It took my wife and me weeks, if not months, to find suitable names for our children. Every other day after their birth – or so it felt – my father would ring up and say: “Do we know what we’re calling the new baby yet?” And every other day, I’d snap back, increasingly testily: “If you rush us, we’ll get it wrong, and your poor grandchildren will have to live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.”
How right it was, too. The more I think about, the gladder I am that we eventually decided to christen our son Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116. Not only does it serve neatly to tone down the pompousness of his surname but also – I learn from a Telegraph news report – it means that his schoolteachers will recognise that he is a child to be liked and trusted rather than feared.
Unlike boys called Callum, Connor, Jack, Daniel, Brandon, Charlie, Kyle, Liam, Jake and Brooklyn, it would seem. And also unlike girls called Chelsea, Courtney, Chardonnay, Aleisha, Casey, Crystal, Jessica, Brooke, Demi or Aisha. These, according to a survey of 3,000 teachers by the parenting club Bounty.com, are the names guaranteed to strike the most fear into a classroom.
Call me a terrible snob – and I am – but the lists don’t surprise me in the least. Of course a child named after a football team, or a Hollywood actress, or a footballer’s son, or a character from Footballers’ Wives, or a pop star, or a misspelling of a rapper’s favourite champagne, is going to be trouble. First, the vast majority of these names scream “chav”. Second, even those that don’t scream “chav” tell you an awful lot about the way the parents intend to bring up that child. And that way is badly.
Take Jessica, for example. Yes, of course there are lots of frightfully nice decent girls out there called Jessica. (I know a couple myself.) But you’ve got to admit, all you Jessicas, that yours is the kind of name beloved of Essex gangsters who refer to their daughters as “my little princess” and turn them into spoilt, witchy, bitchy tyrants who wear make-up by the time they’re five and make plump girls cry.
Or take Jack and Charlie. These are both names I considered for my own son: solid, yet currently quite fashionable middle-class names, with a groovy hint of devil-may-care laddishness. It’s those last elements, though, that are exactly the problem. Give your boy those names and what you’re saying to the world is: my boy is going to chase everything in a skirt, bow down to no authority, take nothing too seriously and always win by fair means or foul. Great for you, the proud dad living vicariously through your untutored young tyke. Sheer misery for everyone else.
Then again, I could be talking drivel. Jack, for example, has been top of the list of the most popular boys’ names for well over a decade, so statistically it’s inevitable that there are going to be a fair number of bad lads with that name. (Interesting, incidentally, that Mohammed doesn’t appear on the naughty list, even though it is now, in its various permutations, the third most popular). And I’ve simply no idea why Callum or Connor should feature so highly.
Oh, and I was lying at the beginning about my son’s name. That was the one chosen in 1991 by a Swedish couple in protest at their country’s naming laws. Like France, Quebec, the Netherlands and Germany, Sweden has functionaries who are allowed to prevent parents from giving their children unsuitable names.
In another country, my own kids’ names – which include Devereux and Xenia – might well have been banned on grounds of ponciness. Maybe that’s why I still usually refer to those two by the more straightforward, robust names they’ve had since they were born: Boy and Girl.