Friday, November 9, 2012

What's in a name?

I must admit, I was a little taken aback when my three year old announced to me the other day that she wanted to change her name.

With some trepidation, I asked, ‘…to what?’

With great aplomb, she declared, ‘Falene.’

Now, that came from left of field. She wants to be known as some female Disney deer, the one who knocks about with Bambi. It wasn’t entirely what I was expecting. I was expecting something more along the lines of Cinderella, or Belle. But, alas, no, it was not to be. She prefers the animal-types.

However, it did play further around in my mind, making me think of all those poor children who have been dealt cruel blows through no fault of their own.

Being a teacher, I know all to well how cruel children can be, cruel and highly imaginative with it!  Ask them to compose a short piece of poetry in class with appropriate rhyme and rhythm and they look at you aghast…give them five minutes in the playground with some poor kid with a funny name and they are away…

With this firmly in the back of my mind, there was no way I was going to subject my child to taunts and jibes their whole school life. All combinations and computations were considered before signing the registration papers: initials, words that rhyme with…, shortened versions etc etc.

Sadly though not all parents give as much thought to this incredibly important decision.

I mean, did they say these names out loud?

Hugh Jass
Anita Bath
Peter (P) Ness
Maya Buttreeks

And then there are the parents who set their child up for a lifetime of spelling their name out loud.  Either the parents can’t spell in the first place or they are looking for something unique for their special little bundle…that just screams ‘bogan.’

How many ways can you spell Madison? Apparently several…try Maddison, Madisson, Madyson, Maddyson, Madason, Madasin, Madysyn, Madsyn…

One of my favourite name dilemmas is the parent who has read the name, liked the name, named child the name, but never checked how to say the name. 

My all time classic story along these lines is the one about poor little ‘Guy’, named after some dark, handsome crooning protagonist from a Mills and Boon. Sadly though, he was to be known as ‘Goo-ey’ for the rest of his life.

And then there was the beautiful young girl with the equally beautiful name, Siobhan. Upon meeting this delightful lass, I was quickly admonished for my Irish pronunciation and put in my place by her frustrated mother…

'Her name is Sib-ee-on.'

Obviously this poor child will be correcting people her entire life. Here’s a tip…if you are going to go with a traditional name from another language – learn how to say it first!

For me, well, I just wanted a simple, yet pretty name; something traditional without being too old fashioned; not too common, yet not too unusual; a name that I couldn’t associate with any past student; a name correctly spelt and unmistakeably pronounced; a name that both my husband and I were happy with.

A big ask in anyone’s terms…but I think we hit the jackpot with the short one’s moniker…Lily Kate.

Silly Billy Lily was the worst that we could come up with…

Lily, a nod to my great love of flowers
and because Tulip would have just been stupid!


  1. Ah yes, the great name debate. Someone always knows someone with a crook moniker. My grandfather had the wonderful initials of BAR and proudly pointed out to other new migrants how well he'd done in Australia by the number of establishments with his name on the doors!
    And I called my daughter by the Irish name Rosanagh, a name the automated local library refered to as Ros-ann-ag. You can't really win either. My friend who called her son Scott, because it couldn't be shortened or messed with, had to contend with him being christened "snotty scotty" at school!! Lily is a beautiful name, and way, way better than the Valda I got stuck with.

  2. I could have mentioned many more shocking names, Valda, but thought I should mostly protect the identity of the innocent...and keep it clean!
    One of the reasons mum chose Meredith, aside from liking the name from a very early age, was that you couldn't shorten it and it doesn't rhyme with anything...I was never called anything else...other than Bubby!

  3. I'll never forget my retail days when a man in the vicinity of 80 years of age says, "Bri-nee, is that your name? That's rotten salt water. Gees, your parents must really love you!" and off he trotted.
    P.S. Lilly and Meredith are beautiful names.

  4. Thanks, Bri-nee! Can't do much with either of them...I hope!