Say my name, say my name

It is now twelve days since the birth of our daughter and yet still she has no name. At this rate, Cath will have popped hers out and named it before we have.
Girls’ names were always the tricky ones for us. We had a shorter list of boys names and had more alignment in our tastes, so naming a boy would likely have been easier. A girl is harder. Going in we had a “short” list of twenty names, none of which were sure fire favourites for both of us – either one of us really liked it and the other was neutral or we both quite liked it (this blog post describes exactly the kind of discussions we were having). So we thought we’d wait to see what popped out, and if it was a girl then hopefully she would just look like one of the names.

It wasn’t quite as simple as that…

Naming a child is a veritable minefield. You have this great power and great responsibility to get it right. Fred is a great believer in nominative determinism – he thinks most names imply personality traits (like Dans tend to be introverted or those with hippy names like Skye, artistic), so the name is very important.

One of the first things we did in the delivery room once left alone was to get out the name list and go through it scratching off the names that didn’t suit – she wasn’t a Rebecca or a Phoebe for instance, that got us down to about ten names. Then the stalemate started – Fred was ambivalent about my favourites, I was ambivalent about his, we were both so-so about the others. She wasn’t giving us any clues as to which she wanted to be called.

So with personal preference and “she looks like a…” already tried – how else can you whittle down the shortlist?


There have been great debates in our household of how important or otherwise it is to have a unique name.

The 2011 data from the Office of National Statistics shows the following as the most popular names in England & Wales:


1. Amelia
2. Olivia
3. Lily
4. Jessica
5. Emily
6. Sophie
7. Ruby
8. Grace
9. Ava
10. Isabella
11. Evie
12. Chloe
13. Mia
14. Poppy
15. Isla
16. Ella
17. Isabelle
18. Sophia
19. Freya
20. Daisy


1. Harry
2. Oliver
3. Jack
4. Alfie
5. Charlie
6. Thomas
7. Jacob
8. James
9. Joshua
10. William
11. Ethan
12. George
13. Riley
14. Daniel
15. Samuel
16. Noah
17. Oscar
18. Joseph
19. Mohammed
20. Max

Then you have the derivatives. Two favourites for us were Amelie and Ella, but with the Amelias, Amys, Millys and the ability to shorten many names like Gabriella, Arabella, Elizabeth, Eleanor to Ella, if you add the numbers for each of those together then the likelihood is that there would be many more than one Ella or similar in her class at school. Then again, when I was at school we had something like five Katies or Kates in my year but that hasn’t stopped a Kate from becoming our future Queen – so perhaps it doesn’t matter!

Basically we decided that the presence of a name in the top twenty would not by itself disqualify a name, but if you added up the derivatives and that would put it in the top five then that was too popular by our standards.

Spelling and pronunciation

Another minefield is whether you give your offspring a name that they will constantly needs to spell or correct people’s pronunciation for. Classics in this category are the Gaelic names Niamh (Neve) and Aoife (Eefeh), but there are also more standard names with slightly unusual spellings that would fall into this category like Sara, Elisabeth or Emilie.

So in that case, do the benefits of being more unique outweight the general faff of constantly spelling or correcting people on your name?

The High Court Judge Test

Another way to strip down the names is to consider whether the name would allow her to do anything, be anything. Would it suit a child and also an adult? A way of checking this is to imagine her in a number of careers and see if the name works for all of them.

For instance, flowery names like Rosie or Poppy seem to jar when you imagine them as a high court judge but would work perfectly well on an artist. More hippy names like Meadow are hard to imagine on a nuclear physicist.

The problem can run the other way, with a name implying a sense of greatness that the poor kid might not live up to. For instance, if you name your child Zeus and, rather than being the father of gods, he ends up flipping burgers – the contrast with his name might be a little too painful!

So the naming committee remains in session – currently test driving one of the options to see how it works in practice.

We won’t be sharing her name on the blog for her sake – not wanting future employers to google her twenty years from now and find a chronicle of her development, poonamis and all. So with much less drama, I have decided on a name for her for the blog (selecting one from my name list that got thoroughly trounced by Fred).

So without further ado, let me introduce you to Elphaba!
If only her real name were so easy to decide on…

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