The game of the name

As I may have mentioned before, my mother is a worrier. Whether she’s panicking that I’ve got some kind of tropical sleeping sickness simply because I momentarily yawned on the phone to her, or reading a story about a car crash in – say – Idaho and phoning to check that I’m OK, she truly deserves her monicker She Who Was Born To Worry.

Of course, when you tell her that her daughter-in-law is going to have her grandchild, her worrying swoops into overdrive. Every pause, phrase or look is microscopically examined for medical problems, and news of morning sickness is greeted with bitten nails and nervous enquiries. I tried to tell her that it was probably just the dodgy kebab that I’d eaten the night before, but she’s not listening by that point.

But if She Who Was Born To Worry was being truly honest, there’s one thing that she’s more worried about than anything when it comes to the impending arrival. One thing that keeps her awake at night, and sends her off into paralysing emotional agony whenever she thinks about it. And that’s her fear that she could have a grandchild that has got an American name.

Don’t get me wrong, She Who Was Born To Worry has nothing against Americans, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it when she’s barging them and their oversized cameras out of the way on the streets of Chester. But whatever she thinks of Americans themselves, I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to the name game, she’s of the opinion that the United States should be represented on the outside of her latest grandchild’s passport but not the inside.

Of course most names these days are universal; there’s now probably more Dylan’s in America than there are people in Wales, after all. Whether it’s Joshua or Thomas, Grace or Olivia, people on both sides of the Atlantic tend to work from the same book when attempting to pick a name for their child that will provide bullies with one less reason to pick on their precious one.

That said, classic American shortenings such as Chuck, Herb and Hank are probably out. As indeed is any name which would seem to make the child more suitable for a career in the US Army than for life as a professional morris dancer. Similarly, while I have an oft-professed admiration for country music, and The Special One hails originally from Tennessee, I think it’s safe to say that we’ll be ruling out names such as Millie-Jo, Billy-Ray and Tammy-Lou.

She Who Was Born To Worry’s greatest fear though is that we’ll be seized by the American desire to make up strange names, such as Shawnika, Raynard or Johnetta. I think she could almost live with Messiah, Huckleberry or Melky, as long as we don’t go for Paige Darcie.

Still, nobody need get hot under the collar just yet. With the hastily-established naming committee having decreed that both The Special One and I have the chance to use a full and final veto on any name that the other one comes up with, we’re yet to find any name that we mutually agree on. And while we’ve got some options for girls, the cupboard is pretty much bare for boys. Feel free to send your thoughts our way – just don’t bother with Cody or Madison though, OK?

22 thoughts on “The game of the name

  1. NFAH

    No one is Chuck or Herb or Hank these days, unless they are a plumber in Jersey. Which I’m assuming your small one won’t be straight out of the birthing canal.

  2. Stella Jones

    Our criteria was choosing names that the boys would like, when shortened. We also gave them middle names in case they didn’t like the first name. Then, we chose a Scottish name for the first one, then an English name and then a Welsh one. We never got round to the Irish one. It wasn’t till after we’d registered the name for one of them, that I realised that the two names made one, i.e. Edward Ian
    Quite quaint, don’t you know!
    Blessings, Star

  3. Iota

    Kids round here seem to have first names that are really surnames – both girls and boys. Here is a selection: Aniston, Emerson, Lewis, Tyler, Taylor, Baylor, Lawton, Loughden, Peighton, Clark, Bryant, Gannon, Cannon, Jensen, Braydon. A lot of them seem to end in -on, -en, -an, come to think of it.

    My kids have each been in a class where two different kids have the same name; one as a first, one as a second name.

    I think it is a fashion that will pass, and then all these children will have very very dated names.

    The only one that I came across that may tempt you (and this was a girl but I guess it could do for a boy too) was Brityn. On more than one occasion, I confess I’ve deliberately fabricated an opportunity to say to her “That’s great, Brityn”. Couldn’t resist.

  4. Almost American

    “she could almost live with Messiah, Huckleberry or Melky” You are kidding right?

    My mom was very happy that we went with a good Welsh (i.e. rugby player!) name for our son, but DD’s name was perhaps a little too Irish for her liking initially.

    Do NOT, under any circumstances, name the child Brooklyn! That’s been done & it’s not original or cute!

    I do have a friend in Brooklyn who named her child after the street they were living on and that kinda works, but it still seems a little odd to me.

  5. jinksy

    I always liked the name Christopher, but with Smith as a surname, just imagine if the kid lisped?! Crithtopher Thmith lacks a little cachet!
    We settled for Quentin Elliott…

  6. Dylan Post author

    Thanks Carrie! Much appreciated.

