Hi, My Name is Winkie

Thursday, July 14, 2011

There must be something in the water. First Clare, then Ms Red Boots, then Cate - we appear to be in the midst of a veritable blogging baby boom. I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised; after all, I started off reading wedding blogs, then they turned into married blogs, so it was only a matter of time before at least a few of them started turning into holy-crap-I'm-having-a-baby blogs (that's a recognised category, right? Better than mommyblogs, surely).

None of my real-life friends (because internet friends are imaginary friends, obvs) have babies yet, so this development, although a happy one, is also somewhat unnerving for me. I frankly have no idea what to do with the information. Ever since my married, early-30s, very sensible colleague announced she was pregnant and my panic-stricken, cringeworthy, totally inappropriate response was to blurt out "Were you trying?" (I mean, what was I expecting her to say? "No, just drunk"?), I have been very cautious when approaching any form of baby-discussion. Baby chat is far too close to sex chat for my liking, and I am rather British in that regard (*cough*splutter*change topic*).

And so it is with relief that I seek refuge in the relatively risk-free arena of baby names. To me, baby names are the acceptable face of baby chat, even with people who aren't pregnant (or "trying", cringe). Talking about baby names is the procreational equivalent of talking about wedding dresses. It's fun, you can let your imagination run free, and even someone who has no immediate prospect of having to make the decision usually has an opinion. Many women will have cherished fixed ideas about both for years, even decades, before they actually find themselves standing bewildered in front of a rack of frothy, near-identical gowns or frantically leafing through The Top Million Most Original And Mostly Made-Up Baby Names.

Of course, once you actually come to make the damn decision you realise times have changed, your taste has moved on, and perhaps getting married in an exact replica of Belle's dress from the finale of Beauty and the Beast and naming your daughter Sarah-Charlotte after a minor character in a ridiculous teen novel you used to get out of the library every week may not be such a hot idea. And that's why it's so fun - you can have the same conversation with the same person a year later and get a totally different answer. Although for someone who is notoriously indecisive - like, say, me - this is a tad worrying. Dress regrets are one thing, but baby name regrets?? Nobody wants to give their two-year-old an identity crisis.

Anyway, first this comment thread and then this post got me to thinking about baby names again, and reminded me of a hilaireballs (yes, I now incorporate balls into pretty much every possible word, what of it?) post of Cara's, which at the time resulted in me becoming utterly obsessed with this list of all names given to babies in Scotland in 2009. Hours of fun. Well guess what? The 2010 results are now in! And man, they are gooood. I haven't got as far as the boys' names yet, but the girls' names alone have provided endless entertainment, and I thought perhaps my pregnant blogger ladies could use some inspiration. Prepare yourselves.

The little old lady names:
(Hang on, is this a nursery or the bingo?)
Oh, and spare a thought for little Euphemia. Good grief.

The already-cooler-than-me-even-though-they're-practically-still-foetuses names:
Please let these five get together and start an awesome girl rock band with keytars and crazy-coloured hair (yeah, I'm channelling Jem). But for the love of God keep Blaze away from Euphemia.

The why have one when you can have two? names:
Betsy-Mae (I'm sorry, I didn't realise we were living in 1950s America)
Brailey-Jaii (that's genuinely how it's spelt)
Demi-Debbie (as opposed to a whole Debbie)

The wait a minute, I thought you said it was a girl names:

The somebody get these people a dictionary names:
Tiaami (surely everyone knows it's spelt with three i's and an exotic accent?)

The somebody take away these people's atlases names:
Paris, natch
Leith. Seriously.

And then there are the just plain crazy ones. Like Winkie. And Yoyo. And Beige. Yes, somebody named an actual living breathing baby girl after the colour of old man polyester trousers.

