Friday, 10 December 2010

What's in a name?

Changing your name is increasingly popular. This year more than 90,000 Britons have used deed poll services to do just that, a rise of over 30 per cent on 2009.

People are keener to alter a name they dislike and avoid the related embarrassment, prejudice or ridicule. They're not going to put up with a cringe-inducing name just because their parents gave it to them or because changing it is too laborious.

They make the change for all sorts of reasons, not just because their name is Sidebottom or Smellie. Divorcees want their old name back. Job applicants with foreign names want something more indigenous. People want a name that's more suited to their personality, or is easier to spell and pronounce, or disconnects them from past crimes or shameful activities.

You can't change your name to just anything though. Deed poll services reject unsuitable names like Osama bin Laden or Jesus Christ or swear words. Or presumably overtly sexual words.

Apparently it's common for people committing suicide to change their names beforehand, a sign of the identity crisis they're going through. People may take on the name of someone they admire or someone they're obsessed with, like stalkers taking their victim's name.

I've never had any desire to change my surname, it's a very ordinary and unremarkable name. It doesn't reflect my personality at all, but what name would? It's not a liability in any way, be it employment, social occasions or anything else. So I'll hang on to it, thanks.

But I do wonder why Bob Geldof's daughters - Peaches Honeyblossom, Fifi Trixibelle and Pixie - don't change their names. I suppose if nothing else, they're memorable and distinctive. But don't they cringe every time they hear them?

Pic: Peaches Honeyblossom Geldof

41 comments:

grannymar said...

For a second, just one second... I had to think about your surname!

I changed my name when I married. It was a relief, because my mother and both of my grandmothers had the same last name!

Nick said...

Grannymar - No need for you to change your name again then. And like mine, it's an ordinary and unremarkable one.

Wisewebwoman said...

I have my birthname. Always liked it as it is unusual and has a rather splendid history though some skeletons in closets.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - I always thought your name was another fairly unremarkable one. I didn't know there was a splendid history and skeletons in closets. Perhaps you should do a post about it?

(My apologies to readers who don't know my blogmates' real names. All very cryptic!)

Baino said...

Ha I'm another one with an unremarkable surname. Never liked my first name though but the thought of changing all my accounts, cards, license etc is too daunting so I'll stick with it, hey, the name I'm called most often is "Mum" anyway and I fought long and hard to get my surname . . you know the drill, a man chases a woman until she catches him?

Macy said...

I hate my name, loathe it, but having got through most of my life already, I can't find the motivation to change it.

Nick said...

Baino - You've mentioned your surname often enough on your blog so I'll disclose it - Bainbridge. As you say, also unremarkable. And you're right, changing your name involves the most colossal amount of work notifying all the relevant people. You'd have to be very keen on the change to go through all that.

Macy - Is that your first name or your surname? Nothing wrong with Macy anyway, it conjures up a famous New York store....

secret agent woman said...

Ooh, I hate the word "divorcee." It strikes me as very sexist.

I really struggled with whether to change my name when I married. Ultimately, I decided it would be nice to have the same last name as the children I planned to have. I went with my first name, maiden name, new last name. But of course, when I became a divorcee, I took my original last name back, which I had always loved. And while I was at it, ditched a middle name altogether. I didn't want to just return to the full name of my childhood and I liked the simplicity of just the two names.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - It never occurred to me that "divorcee" could be sexist. Do you mean because of stereotypes that they're predatory, needy and a bit unhinged? You were obviously very attached to your original surname, a shame you can't reveal it!

Nick said...

I didn't foresee when I wrote the post that discussing names would be a bit tricky when most of my blogmates use pseudonyms! Well, all I can say is, my name is not Nectar Hummingbird Gaga.

kylie said...

a number of years ago my husband discovered that his surname was not the correct one for his bloodline, the grandfather that he knew was actually the stepfather to my husband's dad but he had adopted him as his own.
it was the assertion of some people in the family that having the wrong name was bringing bad luck and we should all change it back.
i told my husband that i had changed my name for him once and i would not do it again especially as it involved four small children.
also, we have the name of the man who did the job of parent so as far as i'm concerned he deserved that.
i think when life is tough my hubby still wonders if it would be better if he had the other name!

Nick said...

Kylie - The wrong name could bring bad luck? Oh, phooey! Good for you refusing to change your name yet again. As you say, having the name of the acting parent is quite good enough.

Scarlet Blue said...

I like my real name cos it's common... I'm impossible to find on the internet!
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - That'll be Sharon Smith then?

Scarlet Blue said...

...close enough!
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - My private eye is hunting you down. Your real identity will be unmasked in a matter of hours. And then released globally by Wikileaks.

secret agent woman said...

I don't like the word both because it carries a negative stereotyped image with it and also because there seems only to be a word for women who are divorced and not men. Divorced and married men are just men, married women are just women, but then there are divorcees. I am not a divorcee, I'm a single woman who happens to have been married in the past. (It falls into a whole class of words that get made up to describe women in a slightly or blatantly derogatory way, like "cougar" Or when there is a corresponding word, it's worse for women: "old maid" versus "confirmed bachelor.")

