What’s in a name hey? More than you might think actually. A child’s name says more about the parents than their tiny converse shoes do, or the make of buggy they get wheeled around in does. My name is Robin Sherwood, so it’s safe to assume my parents were absolute sadists. Thankfully, most people who choose to name their children after a favourite uncle or grandma with a daft, unfashionable moniker (like Harvey or Gerald) will use the middle name to remember them by.
There’s also positive determinism to think about. You’re not going to call you child Colin unless you want him to be an accountant, right? And likewise, little Kieran will grow up to be a builder – it’s inescapable. Anyway, deciding a name for your child which (a) sounds good, (b) suits them, and most importantly (c) shows everyone that you’re cool parents is indeed a treacherous process.
“Oi Kieran! Pass the spirit level mate!”
Buying a book can help; Cool Names for Babies by Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz was definitely useful for getting the creative juices flowing but being American, it does misjudge things occasionally; “How about taking Gwyneth Paltrow’s fruit name route, but opting for something a little more exotic, such as Papaya or Tamarillo? Or why not try revamping a more common name by adding an extra letter so that Amos becomes Ramos?” Yes, or how about considering the playground bullies your poor baby will encounter in later life?
So, you’ve whittled down your list to a handful of perfect names for each sex (if you haven’t already found this out) and you’re ready to go. There are two things to remember; the first is never to tell people the names on your shortlist. As my dear old granny used to say “opinions are like assholes and everybody’s got one.” A name that’s captured both your hearts might cause a quite the opposite others. A few months ago my friends named their baby daughter Gemma; a favourite auntie was called Gemma and they liked the actress Gemma Arterton. However, Gemma was the fat girl in my junior school who was infamous for once shitting herself on the school bus on the way to a geography field trip in Swanage. It’s unfortunate that one name will mean different things to different people – and not all of them positive. Also, if enough people say, “oh that’s a nice name” when you tell them your favourites, it may be far too generic and you’ll probably have to start the whole process again.
Not the Gemma I remember from school.
The second filter you need to apply to your shortlist of baby names is a highly scientific (and not at all arbitrary) assessment, which the wife and I call ‘The Giraffe Test’. Here’s how it works:
Picture yourself in the popular kid-friendly restaurant Giraffe (or other generic restaurant chain) on a Saturday afternoon with your child, who by now is a toddler. After ingesting way too much sugar, they’ve started to run around the tables, annoying the other diners and causing you great embarrassment. You stand up and shout across at them, demanding they stop what they’re doing and sit back down. If the name you’ve chosen DOESN’T make you look like an annoying posh tw*t then the name passes.
So, let’s start with one of the most generic middle class boy names out there at the moment, Oscar.
“Oscar! Come here!”
See? That’s a fail right there; unless you live in Muswell Hill, Stoke Newington, Crouch End, Edinburgh and Bath of course, where the name is mandatory.
“Florence! Stop that right now!
Hmmm, not sure about Florence myself. Borderline.
“Frank! Stop that!”
Frank wins. Most solid granny/grandad names like Frank, Fred or Ruby win. Forget about Oliver, Milo, Cressida, Jemima or Xander.
In summary then; don’t name your child after a fruit, one syllable names are best for boys (no more than two for girls) and if you can’t shout your child’s name across a busy restaurant without looking like a bourgeois arsehole then you should be fine.