I RECENTLY wrote about place names which got me thinking about children’s names. And the sad lack of traditional English names in the UK. Little thought seems to be given to preserving old English names, and a preference is shown for those that are, in fact, NOT English like, for instance, ‘Harry’. An abbreviation of ‘Henry’, it’s derived from the Old French ‘Henry’ (modern Henri) and the Germanic ‘Haimric’ (German Heinrich) meaning “home ruler”!
At one time, the name was so popular that the phrase “Tom, Dick and Harry” was used to refer to everyone. And, until recently, it was the fifth most popular name for boys in the UK thanks, doubtless, to Prince Harry and, especially, Harry Potter’s appearance in 1997. But popularity’s another problem. Who wants their child to be one of 10 Harrys in a class? So, all those handy lists you see of the most popular names are ones you know to avoid like the plague.
Then, there are those names that remind one or both parents of someone they used to know by the same name – like a previous partner – and DETEST.
So, where else can you go for inspiration? Well, there are beautiful names from nature – at least for girls – like Holly, Hazel and Cherry. But then you have to be so careful with surnames, don’t you? Holly Wood, Cherry Pye, Hazel Tree, anyone? There are enough unfortunate first/surname combinations around like Joe King, Chris P Duck, Chris P Bacon and Wendy House. Not to mention a policewoman in Tasmania, Lauren Order.
Talking about Hollywood and its celebrities, they’re sophisticated and savvy enough not to choose something really naff, surely? How about: Sage Moonblood (Sylvester Stallone, also father to Seargeoh); Moon Unit (Frank Zappa, also father to Dweezil and Diva Muffin); Kal-El (Superman’s original birth name courtesy of father, Nicholas Cage); Destry (Steven Spielberg); Aurelius Cy (Elle Macpherson). Not to mention Princess Tiaamii (Jordan). Just imagine how one of those names would go down in your average British school playground …
If none of these inspire, there are lots of authentic, traditional English names like Ceolwulf, Eadbald and Offa. Failing that, how about ¡Storm¡ – the name just given to a Canadian baby by parents who refused to “assign ‘IT’ a gender role”.
On second thoughts, maybe any new arrival should simply be known as ‘Number One’, ‘Number Two’ and so on. Or Harry.
Nora Johnson’s novel, The De Clerambault Code (www.nora-johnson.com) available at Amazon in paperback and as eBook. Profits to Cudeca
Photo credit: Wayne Howes