Use the force to avoid names that only a mother could love
Like your first tax return or that awkward conversation about your in-laws, choosing a name for your first-born is one of those huge humps in the road that looks a lot smaller in the rear view mirror.
Unless you’re exceptionally lucky or parade around without any metaphorical trousers in your house you’ll most likely chew it over, night after night. You’ll lie there while your partner fires names at you hopefully. Your job is to find rational grounds to reject them, and you should be as creative as the situation demands.
“Reminds me of my old teacher.”
“Sounds like a shoplifter.”
“Too many consonants.”
“Would definitely be bullied. Possibly by me.”
And so on. If know what gender your child will be, you’ve half the work to do. If not then you’re doubling up, but then you might have a spare for your second child. Unless you were lazy and decided to hedge your bets with Alex or Jo.
And it’s no consolation to know that even the most bizarre name soon becomes aural wallpaper (until you shout it down the frozen foods isle, that is). Apple, Bear, North West, Cricket and more: yes, of course they’re ridiculous. No, those children won’t be going to Spa Valley Comprehensive. But sneering at celebs won’t get you any closer to a name for your cherished offspring.
Enter the world of baby name sites. Or rather, don’t, if you value your sanity. Baby Names (UK oriented), Nameberry, Nymbler, and a bunch of others: ridiculous suggestions tumble forth, and this rapidly feels like a major chore. Which seems a bit unfair, given how many real chores lie ahead.
Enter Voyager, from Baby Name Wizard. Suddenly, we have data: the ebb and flow of different names over the last century, sources of inspiration aplenty. Someone who’s spent considerable time poring over Voyager is the rather splendid Wait but Why site, who pull out some awesome facts: that Ryker and Gunner are more popular than Larry and Terry. That if your name begins with F, you’re old.
Let’s get personal. Here’s the graph for my first daughter:
In making this choice, we were evidently on the hunt for something individual, something striking: no wonder my mother in law hated it. (And no I’m not telling you what it is, I’m not having my darling Charybdis held up for ridicule.)
And now here’s daughter number two:
Hmm. I didn’t need a graph to tell me this: shout her name in B&Q and every girl under five wonders what the strange man wants. Common as muck.
With a third impending, we’re taking a new tack. Sure, a boy’s name still eludes us – you’d think by now we’d have one sorted – but we do have one lined up if I’m destined to be seriously outnumbered (although I’m not banking on that: the odds are still pretty much 50/50). So let’s have a look at the chart:
Hello? WTF?! Not a single appearance! This is no space oddity, this is the name of someone you’ve seen on telly. You’d know how to spell it. This tool sucks. Except… this is USA data. It’s like taking advice on how to dress: sure, you need trousers and yeah, maybe a top would be good. But take it too far and you’ll be sporting Google Glass and a Yankees fanny pack.
But fear not, because here comes our esteemed Office for National Statistics (ONS), the gang who kindly reassure us that we’ll never run short of Harrys, Olivers, Amelias or Olivias. And look, they’ve even gone interactive! If you can’t see it – it’s in Flash, and flaky – I wouldn’t worry too much. It’s proof that government should leave the groovy tools to other people, and that there will be more Hugos kicking around next year than you’d credit.
But for whatever reason, their hands are tied (the ONS, not Hugo) – they only have the Top 100 names for England and Wales over the last century (also available for Northern Ireland or Scotland). Incidentally, there’s interest in even that limited data, and Nigel Farage should perhaps take a peek: in 1924, the 91st name was Mohammed; in 1934, it was up to 68th, with Abdul at 78th.
But then, y’know, how weird do you want to get? Bertram, Herbert, Gwendoline and Margery, that should cover most bases.
How did you settle on a name? What’s the most ludicrous name you had on your list, and what’s the most desperate excuse you gave to avoid it? (Sure, you’re bound to offend someone, but that’s just a bonus.)