Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The name game

Apparently many parents (one in seven, according to a survey) regret the name they gave their child and want to change it. Children themselves may also regret their name.

Parents go off a child's name for all sorts of reasons - it doesn't fit their personality, it's gathered unwanted associations, it's become too popular, it's become too unpopular, or it's become a commercial brand. Or even because someone they detest has a child with the same name.

A lot of children change their names as well. They shorten it, or adopt a completely different or androgynous or more memorable name, or turn a foreign name into something that sounds more English. Or replace a totally ridiculous name like Peaches with something more normal. Not surprising really since we're given no choice over our names and can easily take exception to them.

Personally I never use my given name, Nicholas (except on official documents), and I'm always known as Nick. It seems to me Nicholas is a bit long - and slightly pompous. Luckily it hasn't been tainted in any way - there's no serial killer called Nicholas or Nick as far as I know. And as yet there's no Nicholas rat poison.

My father disliked his given first name, Edward, and was always known by his second name, Colin. My sister's name is Heather, but she's usually known by the abbreviated Heth (th as in though).

The fashion for androgynous names can cause a lot of confusion. Names like Sam, Alex, Charlie, Frankie, Robin, Jackie and Jules can prompt very wrong and embarrassing assumptions about the person's sex. If they look androgynous as well, there's even more scope for confusion.

It must be galling for parents when they've agonised for months over what name to give their child, only to find the child loathes it and adopts a different name anyway. Or little Trixie decides she'd rather be called Kardashian or Wittgenstein.

24 comments:

Bijoux said...

I was lucky to always really like my given name. We used so many different nicknames for our kids that to this day, we rarely call them by their actual names.

Ms Scarlet said...

What about Old Nick?!!! He was a curious devil.
Sx

Wisewebwoman said...

Grandgirl has an androgynous name. Her father felt it would give her a great advantage when it came to professional positions and he was right even tho Daughter never cared for it. We jokingly call her Mister as many of her position applications come back with that assumption.

I never liked my name, was going to change it when I came to Canada but couldn't decide on a name (seriously). Many emigrants take that opportunity. I am accepting of it now as it seems to match my surname (which is unusual) nicely.

Old Nick was a scary character, but as a name it is unusual enough even its long form.

XO
WWW

nick said...

Bijoux: Nicknames are very common, aren't they? Some of them are so strange, I'd love to know how they came about.

Ms Scarlet: I think I've only been called Old Nick two or three times in my entire life!

nick said...

www: I'm sure the androgynous name has helped her enormously in this rampantly sexist society.

Your first name may seem a bit old-fashioned nowadays, but I think the two names go together very well.

John Going Gently said...

I once nursed a guy on a psychiatric ward that was called Adolf Black
he was christened in 1946

CheerfulMonk said...

I liked the name of Kaitlin Elizabeth for my daughter, and I figured if she didn't she had all sorts of nicknames to choose. Problem solved.

Linda Sand said...

My oldest brother's name is Terry. He used to get mail addresses to Miss Terry. His 7th grade teacher hated nicknames so she insisted on calling him Terrance; Mom took take his birth certificate to school in his defense.

Our daughter started calling herself Alex while in high school and officially changed her name to Alexa when she was old enough to do so. I thought it was a good thing as she had not liked herself so I was hoping this name change would help her with that. She's good now but some family members still call her by her birth name.

nick said...

John: I can imagine his parents must have had to answer some awkward questions about that name.

Jean: I like the name Kaitlin. What would the alternative nicknames be, I wonder?

nick said...

Linda: How embarrassing that must have been to be addressed as Terrance.

Funny that some family members are unable to adjust to a new name. It's only one letter different after all!

