Friday 22 September 2017

Baby names: How do you decide on the right one?

Picture posed: Thinkstock
Picture posed: Thinkstock

Harry Wallop

OUT have gone Peter, Paul, Simon, John and James and in come Harper Seven, Apple, Maddox and Coco.

It was so much easier in my parents’ day. If you were a nice, middle-class expectant mother and father, you named your child after either a monarch or a saint.



I was Harry, my sister was Victoria. Simple. Solid. Classy but classless. Shakespearean Prince Harry or Cockney Harry Palmer: names back then just didn’t carry that much baggage.



Sadly, life has changed. With my fourth child due next week, my wife and I find ourselves not just tied in the usual knot of indecision about what to call the impending baby (our other children are Alexander, 8, Felix, 6, and Celia, 3), we’ve quite simply run out of names.



Of course, our gross irresponsibility towards the planet by deciding to have a fourth child is to blame (mind you, who else is going to pay for your pension?), but it is much more complicated than the 1970s.



For starters, there are so many more names to choose from. Blame the pop stars and actors. Out have gone Peter, Paul, Simon, John and James and in come Harper Seven, Apple, Maddox and Coco. Ubiquity and popularity are now frowned upon.



And nearly every one opens up a hornets’ nest of class.



Before it has even left the womb, the baby has already been allotted a very specific socio-economic class thanks to the (frequently idiotic) decision of its parents.



Casper or Casey? One is posh, one is not. Jayden is unequivocally not while Artemis or Arthur are.



One only has to compare the names that appear in the births column every morning with those that came up before magistrates after this summer’s riots.



One list includes Romilly, Cosmo, Jago, Zebedee, Badger, Clementine and Florence. The other includes Shonola, Ellese, Aaron, Reece, Kieron and Wayne.



The difference between the two is as great as the gulf between Gieves & Hawkes and Mr Byrite.



That’s the problem. I want any child of mine to be clearly in the former rather than the latter group, but I don’t want them to have a label around their neck that screams it too loudly.



A popular name is bad, but worse is giving them what you think is a quietly exclusive name, which in fact turns out to be two-a-penny.



We thought Felix was hip and unusual but, venture into our local north London playground and the sandpit is full of them. Imagine the shame of shouting “Badger” in the playground and seeing three children come running.



Some names just didn’t exist a generation ago, but have taken off in popularity. The most famous of these is Kayleigh, which came into existence thanks to the neo-prog rock band Marillion, who had a number two hit with a single of this name in 1985.



It was almost unheard of before the song. But since then it has taken hold, especially with parents who grew up with a love of long-haired bouffant power ballads. A few years ago, the name made it to the 30th most popular girl’s name in Britain, and it remains popular: 267 children were named it last year. Curiously, though, it has spawned a bewildering sub-sect of names, nearly all of which are unrelentingly bizarre.

There were 101 Demi-Leighs last year, seven Chelsea-Leighs and four called Lilleigh, which sounds like a sanitary product.



Any name with “eigh”, or ending in “i” rather than “ie” is clearly never going to make it past our strict test of “smart, but not so overtly posh that the poor child will be spat at on the way to the local school”.



My wife wants to push the boat out for our fourth. But is Raphael too rarefied or Atticus too atrocious?







With just a week to go, time is running out. Perhaps we should follow the example set by Mr and Mrs Dickson Wright, parents of the future cook, who, unable to decide on their daughter’s name, went for: Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda.

Telegraph.co.uk

Editors Choice

Also in Life