I know I shouldn't mock. It's not like it's the babies' fault that they have... unusual names. But there is a serious point here, well a couple actually. The first I suppose is a kind of nostalgic sadness that old Scottish names are gradually being edged out, replaced by a swathe of bland Americanisms (the grey squirrels of baby names - lovely in themselves, but our feeble, beautiful native names just wither and die in the face of their rampant proliferation).  Eilidh seems to be holding up well, although there appears to be some confusion over its spelling - I clocked an Elidh, an Eildhi, an Eileigh, an Aighleigh and (I think they'd just given up by this point) an Aylie. Isla is going strong too, but there were 200 Brookes and 149 Summers, for example, while Kirsty didn't even make the top 100 (not that I'm biased or anything) and we only had two wee Morags. It makes me sad. And scarcely a Lulu to be found! Tragic.

The other thing that strikes me is that, in a time when social mobility seems to be slipping further and further out of reach, what you name your child can have a huge impact on their destiny. Particularly if you call them, say, Destiny. Or Destinee. I desperately wish that every child in Scotland could have an equal chance at success in life, but that simply isn't the case. We do not live in a classless society; we live in one that is increasingly polarised and divided, as the rich get richer and the poor get trampled. None of us are free from preconceptions, and we are constantly filtering and judging the world - and the people - around us. Can you imagine Brailey-Jaii in the House of Lords, or working for the UN, or even being a boring old lawyer? Can you picture Euphemia living in a crack den? Your name - and your choice of baby name - says a lot about you.

No pressure then, ladies...

So, dish. What are your favourite baby names? Do you lean towards the traditional, or fancy something more wild and creative? And please can somebody call their child Blaze?

Oh, and in case you were wondering - there wasn't a single Harper.

Images: Huge thanks to Christy of Christy Tyler Photography for all the adorableness. For more of her work, check out her blog.

42 boats moored

  1. I really don't understand the whole trend at the moment of giving your baby a name that makes it sound like someone's granny. What's with that?

    My husband once temped for a Christmas hamper company, which gave him far too much insight into how people were naming their children. And basically that far too many people were naming them after Jordan, but with many more variations of spellings than you would even think possible. My favourite was Jord-Ann.

    The mind boggles.

  2. Leith! Leith? WTF that is just bonkers.

    As you know Kirsty, I have an email list that I keep favourite names on. It was severely reduced after showing it to John who ruled out several names because he knew people called that and they were dicks!

    I liked having a name that was unusual (for the UK, not in Ireland) when growing up - it was a pain in the arse correcting spellings and pronunciation but I'd rather that then have been 1 of the 3 Jennifers in my form class. So a little uniqueness is good just steer clear of the crazy.

  3. Just. Wow. Beige?!

    As someone with a fairly unusual name, I think I will go more traditional. There is no way I could stand on my front door step and call 'Willow-Coco, dinner's ready!'

    Funny story: last time my cousins and I were together we got onto this topic (my sister had just had a baby named Maya - aww!) and my fiance (surname Wilks) declared that he thought that it should be a rule that children should not be named after countries/cities etc. At which point he announced that our first son would be called Montenegro Wilks, as 'He would be an explorer!' Cue lots of laughter as we all got out of the car. Not so bad, except we were on our way to our Grandfather's funeral...

    Great to have you back Kirsty. I completely agree with you on the class divide with names. It's unfortunately true.


  4. Great post.

    I agree Kiara, a little uniqueness is great, but too far out, i.e. Egypt or Apple, is just cruel on the child. Unless they are super cool and can carry it off.

    My cousins have a Gwendolyn and a Mabel. My parents are not so keen as they think of the battle axes that were Great Aunt Mabel and Granny Gwen. I quite like the names. Must be a generation thing.

    My (not that we are trying for a baby) current list is:

    Faye Carmen
    Isabel Faye
    Lara Faye
    Cara Faye
    Carey Faye

    Hugh Eric
    William Eric
    Alexander Eric
    Dylan Eric

    Not sure what this says about me. Eric is after a much loved Grandad.

  5. Wow Euphemia and Effy are truly awful. My all time favorite name is Lucia or Luc for a boy. I also like Alex for both a girl and a boy, but I am not sure if it is somewhat "mean" to give it to a girl. I also like Fernando and Bernardo.

  6. I LOVE the little old lady names. That is all.


  7. I rather like Effy!

    And Artemis is a girls name. She was a Roman goddess. I also think its a rather lovely name.

    But poor old Beige. I really hope she turns out amazing.

