What’s in a name?

I’m at ten weeks today. Mini-Me is 3.5cm long (the size of these guppies) and can touch its toes.

Since taking Ondaz Zydis (and drinking sustagen for dinner most nights), I’ve lost only half a kilo this week (as opposed to two and a half kilos, which is what I lost last week).

I am cautiously optimistic that the worst is over – but I’m still not actually well enough to brush my teeth (or leave the house). One of the common side effects of Ondaz Zydis is stomach cramps, which I’m having in abundance (and which are not always distinguishable from nausea and/or imminent illness) – but the main thing is that I’m not ACTUALLY throwing up and that I’m eating or drinking SOMETHING three times a day (usually breakfast cereal for breakfast and a noodle cup-a-soup for lunch).

I’ll almost certainly be functional again in 2-4 weeks. I look forward to that distant horizon like Christmas. At the moment CJ is cooking, cleaning, doing dishes, putting dishes away, shopping, washing clothes, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, watering the plants, medicating the pets, cleaning the fish water, feeding the cats, brushing Ana, cleaning up cat vomit (both of them), buying medications, making a fuss of the neglected cats, taking care of library books, fetching me things from across the room (walking is still a bit iffy), entertaining visitors solo, looking after some of MY students, and working full time.

I usually – but not always – feed the fish every second day. That is my contribution to the household – that, and growing a mini human.

Anyway! I don’t like the idea of saying my children’s names online, but here are some random thoughts about the most popular 2010 names in Australia (from this site, which also tracks trends).  All of them are off-limits for me on the basis of being too common.

1. Lily

I have at least two positive associations with this name, and I like that it’s easy to spell.

2. Ruby

For some reason this feels either trashy or old-lady to me.

3. Charlotte

I love the abbreviation “Charlie” for a girl, or “Lotta”. It’s always good when a name gives you options.

4. Chloe

Positive associations again (you know who you are). It’s Greek and means “young shoot” or “early foliage” which I don’t think is that great a meaning.

5. Sophie

Too fancy-sounding for my liking.


1. Jack

This name is fascinating, because it historically swings back and forth between being a swear word and being an extremely popular boy’s name. Phonetically, it is fantastic for both. The “a” is a strong, clear sound followed by the slamming door of the “k” at the end. It’s possibly the strongest single syllable in the English language (followed, for similar reasons, by the F-word).

Plus, you know, pirate.

2. Cooper

I was just thinking yesterday how many successful companies have “Cooper” as part of their company name. The meaning is “barrel maker” which really isn’t that exciting, except it gives an air of industry. Better as a company name than a personal name, I think.

3. Oliver

Okay, I can’t NOT start singing the song when I hear this.

4. Noah

It’s a good strong Biblical name (unless you remember that bit where Noah got really pissed and passed out buck naked). This is one of those unusual names that is two syllables but can’t be abbreviated. Personally, I love abbreviations – or any change in the usual shape of a name. When one of my students has a short name, I tend to add “banana” to the end to compensate.

5. Thomas

Again, a good Bible name if you’re not too familiar with the Bible (the phrase “doubting Thomas” may ring some bells). At least you have three name options – Thomas, Tom, and Tommie.

Conclusion: For me, the cultural associations of a name are important (eg I’d never call a child “Nigel” because it means “loner” in Australia); the ability to spell it reasonably easily is important; it should be familiar but not common to the average person; having plenty of nickname options is great (which is why “J” is a great middle initial – BJ, DJ, CJ, etc); it needs to be a gender-specific name (children have been shown to prefer to have their gender acknowledged in their name); it should sound good with our surname, including a natural rhythm; it needs an awesome meaning; it should begin with a different letter to everyone else in the house (basic name-remembering technique from writing books – goodness knows I won’t remember my kids’ names otherwise).

Middle names are for acknowledging family (assuming there aren’t any truly hideous family names – like Morag, Gertrude, Jedediah, or Judas).

Do you like your name? Why/why not?

Published by Felicity Banks

I write books (mainly adventure fantasy for kids and young adults), real-time twittertales, and a blog of Daily Awesomeness. @Louise_Curtis_ and http://twittertales.wordpress.com. My fantasy ebook is on sale at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/278981.

26 thoughts on “What’s in a name?

  1. It’s never a good thing if you can’t call your child’s name without singing. 🙂

    You do have the slightly unfortunate thing that your child (assuming you’re following standard naming) will have a surname that is also a 3rd person verb. Most children won’t work this out. 🙂

    1. Jolyon: Did your parents just make it up? Or is it/was it once common somewhere?

      1. It was never common. It’s from the same root as Julian, which traces back to Roman times at least (remember Julius? now there’s an uncommon name today ;-)). They found it in a name book, from what I understand. It’s a slightly more common name in England, I’m told, but I’ve never ran across another Jolyon before. That said, there was apparently another Jolyon at the ANU while I was there (I believe he went by Jol), but there isn’t one here at Cornell. There is a facebook group for Jolyons though 😉

      2. Jolyon: And not to be confused with our cousin Jaylani, who was born the same year as you (I think).

  2. Name meanings are always funny. Altogether, my three names mean ‘pure, sweet, grace’ which is patently ridiculous in association with me 😀

    But seriously – my first question to anyone discussing their (potential) children’s name is: ‘Do you like it?’ Because there are some parents (who shall remain nameless) who pick names from some weird feeling of family obligation (or similar misguided source) and end calling the kid something else entirely in real life. When the whole world knows you by a name that doesn’t appear on your ID, it can be challenging!

