13 April 2016

Names

"How may I live without my name? I have given you my 
soul; leave me my name!" - John Proctor in "The Crucible"

For years I have been fascinated by the names that people choose to give to their children. It is something I have blogged about before. As a schoolteacher over some thirty six years, I witnessed changing fashions in naming. Some of the new names seemed quite horrid to me, often drawn from the world of celebrity or television. I felt even more sorry for girls who had been saddled with names like  Kylie or Madonna than I felt for boys called Cary or Shane.

My beloved daughter's boyfriend's father is a vicar. He is one of the governors at our local primary school. Scanning through the names of pupils currently on roll, he discovered that there was not one biblical name. To me this was a rather shocking discovery. No James or Peter or Thomas or John or Simon or Benjamin or Jacob - not even a Goliath or a Judas! And amongst the girls no Mary or Rebecca or Sara or Ruth or Eve - not even a Jezabel or a Zipporah (wife of Moses).

Three young couples we know have recently become parents for the first time. The babies are all boys and they are called Charles, Evan and Jasper. All three names earned nods of approval from me. They are not silly, frivolous names but solid names to be borne proudly through life.
I think my own parents did fine calling their four sons Paul, Robin, Neil and Simon. We always liked our names and grew into them like favourite old jackets. And when Shirley and I picked names for our two children we wanted individuality without unusualness so we came up with Ian Philip and Frances Emily. Ian wears his name like an old jacket too but in the past Frances sometimes doubted our choice because it is frequently confused with the male version - Francis. Happily, she is much more comfortable with it now.

Spelling can be an issue with names. Lord knows why some parents insist on strange spellings. Take Matthew for example. To me it should always have a double "t" in the middle but these days a lot are registered with a single "t". Why? 

One name and its variants that used to really bug me in school classrooms was Keeley - or was it Keilly or Keally or Keelee or Keyleigh or Kayleigh or Kelly. Why the hell they couldn't just stick to one spelling of the awful name? I am sure that half the time it was to do with semi-literate parents turning up at the register office with only vague notions of how their new babies' names should be spelt. 

When choosing names, different parents seek different things. Some want solidity. Others want modernity while yet others want uniqueness. To me they should always pause for a while and remember that the helpless babies in their cots will grow up and travel through life and in 99.9% of cases the names they are allotted will remain with them through the years, becoming part of their identity and how other people view them.

39 comments:

  1. The practice of naming children Lee or Kylie just shows some folk require more children to practise on.

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    1. Gold star for you Adrian! You know your "practice" from your "practise" now so you can come on the school trip after all.

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  2. My twin sister janet and I was always grateful for not being named my mithers second choice
    Dick and dora

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    1. On the phone folk would have asked "Is Dick in?"

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  3. I agree that Matthew should have a double T and suspect that the Mathew version is a simple spelling mistake. My dad got in trouble for registering my name with a single I instead of Iain, as specified by my mum.

    As for our own children, we had one of those baby naming books when our daughter was due, but lost patience at the letter B, so she got landed with Bryony which I'm pleased to say she really likes.

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    1. I believe you also have a son and sincerely hope that you called him Cecil instead of Country.

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  4. (Funny that we both mentioned names in our blog posts today!)

    I'm sometimes mystified by the names people come up with. I, too, am surprised by the complete lack of Biblical names in the example you gave -- that seems like a pretty unusual situation, but maybe not!

    I always liked my own name. The other option was David, and then Dave and I would have the same name, which would just be too bizarre. (I would have been Elizabeth if I'd been a girl, or so my mom said.)

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    1. Steve - it was reading your blogpost that sparked this one!

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  5. Try being called Cherie.... I am often called, Sherry, Cherry, Shirley, Charlie and Sheryl when people ring the office to speak with me.

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    1. I would rather not be called Cherie thank you Cherie as I am a testosterone-fuelled hunk of raw masculinity! I can see how irritating it must be having to correct cloth-eared people your whole life through.

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    2. Er......you're what YP ?(sniggers loudly)
      Did anyone mention Clint....
      (Oh dear - no gold star for me today !)

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    3. I am thinking of having my name changed to Clint or Knuckles by deed poll. Such a name will go nicely with my rough red-blooded character. No gold star for you CG but how about a ride across the moors in my open-topped jeep?

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    4. Noooooo, I've just had my hair done !

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  6. Written from such a Western Anglo Saxon point of view. Many of our students are indigenous (aboriginal or Torres Strait islands), Papuan, Pacific Islanders, Phillipines, Nepalese and Bhutanese and have very traditional names from their culture. There are still biblical names used in the Torres Straits, Papuan and Pacific communities.
    Here is one of my class lists:
    Tyriq
    Dantoray
    Khunish
    Taitai
    Ramesh
    Semias
    Satrick
    Nou
    Sione
    All from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

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    1. I also have Khin Khin, Khin Win, Nar, Shreejana, Kumari, Mausami, Hamiso, Govhen, Kanai and Shasika all from non-European backgrounds

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    2. I didn't realise your school was so multi-cultural Carol. Our local primary school and indeed my last Sheffield secondary are what you might call "monocultural" and after all, in percentage terms, Britain remains very largely a Western Anglo Saxon country so that explains my perspective.

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  7. Oh I like this post! You hit the nail on the head. However, you've opened a can of worms and can get many more posts out of this topic. What about nicknames? I've had many nicknames and some I didn't like. My dad called me "grandfather" , maybe because I was the oldest child.