    I have a mental list of names. Husband doesn't agree though. We will see if/when the time ever comes. :)

  8. Ps. @Amanda - call her Alexandra and then shorten to Alex.

  9. OH MY GOD THAT IS SO EMBARASSING I thought Artemis was a boy's name. Rachel, you are so much more knowledgeable than me. Double sigh.

    I weirdly quite like the little old lady names too - I mean, all the 80-year-old Effies and Mabels must have been wee girls at some point, right? One of my favourites is Elsie, which is quite an old lady name too. Fin's not entirely on board with it though... but yes, as you say, we can worry about it if/when the time comes!

    I do think it's important that you both like the name - I know one couple where the wife has kept her own surname but agreed any babies would take her husband's, as long as she had sole power to choose their forenames. Which would be fine, except her family has a history of choosing some pretty out-there names (Demelsa anyone?). I suspect he may live to regret this agreement...

  10. Jem was awesome but is so not appropriate baby naming fodder. Having said that my friend (who inceidentally dressed as Jem at my cartoon character themed 21st birthday party) swears she will call her little boy (if she ever has one, this is entirely fictional at this point)... JET! Like the gladiator! Yeah so she grew up in Hong Kong, and it's inspired by Jet Li, and her favourite singer named her son Jet, but still - it's a frickin gladiator!

  11. Grrr typos, read before you publish amy!

  12. Oh, and my other friend who is a primary school teacher has a Denim, a Lexus, an Elvis and a, wait for it, Marvellous in her class next year. I really wish I was joking about this!

  13. i work with kids, and through varying displays of truly nightmare-ish behaviour, have an ENORMOUS veto list. unfortunately, this includes a great many nice traditional name, as well as all the *unusual* ones.
    says a lot that i inwardly groan when i see i have 'jordan' on my patient list, or a 'rio'- guaranteed to cause my grief. i really wanted to call my girl jordan after the character in the great gatsby when i was young. katie price has a LOT to answer for.
    you should read freakonomics, has a brilliant chapter on baby names, class and social mobility. it's funny too, which helps.

  14. Amy - Jem is AMAZING fodder for names. Jerrica? Kimber? Perfect! Although not as perfect as Marvellous. Wowser.

    Katie, I meant to say, Eric is my dad's name - lovely choice :)

  15. oooh Freakonomics, sounds like the sort of book I'd love.

    I've never met a marvellous. Laetitia and Elodie are the most unusual little girls name, who I know in real life. I don't think they are too far out.

    Esme, I love your name. I think of the lovely Twilight mum.

    My best friends brother called his son and daughter - Oliver and Olivia. Apparently it doesnt matter that they are the same name, as one is Olly and the other Livvy. I still think its unimaginative.

  16. MARVELLOUS?? How does she keep a straight face calling the register? My good friend has a little boy and a little girl - she's called them Joey and Ramona. Juxtaposing multiple names for cultural references is pretty smart, takes a bit more brain power than just opting for Elvis anyway!


  17. Worst one I ever came across was a little girl called Iona. Except... the parents had decided to call her Eye-onah to make it 'a bit special'. Indeed. (my friend discovered this one actually. She worked in the shoe bit of Mothercare and got to hand out certificates for 1st shoes, so band across a lot of 'special' names. The other giggle inducing one being Tequila-Anne. I love the combination of ned and old-school! Sounds like a western character!)

  18. @Megs - Tequila-Anne being a western character is putting it very kindly. That wasn't the profession that first sprung to mind.

    @Kirsty - I believe that there is a series of books with a male Artemis as the protagonist. Maybe that is what you were thinking of. (also, check out the blog Junkaholique - she's an Artemis too)

  19. Great post! I'm still undecided about having babies, but I love these names:-
    Eibhlin or Edith

    yeah. I love French/English names. Am I weird...?!

    Julia @ Retro Jules

  20. My other half loves old men names - Cecil?!?! Really? but I do think the old lady names are quite sweet, especially Peggy.

    I'm very keen on Welsh names but OH's lastname is Jones so I think it might be a bit of Welsh overkill to name a kid something like Huw Lloyd Jones or Rhiannon Meghan Jones especially when we don't live in Wales.

