the moment. I like to think that in 20 years it will have passed and we will be able to tell when somebody was born because of how their name was spelled.

One of the babies I caught was named Mary. The midwives and I thought it was perfect and lovely. Thank God there are still some sane people out there.