Congratulations to Kim Kardashian and Kanye West on the birth of their daughter North West on Saturday.
Whatever name you choose for your child, let’s face it, it’s probably going to say as much about you as them for the foreseeable. As parents, we pick names that resonate with us and we keep our fingers crossed that our little treasures will not only grow into them, but also learn to love our choices. Our parents mostly opted for the familiar and the unexceptional, but in today’s global village many of us are looking for something with a bit more ‘stand-out’. And as the number of baby-naming books illustrates, the possibilities are thrillingly endless. But remember, while picking names is fun, your offspring will often ask you to justify your choice, so you might like to consider the following before making a final decision.
Beware celebrity fads
Be wary of celebrity names with their inbuilt shelf life. If you must emulate a celeb, at least try and pick one who isn’t likely to end up as tabloid fodder of the year. Seriously, who wants to be a Ryan, a Cameron or a Jordan in 2011? For the hero-obsessed it’s a much safer bet to opt for a dead, or better still, a fictional one instead. Popular choices include Benjamin or Jessica (as in Rabbit), Holly (Golightly) or Angelina (Ballerina). You may be Dizzee or Beyoncé’s number one fan, but chances are 20 years down the line, your child won’t be, so it’s a ‘not really’ to those. Celebrities influence us all, but needless to say, they don’t always get it right (yes, Nicole Richie, mum to Sparrow, we mean you). But who’s laughing at Lourdes, Rocco, Shiloh or Knox now? Indeed names that once sounded pretty wacky are potential playground favourites of the future.
Of course the rich and famous have always had a tendency to give their babies unconventional names. The fruit brigade, headed by one Peaches Geldof, is a case in point. Gwyneth Paltrow gave birth to an Apple – apparently because the fruit is sweet and wholesome, plus the actress liked its biblical connotations. Geri Halliwell also took inspiration from the orchard and named her daughter Bluebell after admiring the spring flowers during her pregnancy. ‘But what really clinched it was my mother telling me that the bluebell is increasingly rare, so it’s a precious flower, which seems just right for my daughter,’ said the singer. Others name their children in their own image. Coco Arquette’s moniker comes rom the first two letters of mum Courteney Cox’s first name and surname. So, no, nothing to do with Coco Chanel – or a hot beverage.
Baby's first calling card
One compelling reason to get your child’s name right is because it’s destined to appear on their business card. Are all the Buddy Bears out there going to feel comfy at reception or in the boardroom, and are the next generation of Harper Sevens going to be happy anywhere other than a space station? Fast forward a couple of decades and imagine their name through the eyes of a prospective employer. How many Fifi Trixibelle’s or Heavenly Hiraani’s do you know where you work? Consider their school days, too: will a Lark Song (Mia Farrow’s daughter) be taken as seriously as a Lara? And are you risking playground bullying with a Satchel – Spike Lee, what were you thinking?
For every flamboyant name designed to jump the queue at an X Factor audition, there’s an equal amount guaranteed to open more gentrified doors. When the Middletons chose to name their first-born Catherine Elizabeth could they have picked anything more appealing to the British establishment? Can’t imagine William having had much luck introducing a Chantelle or a Chardonnay at the Palace can you? And as for Chelsy – well, even Harry couldn’t pull that one off. Time-honoured names (like George, Thomas, Emily or Sophie) can always be reworked for a new generation. Think Lulu for Louise, Alfie for Alfred, Trix for Beatrice or Ace for Alastair. There is a good reason why traditional names have stood the test of time: solid and serious, they are the exact opposite of fashionable and frivolous. We know one mum who fell in love with Matilda and Charlotte, but neither name appeared on her husband’s top ten. The result? She got her way on the birth certificates, but her twin girls are known as Tilly and Lottie because that was the only way to win over dad’s objections. Now there’s a happy compromise. That said, don’t go crazy with the spelling. You might think Sharlot looks dynamic on the page, but you are sentencing her to a lifetime of: ‘that’s spelt s-h-a..’. For which Sharlot will not thank you one bit. Take it from Caryn and Karren.
Do spell it out
While we’re on the subject of spelling, always write out the initials of your child’s full name to make sure they don’t spell something unfortunate. You may, for example, have fallen deeply in love with the names Benedict and Oliver, but if your surname is Gardner you’ll have to go back to the drawing board: no one wants the nickname ‘BOG’. We know a mum who didn’t take this crucial spelling test and whose daughter’s initials spell ‘OMG’. Quite.
Beware of some naming trends. If your name is Melanie, Susan or Tracy, you’ll have met your namesake hundreds of times over: they were Britain’s most popular baby names back in the Seventies. Today’s on-trend equivalents include Olivia, Ruby and Lily for her, and Jack, James and Thomas for him. But however much you like the sound of the name, will your daughter thank you for being one of the eight Chloes in her class? Check with yesterday’s Claire first.
For a truly personalised name that resonates with you and your partner you could do a lot worse than start a game of word association inspired by your favourite things: colour? Grey, Blue, Violet; word? Love, Hope, True; Tree? Willow, Blossom, Oak; Heroine? Brontë, Guinevere, Bonnie… you can see where we’re going with this. Good luck!
Written by Scarlett Brady and Karen Glaser
The Penguin Dictionary of First Names (Penguin) by David Pickering
Bring Back Beatrice: 1,546 Meaningful, Proud, Character-Building and Delightfully Un-Trendy Names Your Baby Will Love You for Choosing, By Jennifer Griffin
Coming to a playground near you?
✦Lola, Lyra, Landon, Lenore, Lennon and Logan – the most fashionable consonant right now is ‘L’. And as for vowels, nothing beats ‘O’ – just ask Oliver, Olivia, Otto, Oscar, Ophelia, and the little Irish lad, Oisin (pronounced Oo-sheen).
✦ There are lots of name trends afoot. One of the biggest is the descent of so-called ‘Twilight’ names such as Cullen, Carlisle, Carmen, Dante, Emmett,Edward, Garrett and Luna – inspired by the plethora of vampire books currently enjoying huge popularity.
✦ Equally hot is the unisex surname-turned-first-name phenomenon: Bailey, Fraser, Lennox, Mackenzie and Peyton. Using surnames as Christian names is big in many cultures, but it’s a relatively new trend inthe UK. It’s easy to see the appeal: back in the day all the coolest boys in classwent by their surnames and what’s not to love about a little Smith or Riley? And it’s not just boys who are getting in on the act: trendy surnames for girls include Ripley, Blake,
Hayden and Madison.
✦ Noticed how many little boys called Arthur, Harvey and Stanley are suddenly running around? With sisters called Edith, Florence and Martha? Their parents are part of the retro name-trend.
Be careful about ascribing either physical or personal attributes to your children before you know whether they possess them. Grace and Bella are increasingly popular names, but their owners have a lot to live up to. As do Angel, Dolly and Princess.
Knowing how awful this can be for youngsters, the brilliant children’s novelist Jacqueline Wilson writes about the phenomenon in her book Cookie: Beauty Cookson is plain and timid and all the super-confident girls at school think her name is ridiculous and tease her horribly…
For a little help naming your baby
✦Researching the meaning of your chosen name can save lots of recrimination and embarrassment
in years to come.
✦ Think carefully before opting for the truly original. You may not want a common-or-garden name for your little one, but that doesn’t mean
you need give one that is totally ‘out there’ either.
✦ For the hottest baby-names, head to our baby names and meanings section. It’s a wonder of inspiring possibilities and names you may not have even thought of.