Jenny is still referred to sometimes as Mrs Rogers, although she's never used my surname. People can't get their head around us having separate names.

tammy j said...

maybe people should be able to choose their own names. for instance I've always wondered what a big jock named Percy would feel like. they just don't fit. LOL!
I'll never forget a little girl in Colorado when we were only 7 years old.
we were taking "a very important test" the teacher said. we were not to stop for any reason! until everyone was through. it was an 'achievement test.' I don't even know if they're still called that.
maybe she forgot how literally children take everything! or used to at least.
I heard water running. I looked over and in the next row was a lake of urine!
little VIOLET had held it as long as she could apparently.
I have wondered about shy little Violet for years when I occasionally think of that. would she have had the same issue of meekness as an Elizabeth? or a Mary? or even Candace (which was popular at the time I think.) who knows?

nick said...

Tammy: Poor little Violet, too shy to ask to go to the toilet. Now if she'd been Victor or Vince or Vickery, it might have been different. Though I remember being shy about asking to go to the toilet myself when I was young....

kylie said...

My Liam thinks his name is boring to write (there are no nice tailed letters like a y or g)
And I stuffed up with poor Briony. I had never heard the name and didn't pronounce it correctly. I've given her my blessing to change it but she doesn't want to so she is doomed to forever correcting people.
Oh well, I could have done worse

nick said...

Kylie: I'd never thought about whether my name was boring to write or not! As for Briony, I've always pronounced it Bryonee, but I gather Americans (and Australians?) tend to say Breeonee. So she doesn't like being Breeonee?

Rummuser said...

Neither my late wife nor I ever had /have any regrets for the name that we gave our son. He too seems to be quite comfortable with it!

nick said...

Ramana: Good to know your choice was the right one. All a parent can do is pick a name and then hope for the best!

Joared said...

I never gave much thought to liking or not my name, but did dislike my new surname after Mom rewed. There have been names I disliked because I didn’t like someone who had that name. My first name consists of two words which has become a problem since computers. Too many programmers seem incapable of writing code that accommodates a two word first name. They relegate the second word to be a middle name (I don’t have a middle name) then address me by only half of my first name. I resent that as doing so used to be a privilege only close personal friends did. Also, I’ve thought if businesses, medical, would only use my name correctly then any time they encountered an incorrect version they’d know it was a phony or something was wrong. Unfortunately, too many don’t seem to care or are stymied— the old “the computer said it ... can’t change the computer”, etc. as I complained in a long ago blog post.

nick said...

Joared: I don't have a double first name, so luckily I haven't had that particular computer issue. But I've had plenty of instances where something couldn't be catered for by the company's computer programmes and they had to improvise in some way.

My next door neighbour is called Linda-Jayne, and I never know whether to call her Linda, which she may object to, or Linda-Jayne which is a bit of a mouthful.

Joared said...

My first name is Jo Ann, or JoAnn is acceptable, but the "A" must be capitalized. The name is spelled a jillion different ways -- all run together with lower case letters; an "e" tacked on to the end; some even use Joan which is usually pronounced differently. I could try to use by inserting a hyphen but many sites won't accept a hyphenated name I've discovered.

nick said...

Joared: You'd think Jo Ann was simple enough to get right, but people have this odd habit of altering names according to their own preconceptions.

Z said...

When I was a child, no one knew the name Zoë so I became accustomed to answering to Snowy, Susie or anything else that came into a person's mind. I know a few people who've completely changed their names - Janet to Sophie; Dorothy to Jane: Brenda to Zellah - but I know rather more who don't like their name and haven't changed.

nick said...

Z: How hard is it to remember the name Zoë? To casually mangle someone's name is simply inconsiderate and rude. I suppose permanently changing your name is quite an undertaking when you think of all the people who have to be notified. Like changing your name after marriage.

Z said...

No one knew the name Zoë, that was the thing. My sister Melanie and I were the two with the outlandish names! More recently, I tend to get mixed up with my friend Sophie. We both choose to be flattered by the comparison! As for changing your name after marriage, I remarried two and a half years ago and have found it impossible, after 40-something years. I mostly stick to my original married name, and just have to remember what people know me as.

nick said...

Z: Yes, I guess Zoe was quite an unusual name until fairly recently. But even so, it's only two syllables, so why was it such a problem? Jenny has always used her original surname, and has never used mine.