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Well, there's divorcé, but who ever uses it? You're dead right about all those gender-pairs that are invariably disparaging to women. Like men are randy but women are sluts.

secret agent woman said...

Exactly! (Only here they are studs - Randy is a pretty common man's name.)

kylie said...

theres a big difference between randy and a stud!

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Yes, we have plenty of studs as well. Or womanisers or skirt-chasers. As opposed to sluts, tarts, hussies, tramps, floozies, easy lays (etc etc).

Hmmm, this question of names has gone into a whole new dimension....

Nick said...

Kylie - True. Though it's quite okay for a man to be either. But a randy woman is usually frowned upon.

Wisewebwoman said...

Ah Nick:
I use my mother's birthname for reviews and sometimes columns and the hotmail account. My real name is very much under wraps for a variety of reasons.
XO
WWW
PS one of which is clients finding my blog....:D

Quickroute said...

I curse my parents for naming me Quickroute - what were they thinking?

Hullaballoo said...

Since marrying again, I have a sexy new Dutch name. I feel different saying it and love the sound of it. I would never choose to have a run of the mill name, hence hullaballoo :).

WWW: I bet you conceal your real name because you are secretly a secret agent.

Suburbia said...

Not sure what to be when my divorce is through! Changing your name seems so pretentious but I don't want to stay saddled with my married name. It's very long besides anything else, you always have to spell it and when you sign something the person always hovers over the pen before I've finished!

Nick said...

www - Naturally I understand bloggers not wanting to use their real names. Which is why I don't have photos of myself or reveal my surname.

Quickie - They must have been drunk at the time. Or they hoped the name would inspire you to become a world-famous cartographer.

Nick said...

Hulla - Yes, I know your new Dutch name and very sexy it is! Hullaballoo is quite sexy too, in a wild, rollicking kind of way.

Of course I'm not a secret agent. My frequent visits to Russia and Cuba are purely for sightseeing purposes. And to visit my elderly aunt in Havana.

Suburbia - If that's the name I know you by, it is a bit of a mouthful, isn't it? Very distinctive though, I like it.

(Some of my more occasional visitors must be very baffled by now. And for that matter, those blogmates who don't know each other....)

Nick said...

Oops, I just read Peaches Honeyblossom as Peaches Honeybottom. Now there's a good reason for changing it....

nursemyra said...

I kept my married name after I divorced. It's a nice name and much easier to pronounce than my maiden name. It's also the same as my children's and as I don't dislike their father I never felt the need to alter it.

And as for Geldof's girls. I wouldn't mind being called Pixie. I think it was Paula Yates who liked unusual lengthy names....remember Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence?

Nick said...

Myra - Keeping a name that's easier to pronounce is sensible. I'd forgotten about Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily. I wonder if she ever shortens it to Eve?

Terra Shield said...

Weird names can end up being the butt of jokes...

My middle name is not exactly weird, but is a constant fodder for conversation, although when I was younger, it was at the receiving end of countless jokes and other nicknames - some rather unpleasant. I hated it back then, but now I quite like it, because it differentiates me from the others who share the same first name as me.

(Sorry, you don't know my real name... so this is probably an unnecessary long story)

Nick said...

Terra - How intriguing. I wonder what this unusual name could be? It must be quite an ordeal having a name that lends itself to unwanted jokes.

Roses said...

On my divorce I changed my surname. It was a new name, not my maiden name. I did it because I no longer felt like my husband's wife, nor my father's daughter. It was MY name.

No, my family still don't understand why I did it.

Nick said...

Roses - I can completely understand that. Why shouldn't you choose a name of your own rather than one that's been handed down to you? In fact I'm surprised more people DON'T do that.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think Frank Zappa started the celebrity custom of giving children bizarre names: Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet Emuukha Rodan and Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen. Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter is Apple. Sylvester Stallone's child is Sage Moonblood, and Nicholas Cage's son is Kal-El, original name of Superman. I think my parents weren't half trying when they named me Susan.

Nick said...

Heart - I didn't know about any of those strange names except Apple Paltrow. What were their parents thinking when they chose such names? Or were they just totally stoned?

I remember your long-ago post about your first name. I still think Susanna would be good.

Anonymous said...

Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence Geldof what a mouthful huh.

Since she was later adopted by Bob Geldof he added another name to her already huge name.

Paula and Michael Hutchence usually only referred to her as Tiger though and that's the name she's been known as.

Cute for a 2 year old...but she's a 14 year old teenager.

I wonder if she'll ever change it. I am assuming Fifi, Peaches, Pixie and Tiger all like their names otherwise they would have been changed already.

Nick said...

Anon - Yes, fancy being called Tiger, that must get some weird reactions. Though I like the overtones of assertiveness and strength. As you say, the others must like their names. Either that or they enjoy all the extra attention they get.

Val said...

D'you know, from the moment I started reading this post, I thought: "I've got to mention Geldof's kids" - and you did it! So you've stolen my punchline, damn you, you bounder!
;)

Nick said...

Val - I guess it's the Geldof daughters we all think of when the subject of weird names comes up. What's really strange is that they've never felt the need to change them. But then, Tracey Geldof would be a bit of an anti-climax after Peaches Honeyblossom....