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.
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.