Friday, August 15, 2008

What's in a name?

My sister is currently winding her way towards the end of what seems like the longest pregnancy in history ever and even though the end is now in sight, she has a problem.
Her baby is as yet without a name. She’s knows the gender but has not been able to decided on a name befitting of the bump that has become known to us all as Peanut.
Naming a child, you see, is a pretty big deal. I had umpteen sleepless nights when I was expecting the boy as we tried to find (read that as agree on) a name that would suit our baby. I made my mind up very early on that should young baby Allan appear as a girl, she would be called Grace. However my husband, with his warped male logic, turned that down as it reminded him of John Innman in ‘Are You Being Served?’ (which was set in the fictional Grace Brothers’ Department Store).
Much as I tried to convince him his logic was, at best, completely illogical, he would not budge from his position and very soon we had to abandon the name Grace altogether. Which, in fairness, became less of a problem as I grew to suspect that the baby in my tummy was a boy anyway.
Now, no matter how you try and pretend, boys’ names are generally quite boring. It seemed that with a daughter there were a wealth of possibilities from Phoebe to Faith, Aoife to Niamh. When it came to boys’ names we were utterly stumped. (Being stumped of course being code for “the husband was so blinking fussy we couldn’t agree on anything”).
Eventually, about 10 weeks before he was due, I had a moment of inspiration. A friend suggested thinking of a name which had meaning to me and I just thought it would be lovely to name our baby after my late grandad - who was my childhood hero. Of course his first name was Ernest and we decided that would verging on child abuse so we opted for his middle name which is of course Joseph.
It was lovely, two weeks later, when a scan indeed reveal I was having a boy to have a name ready and waiting. (Although I had a minor hysteria induced moment in the labour ward when I made my husband promise that if the sonographer had been wrong we could in fact call the baby Grace as “she” would be born on a Tuesday).
The sonographer, however, had been right and we soon welcomed Joseph - with the middle names Peter (after my daddy) and David (after the husband’s daddy) into the fold.
Now people’s reactions to the name were mixed. I had one lady tell me off (yes, seriously, tell me off) in a shop for giving my child a name which could be shortened. I just nodded at her before making my escape from her shop without buying anything. My sister (she of the longest pregnancy in the world, ever) declared the name old-fashioned and decided she would be calling him Joe or Joey. (He is so not a Joey, for the record).
A nun visiting the hospital however declared it was lovely to see a baby with a proper name which would she would have no problem spelling or pronouncing.
We knew that we weren’t choosing a name that wasn’t as popular or trendy as Dylan or Jack or Ben but that it would always have meaning for us and that worked. This week (which is still very much part of the silly season as far as news reports go) there have been newspaper reports warning against the possible “extinction” of certain older names which have all but disappeared off the record books.
In fact, Ernest (sorry Grandad) is one of those which has lost popularity, alongside Percy, Herbert, Clifford, Stanley and Fred. For the girls, it seems we have lost favour with Annie, Gertrude, Margaret and Lilian. But if I think of the names of some of my friends’ children there are plenty of more traditional names in the mix.
There’s Lily, Charlotte, Maisie, Elizabeth, Matthew, Harry, Fred and of course Joseph.
A few years ago people would have considered any of these names a little out of favour. So I don’t think we really have anything to worry about. Names come and go in popularity. I swear the year I was born every second girl was called Claire. (I was named after the song ‘Claire’ - the moment I met you I swear...’ for the record). Okay, I don’t think my sister will be rushing out to call her new baby Herbert or Gertrude (see, I’m being very coy and not revealing which gender the peanut is) but that’s not to say that in 20 years time the names won’t see a resurgence in popularity.
And as for me, when the time comes to have another baby, I’m already preparing a plethora of reasons to knock down the husband’s wonky reasoning. I could get a Grace after all.

2 comments:

Penelope said...

My son was born 14 weeks early and we had only settled on a boy's name, no girl's names at that stage. Lucky he was male then huh? His name can also be shortened but we never do, it just doesn't suit him. At school he is often referred to by his initials.
Second time around I had a name that could be shortened to a boy or girl's name but when she was born my son mis-pronounced her name and she has been known as that ever since!
So much for planning huh?

Loops said...

I picked a name for my son then decided it didn't suit him. So he had no name for almost 6 weeks as we couldn't agree. I liked Oscar - he didn't. People were coming up with ridiculous suggestions (Andre? in Salford?). In the end we plumped for the only name we could agree on - Conor - and added an extra 3 middle names to satisfy Grandads and family tradition. I still wish I'd won out with Oscar though as it would suit him perfectly

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