What’s in a name? 39



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If you want to get yourself into really diabolical trouble, try telling – or even suggesting without being asked – your children what they should call their children.

Saying things like, “You know, it would be really lovely if you had a girl and named her after my Great Aunt Prudence” or “Poor Uncle Cyrus never had any sons, why not call yours after him?” will not just be resented – even if the reply is some non-committal seemingly comment like “Well, we will certainly consider that, thanks very much” – because really and truly your son/daughter will be thinking, “I’d sooner throw my kid into a pit of snakes that saddle him/her with that name”.

Names, like everything else, come in and out of fashion. There don’t seem to be as many kids called Bruce, Brian or Harold nowadays as there were when I was a child and ditto the same for Helen, Sandra and Jennifer.

To stay right on top of this fashion, I recommend www.babycenter.com – it is the go-to place for babies’ names.

In 2014, the top five girls’ names are Ava, Amelia, Charlotte (number 1 in 2013), Olivia and Chloe, the fastest rising are Madison/Maddison (now at 13) and Harper (now at 21) and the fastest plummeting are Ivy (now at 40) and May (now at 43) while the newest appearance is Matilda, making her first entry at an impressive number 17.

For boys, the top five in 2014 are Oliver (also number 1 in 2013), Noah, Jack, Jackson and William and the fastest rising is Mason (now at 7) and the new entry Logan (a debut at number 23). Falling fastest from popularity are Ethan (now at 16) and Benjamin (now at 21).

Understandably and initially, I was not just surprised but more than a bit peeved to discover that Russell ranked only 279 in 2014 although that is a recovery from being 339 in 2013. In 1949 when I was born, Russell ranked at 66 and we have to go back to 1904 for my name’s highest level of popularity when it ranked at 48. Then again, I can boast that I am not common – well, I mean I don’t have a common name – and it’s practically exclusive really. That cheers me up considerably. As I remarked only the other day to Her Majesty the Queen, I am not a name-dropper.

Some parents do their kids no favours by giving them weird names. What is cute and adorable when the kid is a baby can be a life-long torment when they are adults.

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow explained on Oprah in 2004 why she and husband Chris Martin named their daughter Apple. “Right, well, um basically it was because when we were pregnant, her daddy said, if it is, basically one day he said if it’s a girl I think her name should be Apple. And I just, it sounded so sweet, and it conjures such a lovely picture for me, you know apples are so sweet and they’re wholesome, and its biblical and it’s just, they’re so, and I just thought it sounded so lovely and…”

Ms Paltrow may be a fine actress but she is no Biblical scholar. Eve, and then Adam, ate the forbidden fruit but the Bible does not specifically say it was an apple – and who said all apples tasted sweet anyhow? Their other child is a boy Moses which has rather a stronger Biblical link.

British cook Jamie Oliver and his wife have named their kids Poppy Honey, Daisy Boo, Petal Bloss and Rainbow which together sound like the ingredients of some exotic salad, and Bono named his offspring Memphis Eve. I suppose you could expect anything from a man who once booked a first-class air ticket to transport his hat to a concert venue.

David Duchovy’s child is Kyd which means he can yell out “Hey Kyd, where are you?” without being demeaning and Sylvester Stallone’s child has to live with Sage Moonblood. I suppose it could have been Rambo 37 so the child should be grateful.

You would have to be the ultimately optimistic parent to name your son Kal-El, the birth name of Superman aka Clark Jerome Kent, and Nicholas Cage did exactly that. My worry is that when this kid grows up he will meet a girl called Kryptonite and, what then?

Of course if you don’t like the name your parents gave you, you can always change it by deed poll.

I have heard of a woman born Mary Testicles and, understandably embarrassed, she changed it to Helen Testicles.


Do you like your name? What would you change it to if you could? What did you call your children and why? Share your stories below!

Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. I am in no position to comment on unusual names. I spent a lot of time at school explaining where my name came from and how it was pronounced. I was born in 1946 when most girls were called ‘Mary’. I think parents should think carefully before naming children, especially when surnames are taken into consideration as well. I went to school with a Theresa Green. I know of a man named Donald Duck and have heard of a lad named Dwayne Pipe.

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  2. What do you call a man with autumn leaves in his pocket? Answer …….Russel

  3. I knew a family with the surname ‘Head’ and they called their son Richard. Now I like the name Richard, but…..honestly!!!!

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  4. Like everything else in life, names are changing too. Maybe it’s time us over 60s accepted the new trend in name calling and accept that these crazy new names are now just the norm.

  5. My husband is called Jan (pronounced Yan) a very common Polish name, but it causes such trouble. If we have to wear name tags he gets told that he’s got the wrong name tag (as some of our ladies are called Jan) and I have to make sure when visiting the doctor or hospital that he is down as male!!! We have had different things happen as a result of his name. However, I do like his name compared to some of today’s new names.

  6. My 88 yr old Mum always says, “it doesn’t matter what the name is, it ends up right for the child”. With 15 great grandchildren, there are a mixture of old names, new names and madeup names, and everyone suits the child

  7. I have a suggestion to today’s parents, how about giving your newborn a plain, normal middle name so if they grow up with a shocking moniker they can just drop it. I know a woman who did this and no one knows her first name. Choices people, don’t think your son/daughter will thank you for being “innovative” when they start school and get unmercifully teased.

  8. Like you, Irene, I always hated my name as a child. You can imagine all the things i,e Virgin for short but not for long. Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus. Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolf? So much so that I used to reel them off when I met people to get that part of the conversation out of the way but I have melodied as I have got older and I don’t care anymore. A rose by any other name ……etc,

  9. My mother was listening to her grandchildren choose a name for her newest great grandchild and ‘Joshua” was the favourite. She said they couldn’t call him Joshua because he would get teased with ‘that song’ . My children looked at her blankly until she explained there was a song that said ‘Joshua, Joshua, sweeter than lemon squash you are” (which was apparently popular when she was a child). My son instantly agreed with her – and said there would be nothing worse than the poor kid being at school and having great grannies standing at the gate pointing at him and singing that song. 😉

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    • Goodness, as if they would. In any case there would be quite a few Joshuas at most schools, these days. People get odd ideas about how names would definitely be altered and demeaned. A friend’s in laws nearly had a conniption when she named her daughter Veronica. “She’ll be called Ronnie!” they screeched. Well no, she’s now 17 and has never been called Ronnie.

  10. My name was so common when i was at school we had to have numbers , and i was number 5 in my class .. so i never went for the run of the mill names for my sons , Kane now 40 and Byron now 38 , ( which wasn’t main stream names back then ) didn’t like their names as children and wanted to be called Richard and Jason .. can’t win ..LOL..I still love different names today , you are more of an individual and a little unique .. but , make sure it does go with your last name and doesn’t make you a laughing stock …

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