    PS – spelling is also important – while people randomly adding an ‘e’ to Ann is annoying, the fact that people constantly manage to ignore the ‘e’ in my other name is hideously painful, particularly when it’s been pointed out to them on multiple occasions in the last 10 mins – (yes ignorant RTA lady, I’m talking about you!!)

    1. Ann: Yes, people are weird (and oddly dumb with basic spelling). The worst meaning I ever heard was probably “Vaughan” – which sounds great until you realise it’s a man’s name that means “small”.

      1. It can also be traced from Welsh Fychan (pronounced veXan, more or less) which means ‘beautiful’.

  3. Very important (in my humble opinion) to conform to expectations of how a name will be spelled, as the poor child will be left spelling their name e.g. Kristofer – THEIR WHOLE LIFE! Even worse Jaymz … aweful but true, I met one this year …. Just ask any teacher – there are some sad and crazed parents out their who burden their kids for eternity – okay I’m exaggerating now!

    Oh, and the letter J is not a good letter for behaviour – all the naughty kids are named with a J – some of the lovely ones too – but J is famous for being the name most likely …..

    1. Barbara: J? Really? I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, given the name “CJ” for your eldest child.

      I HATE fancy spellings. There’s a difference between “unique” and “irritating”.

      1. she’s serious! J’s are naughty!! Some are lovely, true, but a majority are little ferals. Sometimes they’re just irritating because they’re * smart and know it…

      2. Pink Thistle: Hmm. . . so james, jason, Jaden, Jarrah, Jolyon, Jay, John, Jaylani. . . Jane, Jessica, Jean, Janet, Jeanette. . . all naughty.

      3. Pink Thistle: Lol. I had two Joshes in my year six class, and they were both trouble. It’s hard not to try and see patterns when you’re thinking of a new individual’s name and aiming to pick something great.

  4. The perils of being associated with teachers is that no matter what you choose, they will have taught an absolute $%^& called that!

    And I’m with Barb on the spelling thing. My eldest is currently working with a child name Le-a. The parents pronounce it Ledasha… what are these people thinking?????

  5. Those are some terrible names, but not as bad as most previous lists of ‘most popular names’ that I’ve seen…

    Personally, with ‘Noah’, I’d call him ‘No’ for short – particularly during the Terrible Twos – which would then likely evolve to ‘Dr. No’, then ‘Dr.’, then he would become a Time Lord and things would become confusing.

    As for choosing a name, remember Bill Cosby’s First Rule of Kid’s Names:
    It has to end with a sound that can be stretched.
    When you’re screaming for your kids to come in, ‘Archibald’ won’t cut it like ‘Jimmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!’ can.

    Also James Dobson’s important rule that you should always choose the name which it is the hardest to pick on.
    (This, of course, comes with the footnote that children’s ingenuity can make ANY name insulting…)

    (Also – yes, I saw that subtle little shout-out there… Have I mentioned that ‘Shadrach’ is a family name of ours?)

    1. Ben: And Louise Curtis’ rule: No bogan names eg Sheila, Barry, Sharon.

      Wow. . . Shadrach. That’s impressive.

      1. Talking about names that can be used against you – there were two boys a few years behind me in primary school, Wayne King, and Wayne Kerr….. Really makes you wonder what their parents were on…

  6. (Incidentally, I have encountered the name ‘Jolyon’ several times before. I associate it most strong with the scientist Louis Jolyon West, who did a lot of fascinating work [including formulating the standard theory of Brainwashing, known as the ‘DDD’ theory], but who is remembered these days mostly for once giving LSD to an elephant…)

  7. I like my name, though I haven’t always. ‘Rachel’ seems so… placid. It means’ ewe’, and is biblical, and I didn’t know what my parents were thinking when they named me… but it turns out they didn’t name me after the bible character, but after a song about a journalist who goes to Vietnam and doesn’t like what she sees. I can cope with that better! 🙂 Your real last name and our last name are similar, so we had to address that issue – it does rule some names out. We’re ended up with everyone in the family having the same number of letters in their first name (win! it was by accident! Not so win is that one arrangement of our initials spells ‘rape’ :/ ), some interesting and not overly popular girls’ names, and decent meanings with family associations. It can be done!

    A teacher friend of mine once taught an Indie Anna Jones. Serioulsy.

    1. Pink Thistle: “Ewe” is a pretty poor meaning. “Awesome journalist” is much better.

      I can’t decide if Indie Anna Jones is awful or fantastic. It’s a tough call.

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