Monday, April 2, 2012


from here
I love names. I used to read baby names books in the school library, and my mum bought me name books for Christmas and birthdays. I have many (many, many) lists of names for future children that I wrote long before I’d even finished high school, let alone met and married my husband or started thinking about procreating. When I was a teenager I had fish just so that I could name them; there were about 30 over my fish-keeping years, and each of them had a name, even if I couldn’t tell which guppy was Edgar and which was Frith. I was also given a kitten for my 17th birthday, and after much deliberation I named her Fawn. (She was feisty and gorgeous; I was young and fickle. She now lives with friends of the family, her name the only remaining link with me.) My love of names is a linguistic rather than a maternal thing. I love the sound of some names, and the way some first names work better with middle and surnames than others.

I never had any qualms about changing my name when I got married; years earlier I’d read through an entire phone book looking for surnames I’d prefer to my own. My favourite was McAllister because it has a cool rhythm and goes well with my first name. I could have been a lawyer with a name like McAllister. But I was a Parsons, a mediocre-at-everything Parsons. Parsons has ‘arse’ in it; it’s not a nice-sounding name. Plus, my mum had my step-dad’s surname and my brother and dad didn't talk to each other; I was happy to leave the name behind and start afresh with my new, slightly less dysfunctional, family. 

I did have limits when it came to taking on a new surname, though: I wouldn’t have changed my name if it meant my first name would then rhyme with my last (we have a friend whose sister’s married name is Alicia Galicia. This is not cool). I would also have refused to become a Raper or Slutsky, and would have had to think for a while about becoming a Hussey. But my husband’s surname was not an unfortunate one, nor did it contain the word ‘arse,’ and so I signed up worry-free. It wasn’t until ages after we were married that my husband told me he’d have considered changing his surname too. We could have both been McAllisters. This is one of the great disappointments of my life.

Naming our son was a much bigger task than pet-naming ever was (as you'd hope). I went through my many (many, many) lists, hoping that my past efforts would save me from much fretting now, but Torquil, Oberon and Aneirin sounded less romantic and more pretentious than they had when I was 16, and I found I was married to a man who’d spit out his food at most of my “crazy” suggestions. Instead of While paying close attention to the lecturer in my Old Testament lectures at college during my pregnancy, I was scanning the genealogies, looking for inspiration and trying to avoid thinking about the name Moses, which I’d already fallen in love with and accidentally attached to the baby despite the fact that my husband had made it clear he wasn’t a huge fan of the name (“NO CHILD OF MINE WILL EVER BE CALLED MOSES MY PARENTS WOULD FLIP OUT WHY CAN’T WE PICK A NORMAL NAME LIKE MATTHEW OR DAVID?! I'm sorry for spitting food on you”). Our son’s name is Moses. We made it official minutes after my husband watched me birth our 4.1 kilogram tank of a child; his hands were tied.

I would have to have around 150 children to use up all of the names on my lists, and it does disappoint me a little bit to think that I’ll never fulfill my teenage dream. 'Spose I’ll just have to buy a lot of guppies.


  1. I had a baby name book too as a teenager! My big sorrow is that Seumas hates all the names I gathered up like treasures. And the rest don't match our surname well. :p

  2. If you guys have kids, I highly recommend waiting until after birth to have the name talk; I've heard it's worked a treat for other mums whose husbands have rejected their treasured names during the pregnancy! ;o)

  3. Lol! So true; Ben was stuck on one configuration of Astrid's name (i.e. Winter Astrid) and I was stuck on the other. But in the end, just after her birth, it went the way I wished :)

    Annelise, you will just have to become a writer so you can name your characters whatever you wish!

    (P.S. I love that you were considering calling Moses "Oberon"!)

  4. You didn't mention Baby Name Wizard Voyager - oh, the hours spent!
    I like Karen's idea of creating characters.

  5. Karen, I love Astrid's name!! I'm glad Ben caved; your version flows much better. :o) And it's funny you mentioned naming characters - one of the things I really liked about The Hunger Games was the names. I wonder if there'll be bunch of little Katniss babies soon...

    And Mum, I'd completely forgotten about the Wizard Voyager! That's what led to you buying the book, which is my favourite of the two you gave me! Good times.