Monday, July 11, 2011

What's in a name?

Today, much of the world is sniggering about the Beckhams naming their baby daughter Harper Seven.  I’m not terribly surprised.  The inflicting of such horrible pretentious names on innocent children has long been a source of irritation to me.  I know it’s really none of my business what other people call their kids, but sometimes it just gets my back up.  It’s not only the Beckhams who do this of course, and there have been plenty of column inches dedicated to the subject.  If you want to see some of the more bizarre ones, just check out this 2007 article from The Times: Linky Linky

However, whether it’s my business or not, it still exasperates me.  There seems to be an element of celebrities throwing their pretentious twaddle in your face, and you can’t help wonder how much of it is driven by a constant desire for publicity.  I get annoyed partly because they’re basically saying “We’re too special to give our child a normal name like you mere mortals”, but mostly I loathe their complete absence of forethought.  I mean, if you call your child Blue Angel, as U2’s ‘The Edge’ did (and of course his stage name isn’t in the least bit pretentious), what on earth is that child going to have to put up with, not just in their youth but all through their adult life?  And what may now seem a sweet, whimsical name becomes even more ridiculous with the passing of time.  How is Paula Yates’s daughter Fifi Trixibelle going to sound when she’s someone’s wrinkly old granny?  About as ridiculous as her three grey haired sisters Peaches, Pixie and Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily I suppose.

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to names.  They come and go in fashion like everything else, but there’s always a pool of good solid names.  Nobody nowadays seems to call their kids Herbert or Arthur or Cedric and maybe that’s not a bad thing, although I can’t quite imagine someone called Herbert ever doing anything very wicked!  I dare say these names will return when their time comes again, like flared trousers or floral wallpaper.  This tendency for some names to drift in and out of fashion can occasionally give you a clue about someone’s age.  A Deirdre in my experience is likely to be at least middle aged, and there are loads of Darrens in their mid 30s to early 40s, but not so many under the age of 20.  Some names of course defy fashionable trends: David and Michael will probably be around forever.

As for myself I was christened Andrew Nicholas, but I’ve never used the former except when completing official forms, so when I’m being called in the doctor’s waiting room I don’t immediately realise it’s me they want.  This wasn’t my choice; my older brothers refused to call me Andrew from the moment I was born.  They insisted I looked like a Nicky, so Nicky I was called until one day I demanded that it was to be shortened to Nick, having decided that the suffix made me sound too babyish.

Some names (though not mine) run in families.  My grandfather and father were both Tom, my oldest brother’s second name was Tom, and my own son is Tom.  I wonder whether Frank Zappa’s kids Moon Unit, Dweezil and Diva Muffin have continued in a similar vein with their children?

A right Herbert ...

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