The Name Game

Names are in the news this month. Well, there are always names in the news, but what I’m referring to is the bestowing of names making headlines. Archie and Psalm won the baby boy name lottery.

In case you have been living under a rock, let me bring you up to speed. Prince Harry and his American wife, Meghan Markle, welcomed a baby boy to the royal family on May 6th. The bouncing bundle of blue joy, seventh in line to the throne right after his dad, was the subject of much pre-birth name speculation. The odds were heavily in favor of traditional names such as Philip, Arthur, and George. Nope. Surprise! Archie he is. Not Archibald, but Archie.

Back over in the former colonies, reality star royalty Kim Kardashian (of “KUWTK” fame) and her musical hubby, Kanye West, also welcomed a blue bundle of joy–child #4 for their growing brood. Their new son entered the world in an untraditional traditional way. A mother physically gave birth to him, but that mother wasn’t Kim; a surrogate was utilized. Despite this untraditional entry into the world, the baby was given a Biblical name, Psalm. Didn’t see that choice on the name radar, I’ll admit.

Whether in jolly old England or in the good ole U.S.A., parents face the daunting task of choosing a name for their offspring. If both mom and dad are in the picture, they have to agree on the name to be given. Mom may have her heart set on the name “Aurora” for her daughter, but dad may veto that choice.

While parents may not know what they should name their child, they are often quite sure of what they DON’T want to name their child. Names which evoke painful or negative feelings or memories are typically eliminated. For that reason Junior is unlikely to be named for mom’s ex-boyfriend. Parents also do not want to saddle their offspring with initials which are impolite or ugly. Adam Samuel Smith would be rejected as a name choice for just such a reason.

When uncertain of a choice, expectant/new parents often seek help. Baby books with jillions of possible names may be purchased, a baby name generator can be utilized on line, and the names of popular figures (fictional or real) may be considered. In the U.K. people often turn to the royal family for inspiration. Unsurprisingly, after the birth of Prince George and of Princess Charlotte, the popularity of those names soared. Since there’s no Archie I’m aware of in the British family tree, Meghan and Harry didn’t  rely on the royal family to provide the source for their son’s name.. Instead they looked to the commoners for inspiration. Archie is a popular baby boy name (in the top 20) in the U.K.

What parents choose for their baby’s name often reveals more about them than about their offspring. Sometimes what is revealed is a bit too much information for me. The names Lexus and Daiquiri might provide a clue as to how Junior came to be. A child bearing the name of a Game of Thrones character reveals his parent’s taste in TV fare. And, yes, such names are surging in popularity. A parent’s lack of knowledge can be made painfully clear by the name chosen for the new bundle of joy. If you don’t know what “meconium” means, then you probably shouldn’t name your child that. (Look it up if you don’t know.)

Naming a child after a family member is a common practice. I am a living example of that technique. I proudly bear the name of my paternal grandmother. When it came to naming my own children, I turned to my Irish heritage. I chose a good Irish name for my son that he shares with an IRA terrorist. Yikes! That made flying fun when Kevin was younger and had his name on some type of government watch list.

Parents have to take into account practical things when choosing a baby’s name. Will the child/his teacher/his friends be able to pronounce his name? Spell it? If there’s doubt, choose another name. Will the child be teased or bullied because of his name? Naming your daughter “Virgin Mary” (yes, I actually met a woman with that legal name) is a great way to ensure your daughter gets a lot of unwanted attention in middle school. And Ben Gay may be rubbed the wrong way by his moniker. Consider whether the name being considered can stand the test of time, i.e., will it make a good name for the child when she’s an adult? Bambi, Barbie, and Princess may seem cute for a tot, but does that name seem fitting for a doctor, lawyer, or president?

In some parts of the world, the task of naming a child is even more difficult–government approval of the name is required. Let’s take Denmark for example. Parents in that country are restricted to selecting a baby name from a list of 7,000 names the government has sanctioned. This list contains 4,000 girls’ names but only 3,000 boys’ names. Girls apparently require more clothes and more names from which to choose.

Some parents want their child’s name to be unique. This desire often runs into a wall with governments who have to approve these names. A creative Chinese couple ran into a proverbial Great Wall of China when they decided that “@” would be a super name for their son. The Chinese government did not agree; in fact, it will not allow symbols or numbers to be used in a name. Guess that means “#1 Son” is also a forbidden choice in China. Similarly, New Zealand has banned use of “4Real” and “V8.” No, really. The New Zealand mom could’ve had a V8 if the government approved. Guess she’ll just have to drink one now.

Unsurprisingly, Germany and New Zealand have each banned the name “Lucifer.” What a shame. Can you imagine a mom at a play group with her child telling the other mothers, “I’m having a devil of a time with my son, Lucifer?” In Japan, children cannot (at least officially) be named “Akuma” which means “devil.”

Even normal sounding names can be shot down by government censors. Take the seemingly innocuous name “Linda.” There will be no Linda’s born to Saudi Arabian parents. Apparently nothing screams Western decadence like the name “Linda.”

Although naming an addition to the family may seem like a fun task, it can be quite complicated. It’s the label your child starts out in life with and carries around with him (often like a millstone around his neck) as he grows up. Obviously parents like the name they chose, or it wouldn’t have been chosen. But will the child like his name? Let’s ask Archie and Psalm in about 16 years.

Just WONDER-ing: Do you like the name your parents gave you? Why was that name chosen? If you have a child, how did you go about selecting his/her given name?



2 thoughts on “The Name Game

  1. I remember the flying and the terrorist list with Kevin when we went to the Rose Bowl. Such memories stick with you. LOL

    I was named after the “Tammy and the Doctors” movie series. I thought it starred Doris Day, but learned it was Sandra Dee. I would have preferred Doris Day. Oh well.


    1. Thanks for reading, Tammy. Who could forget Kevin being under suspicion for having the name of a terrorist 40 + years older than he was. Interesting to know you were named after a movie character.


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