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    1. I would call you Cherry Tomato because cherry tomatoes are Red!

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  8. Just this morning, Big Bear and I were talking about something or other while still lying in bed and I told him that I had never really liked my name and he wondered if I would really want to change it at this late date and what would I change it to and I said yes and Princess!

    I agree with the spelling of Matthew. With one "t", it seems to me you would pronounce it Mat-U. Weird.

    My son's good friend is finally having a baby next month and she will be called Ella Grace. I like that. A little new and a little vintage.

    When I worked at the School Board in Louisiana years ago there was a bus driver named Loveless Porche. I thought he must have been the saddest child ever. Who could look at a newborn babe and name him Loveless? Even if it was a family name. Just not right!

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    1. Ella Grace is a lovely name...Princess. But poor old Loveless... what a bizarre choice.

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  9. I think the old names are beginning to come back YP - at least up here in North Yorkshire. I have heard of a Josephine, a Jacob and a Mary recently.

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    1. I hope you are right Mrs Weaver... or may I use your first name, Chardonnay?

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  10. Sadly named after my fathers favourite actress Kay KEndel , my grandmother always called me Kate, so Kate I've been for as long as I could make the choice. I feel for the generation of Kylie's and the poor little Kaleesi's in the nurserys now .

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    1. "Kay Kendall was beautiful and funny. She was a true comedienne, unafraid to compromise her ladylike appearance with pratfalls, pop eyes and comic drunk scenes. Kendall could get away with such antics without looking vulgar."

      Does she sound eerily familiar Kate?

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    2. Mmmmmm...nope the resemblance isn't there..lol

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  11. Ian Philip and Emily Frances are beautiful names--well done YP! I love classic names like that. I was surprised to hear about the lack of biblical names among young children that you mentioned, but when I think about it, the same thing is going on here. I live in the "bible belt" of the country, and I know a lot of (mostly men) my age and slightly younger named Matthew, John, Jacob, Joshua, Daniel, etc. But I oversee the children's department at my bookstore and help with school events, so I meet classrooms full of young children these days. And almost none of them ever have names from the bible anymore.

    I did the modern name generator thing over at Steve's blog, and based on the popularity of our names in the years we were born, I discovered that Gregg and I would be named Emma and Gabriel if we were born this year. I like it!

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    1. Gabriel would a suitable new name for Gregg as he is your angel!

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  12. I've always been happy with my name and the spelling thereof.

    My middle name is Frances...and my surname is George. My names can be placed either and still be viable, as it were. When I visited Singapore back in the mid-80s I was a bit concerned my name might cause some confusion!

    My full name can be male or female each way around. I'm not confused, as far as this is concerned, anyway, ....I know who and what I am

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    1. That is an unusual combination of names. And the fact that they can be switched around. Let me introduce you to:-
      George Lee
      Lee Frances
      Frances George
      Frances Lee
      George Frances
      and of course the captain of the team...Lee George!

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    2. I'm glad you acknowledge the last one, Yorkie! lol

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  13. When you wrote your post about names in 2014, in my comment I linked to a post about names I wrote some years back. This time, I am not going to link to that one yet again, but I do think names are an endlessly fascinating topic, no matter whether they concern people or places.

    Meike is often mistaken for Mike, and I am adressed in emails as "Herr Riley". The two names have nothing to do with each other, though, and it bugs me every time someone makes that mistake, because it shows that they do not even pause for a second to verify they got my name right.

    As a child, I was the most un-girlish girl I knew, but would have so much liked to be more princess-like with long, curly hair and pretty dresses. I wanted a name to match, something like Felicitas or Graziella, but I was stuck with "Meike" (and no middle name).
    These days, I am very comfortable in my own skin, my life and my name. Had I been a boy, my parents would have named me Kai.

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    1. Looking at your fashion shoots now, it is hard to think of you being un-girlish Mike... sorry, I mean Meike. Is Meike almost unique in Germany or have you met other Meikes? Is the last "e" in Meike sounded or not?

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    2. The last "e" is sounded. The way I can best describe how my name sounds is: The first part, "Mei", is like "my". The last "e" sounds like the "e" in the word "best". So, not "Mykah" or "Mykee".

      Meike is not so common in the south but a lot more in the north of Germany. It is an ancient Nordic form of Maria, believe it or not. I know only a handful of Meikes. Sometimes the name is spelled Maike.

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  14. I saw this article and thought of this post.

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    1. Thanks for that. By the way I think that Justice is an odd first name for a woman as in Lady Justice King.

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    2. Actually her first name is Lady (named after her father's first dog) while Justice commemorates her maternal grandfather, James Robertson Justice.

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  15. I commented on your last post about names given without thought but this is different. My full name is Graham Barry Edwards and my parents called me Barry partly because they liked it and partly because it couldn't be shortened (except that it was Bas and Ba being the more common and polite things I was called). Neither my brother nor I like the name by which we were called as children. At 16 people started caling me Graham because it was my first name and I've been known as that ever since except by people who knew my parents who called me Barry. So I've always been ambinambrous (just thought that one up). Now I'm generally called Graham or GB and my brother is also generally known by his initials CJ.

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    1. Thanks for that Bazza. Not many babies are registered as either Barry or Graham these days. Graham sounds rather sophisticated but Barry sounds like a used car salesman from Crosby.

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    2. I don't know many young people named Barry but I do know quite a few in their 30s and 40s named Graham/Graeme but, as you say, I can think of no youngsters.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.