    NFAH – I know a couple of youngish Hanks, although none that are under 30 admittedly!

    Stella – I love Edward Ian…especially the fact that you didn’t realise it. The Naming Committee (female division) has already rejected Edward though!

    Iota – what kind of name is Baylor?! I mean, apologies to my thousands of readers named Baylor, but really?!

    Almost American – I hope your Brooklyn friend wasn’t living on Eighteenth Avenue! Oh, and I was joking about Melky, Huckleberry etc – she’d go through the roof! Although part of me quite likes Huck as a name…

    Jinksy – how quintessentially English your name is. Given my Welsh heritage though, there’s clearly not enough y’s in it.

    Brooklyn – no rules thankfully…although like you say, it might have been a tiny bit helpful!

  7. Amanda

    The ultimate veto is the way to go – I’d recommend shortlists of all possible names you’d each like/accept and then compare lists to see what appears on both, and any additions to the combined list.

    I’d also recommend reading “Freakonomics” if you haven’t already as there is some very interesting stuff about names in there (from a socio-economic point of view).

    FWIW in my boy-biased experience, pick something that sounds good for life as an adult, but also works being yelled across a football pitch (in full or shortened)…Tarquin just won’t cut it! Then again with a Dan and a Will we’re quite boringly mainstream!

    Enjoy though – hope you’re having fun with the impending fatherhood business.

  8. Expat Mum

    Chad – the ultimate American boy/man’s name? No?
    One thing you do have to bear in mind is how the name will be pronounced on each side of the Pond. You’ll actually end up ruling an awful lot out with that little test. Also, since you’re the “foreigner” here, will people end up calling the child the wrong name because you’re not pronouncing it the American way? It’s happened to me with one of mine.

  9. Dylan

    Amanda – loved Freakonomics! We’re well past the shortlisting phase…it’s the lack of crossover between the lists that’s problematic!

    Apsidal – I think my mum will go for that name anyway…

    Expat Mum – see, I love the name Megan, but the idea of my child being called Meeeeeeegan fills me with dread. And don’t get me started on Welsh names beginning with ‘Ll…’

  10. Iota

    I’ve come across 2 kids called Baylor. Both girls. One spelt Baylor. The other spelt Belah. You think I’m making this up. Truly I couldn’t.

    I still think you should go for Brityn.

    The name that puzzled me for ages was Erin, for boys. I worked out eventually that it’s Aaron, but for all the world they pronounce it Erin.

  11. Kevin Hill

    Congrats…as a Brit North American who too has replicated, I feel your mother’s angst.
    The naming decision for me came at the moment of birth…as the doctor was extracting my daughter through my wife’s belly he asked “What is her name?” I replied “Either Olivia or Megan.” “And which of the myriad spellings of Megan will it be?” he asked. “O.L.I.V.I.A.” I replied.
    Really well written blog. I enjoy your comments a lot.

  12. Alasdair

    Dylan – lest it not have yet been brought to your attention, there is a further trap created by the initials of the name you choose …

    Wat Tyler Fauntleroy is not just unkind at the full name level, it pretty much throws the poor tyke into permanent therapy for the rest of his natural …

    And if you give a son a first name of Dafydd in this country, you might as well give him a middle name of Uck …

    In keeping with the spirit of our nation, currently, might your first daughter be named DeLanne ? The locals will most likely believe her to have been named for her father … (innocent grin) …

  13. amelie

    I’ve never really had any desire to name my child a very American name, but Alex (my French BF) has decided that if we should have a child, he would very much like to call him Junior. He thinks it’s extremely American. I think it’s just plain odd.

    Good luck on the name selections! I hope you’ll update us when you come up with something you like.

  14. Brooklyn


    For Heaven’s Sske, NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    “Junior” is a nickname for someone named after his father. The custom I adhere to does not permit that, and I always felt it was a burden for the “Junior.”

    But “Junior” as a given name, on the kid’s passport? That would be unspeakable. Why? Here is a picture of the only person who I heard of who had the given name Junior.

    (Junior is on the left.)

  15. Claire

    Bit late to this, but you need to remember the Best Man’s rule for naming children: Would he/she buy you a pint? Tarquin would not buy you a pint.

  16. Jude

    Congratulations to you both on Jones jnr! And, for what it’s worth, I actually quite like the name Huckleberry. If it’s good enough for Toby Ziegler’s son in The West Wing…!

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