    Even though I grew up hating my name and having it spelt wrong all the time it wouldn't stop me naming a child something a little unusual.

    I think a name that has a few good shortenings is great. Eg Phillipa so they can choose to be Phil or Pippa or Pip etc etc. depending on what they like.

  21. I'll have you know that an extremely distinguished professor in my field is named Leith. A lady!

    Anyway, I wish I Was Scottish just so I could name a kid Morag. As it is it wouldn't work with our heritage.

    Hubo and I already have our own name list going, and "Were you TRYING?!" is possibly the best thing I have heard all day. (it's only 7am, but still). I am forwarding this post to a friend who is currently in the depths of baby naming herself. Hopefully if she can't gain wisdom from it (seriously, Beige?! Oh dear.) she can have a chuckle!

  22. Mabel and Betty are very close to my heart and tempting for middle names but I fear Bean would have other ideas.

    I just love the old lady names especially with family connections. They make me smile.

    I know I shouldn't chortle but names such as Precious and Jasmeeein and the like do make me chortle.

  23. BEIGE are you f*cking joking me. I've just sprayed my drink across the computer screen.
    Is it just people I know that find the baby naming thing so contentious and refuse to share what "their" baby names are? In case you steal them!
    Two couples I know are currently having a silent argument - silent to the other couple but very vocal to the rest of the group of friends about how they've each stolen one of the others names when naming their child - because of course you can only have one child called a certain name. The names they chosen/stolen are very Scottish plenty of 'dhs and require a Sean Connery special roll of the r's to pronouce correctly.
    Think for our hypothetical children we'll be digging through the family tree to see what we come up with. Although my Nana did say she would come back and haunt anyone who named a child after her - she hated her name (Ivy).

  24. Zan - There's a Professor Leith?! I think the problem for me is that I actually live in Leith. Have you ever seen Trainspotting? Yeah, that's Leith.

  25. Oh my god I have just remembered this! How did I forget to put this in the post?! Hubster has a little girl he works with whose name is Celine Lastname (that's not her actual last name, obvs). Fine. Except her middle name is Dion. Celine Dion Lastname. NO JOKE. (Her brother's name is Peter Henrik Larsson Lastname, for the football fans among you.)

  26. If I was eating or drinking anything a second ago it would be all over my computer screen right now. Celin Dion Lastname!!! People, we have a ridiculous names winner.

  27. Great post Kirsty!
    I really like Irish names like Orlagh, Cathleen, Cliodhna and one Scottish one - Elspeth. Being a foreigner it's difficult to say which names would sound weird or oldfashioned in the UK. For instance my name in Polish is the equivalent of Margaret (here,as I realised a name for a great-great grandmother, but back home a very popular female name). and the Polish version is impossible to pronounce in English (Malgorzata). That's why I think I would name my children so that their names would sound nice in both Polish and English.My current list is:



    I had to opt for Maggie for myself, which is best of both worlds I guess, although I don't think it suits me.

  28. I know lots of people who avoid the baby name conversation in case you (in your non-pregnant state) steal "their" names.

    It just sucks all the fun out of the conversation.

    My husband has a friend who's a midwife in Glasgow and tells tales of babies called Ibroxia and twins Dolce and Gabbana...

  29. I've been trying to find the secret list of hilarious names which a certain doctors' website has.

    I was going to regale you with the hilarity too. I just can't find it.

    And yes there were an overwhelming majority from Glasgow.

    Or Siobhan - pronounched see-o-ban!

    Or Twina and Twinb (for twins obviously!)

  30. mrs fran- i feel your pain! one of my favourite names for a girl is gwenne, but other half is a Thomas. this also applies to my favourite boy's name- dylan. doesn't really work for a scottish/english mix. not a drop of welsh blood in there.

    worst name i ever came across at work- wee girl called shaundele- the perfect mix of shaun and adele. she was 'bed space 20' as long as she was in, we couldn't bring ourselves to say it without putting on a really neddy glasgow accent...

