The trend for unusual baby names shows no sign of slowing down. You only need to read the papers or watch TV to see the constant stream of ‘celebrities’ (I have such a problem with that term!) wanting to stand out, be newsworthy and saddling their unfortunate offspring with bizarre names they probably won’t be thanked for when baby grows up. Think of Jason Lee who lumbered his child with Pilot Inspektor and Jermaine Jackson who thought Jermajesty was a good idea for his poor unfortunate child.
And what about the hilarious scene in The Vicar of Dibley when Geraldine’s full name is revealed as Boadicea Julie Andrews Dick Van Dyke Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Chim Chiminey Chim Chiminey Chim Chim Cheree Geraldine Kennedy? Laughing stock? I rest my case!
Of course, it’s not just celebrities who want to give their child a name that marks them out as different. The plethora of books and guides about baby names our fascination with names and their meanings. There’s so much pressure on parents to choose a name that they and their families love.
There’s nothing wrong with picking unusual baby names. At one stage, my son was in a class of 20, where there were 4 Williams and 4 Olivias! But, take it from one who has had to explain and spell her name all of her life, a hard-to-pronounce, hard-to-spell and simply ‘different’ name marks you out as ‘different’ too. It could even have an adverse effect on your child, both in childhood and later in life too. I wasn’t bullied at school for my name, but many are not so fortunate.
I’ve lost count of how often I’ve been asked to spell my name. I rarely react any longer when people pronounce it wrongly. I’ve been called Caroline, Carollie, Corollerie, Colliery, Cora-Leigh (ugh!), Coral Reef, Kohlrabi and Cholera to name but a few. How hard can it be to say ‘Coralie’? As a child I longed for a ‘normal’ name and envied the Karens, Julies and Sarahs in my class for the simplicity and anonymity of their names. I never needed a surname. Everyone in the school knew who I was! I’ve still never met anyone with the same name as me…
In a 2012 study, researchers looked at the link between individuals’ names and how their names impact other people’s opinion of the individuals. They studied names in different parts of the world and found that the more unusual the name, the more likely it is that the person will be seen as risky or dangerous.
They also found that people believe simple statements made by people with simple name, more than people with unusual names.
A bit crazy? Lead researcher Eryn Newman of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand explains why we are biased against different sounding names.
“From other research, we know that people think that food additives with easier names are safer than those with difficult names. So we don’t think it is a stereotype about foreign names. Instead, we think that easy names just feel more familiar or easy to process than difficult names. To the Fred Flintstone parts of our brains, that feeling of ease or familiarity signals something that we can trust, but information that’s difficult to process signals danger,” she says.
People with ‘solid’ traditional names may have an easier time getting ahead than people with more ‘fanciful’ ones. Wouldn’t the press would have loved it if Prince William had fallen for Catherine Middleton’s younger sister? Queen Catherine sounds suitably regal, but what fun the press would have had with a Queen Pippa!
How your child will be perceived is something to consider when you’re choosing a name for your baby.
So, after a lifetime with an unusual name, what did I choose for my son? My ex-husband thought it would be a marvellous idea to name him ‘Isambard’! Perhaps you can understand why he didn’t get his own way and we chose a popular Biblical name instead!
I’m Coralie, a Harrogate based blogger and mum to the reluctant teen. A crafting and upcycling addict, lover of outdoor life, juicing and gin. I’m never far from a cup of tea…