Tuesday 22 January 2019

Nutella, Joyeux, MJ — do inventive baby names lead to playground bullying?

Modern Life

What’s in a name? Odds of Kate Middleton calling her baby Mary are 3/1. Photo: Getty Images
What’s in a name? Odds of Kate Middleton calling her baby Mary are 3/1. Photo: Getty Images
Katie Byrne

Katie Byrne

Yet another couple have been reported to the name police in France - this time for trying to call their baby girl Liam.

According to the public prosecutor, the name "would be likely to create a risk of gender confusion" and would be "therefore contrary to the interest of the child and could harm her in her social relations".

Olivia Munn. Photo: Getty Images
Olivia Munn. Photo: Getty Images

The couple from the Morbihan department in Brittany have been told to give their child a more feminine name or, failing that, a name chosen by the judge.

This isn't the first time prosecutors have intervened in the naming of a French child. Liberté, égalité, fraternité may be the country's national motto, but try calling your child Macaroon and you'll soon come up against all sorts of restrictions.

Up until 1993, French parents were required by law to choose their child's name from a long list of traditional Breton prenoms. Nowadays, parents can pick their own names, as long as their choice is in the best interest of the child, and as long as it's not 'Nutella', 'Joyeux' or 'MJ', which were all banned in recent years.

In Ireland, the names Jack and Emily are still top of the charts, but more creative names (Kai and Tyler for boys; Harper, Willow, Madison for girls) are creeping up behind them.

Many of these names wouldn't pass muster in France, but are authorities there right in saying that alternative names harm a child's "social relations"?

Or is it in fact folly to think we can predict the attitudes of school children and the culture of the schooling system in the years to come?

To put it another way: giving a girl a unisex name like Harper used to be edgy and nonconformist. Now, in a world where the complexities of gender identity are rigorously debated, we barely blink.

Similarly, you can give your child a perfectly ordinary name only for it to be reinvented during an adolescent identity crisis. Karen becomes Karyn; Ciaran becomes Ciaryn. In some cases, children christen themselves with another name entirely. Think of Saoirse Ronan's eponymous character justifying her "given name" in Lady Bird. "It was given to me, by me."

Indeed, with inventive names fast becoming the new normal, perhaps the most subversive thing of all is to choose an utterly unremarkable one. (Paddy Power are offering odds of 3/1 that Kate Middleton's third child will be called Mary, should you be looking for ideas).

By the same token, there's a big difference between calling your child Harper and calling your child Nutella. Wildly unconventional names are always going to attract attention and while that attention isn't always unwelcome, it will eventually become tiresome.

Possessing an unusual name is similar to being unfeasibly tall, in that people believe it is their God-given right to remark on it.

Daedalus? Is that your real name? How do you spell it? Are your parents artists... or just arseholes?

Parents who give their children unusual names often consider the possibility of playground taunts. They should in fact be thinking towards the tedious small talk that the adult child will have to engage in at every dinner party they ever attend.

There's remarkable freedom in going to a social event knowing you won't have to explain yourself to every person you meet.

On second thoughts, maybe the French know a thing or two about liberté after all...

Fertility on ice

Olivia Munn (37) was once again talking about egg freezing at Sunday's Oscars after-party. The actress had her eggs frozen in her early 30s and she regularly enthuses about the procedure, describing it as something "every girl" should do.

Her close friend Kim Kardashian gave her the lowdown on the procedure, she revealed in the recent interview. "I was able to just store a ton," she added.

It's wonderful that Munn is so open about egg freezing but the truth, as any woman who has been down that road will tell you, is that the process is physically and emotionally demanding, expensive and unpredictable.

It's not a lunchtime treatment that you pencil in after a vampire facial and before a SoulCycle class. It's not as simple as renting out a safety deposit box or taking out an insurance policy.

Celebrities like Munn make egg freezing sound easy, breezy and accessible, but in their rush to appear self-empowered and independent, they ought to be more honest about what it entails.

Irish Independent

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