  31. Charley-Leigh?? Lee-lee?
    For your amusement, I submit: Chlo-reen. My dad's actual student.

    Also, the "grandma" dilemma is a doozy. My mom picked my name when she was 9 and the only people named Sarah were 80 years old, but she thought it was beautiful. Apparently, so did everyone else having girls in the 80s. I've always liked being a Sarah, but I do wish it hadn't been so trendy.

  32. Where I lived last year the name Nevaeh was popular (that's heaven, spelled backwards). I met three of them. Seriously.

  33. Whatever happened to Senga? For the non Scottish amongst you that's Agnes spelled backwards!?

  34. I apparently met but do not remember my great aunt Euphemia (this is on dad's side of the family). She shagged her way through half the Free Polish army in WWII so calling her Effy was pretty effing accurate.

    As for American names making inroads in Scotland, I *tried* to push for Morvin with one of ours, but Rebecca's response was that they already had an "ethnic" last name. (The cheek!) I was allowed to propose middle names and got Fiona tacked on to Rachel though.

  35. A few of my friends are primary teachers and the names make me laugh lots! I'm not a fan of the old person names on babies, but as you say the oldies were young once. One of my great grannies was called Alexina which I think is quite cool, another was called Rachel which I always thought sounded like a weird old person name.
    My boyfriend loves old fashioned Scottish names so if/when the time comes I imagine it'll be something quite traditional. Although not with an unusual spelling because mine was the bane of my childhood. You never got anything with my name on it, which was obviously a major trend in the 80s.

  36. I feel like this is the perfect forum to announce that I have spent some time recently with someone named:

    Champagne. Shivers.

    That's a first and last name, people. No joke.

  37. As someone who is knocked-up, people do truly ask if my baby was planned. It boggles the mind.

  38. I have a long and complicated Gaelic name that is pretty high maintenance. Although I like it, I'm not sure I'd give my own child such a "stand out" name....having said that there were three or four girls called Leanne in my year at school and I'm not sure I'd want my child to have to use their surname to differentiate themselves in primary school (Leanne M, Leanne C or Leanne S, etc). Perhaps a middle ground between the outlandish/unwieldy and the "name of the moment" would be best...

    When I was born in Edinburgh the woman in the hospital bed next to my Mum's called her daughter Del Amitri Lastname....

    My mum went to school in the Highlands with a Shakuntala McTavish and a colleague of mine from Paisley went to school with a Pocahontas McGinty....I swear they're all true and I can't even think about it without laughing!!

  39. mmmmm yes some lovely names!

    Having a fairly unusual or not common name {there were no Gaynor's last year in Scotland, why not?} I think I would want to give my son / daughter a not totally common name but not totally odd either!

    Its very easy to think what you would do but now we do actually have to think about it I can foresee many many arguments ahead!

    Yet another reason we are def finding out the sex so we only have to decide on one name!

  40. "And so it is with relief that I seek refuge in the relatively risk-free arena of baby names", there is nothing remotely "risk-free" about baby-names discussions!
    I no longer take part in name-discussions since I realized they always end in that awkward moment when everyone is cringing over "Kira" and why parents would ever give their kid a name only suited for scantily clad occupations, and someone say "...ummm, my sister's called Kira"......

    But, oh how I do enjoy reading about strange names from all around :-)

    Oh, and Artemis really is a girls name, remember that Greek warrior-goddess?

    PS: Please don't start a discussion on "Kira", I'm not British or American and although I know there are lots of cultures in which Kira is a perfectly respectable name, here it screams "underage parents with no education".

    1. Ha ha yup, definitely a lot of awkwardness potential!

      And yes, the Artemis thing was pointed out to me - whoops. Greek mythology was never my strongest suit.

  41. ....personal favourites I used to tease others with my most honestly sincerest reply to this question when asked was, for a girl 'Ursula Xanthe' or the boys version which in my mischievous-mommy moments I still wish we had used for at least one of our boys was 'Ulrike Xavier' both of whom would had had the infamous initials U.X.B when appended to our family name... Alas we failed at that one for having at least one 'unexploded bomb' in the house. As it was our youngest ended up as M.O.B thanks to his fortuitous arrival on Oscar night ;)


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