What’s in a name?

Today I had a hospital appointment, something I’ve had a lot of lately, and when I checked in at reception I straight away said that my name was Jennifer Koronka. I usually automatically say Jennie and then correct myself just in case the receptionist can for some reason not infer that Jennie may also be Jennifer. Anyway, today I bypassed that whole stage. I, for possibly the first time in my life, introduced myself as Jennifer. I’m going to put this strange behaviour down to the fact that I have had a UTI for three weeks (now tested positive for GBS – I’ll talk about that in another blog) and that I now have a horrible cold too, so I do not have the energy to say more than what is absolutely necessary.

However, this sudden change to using my given name got me thinking about names in general. As I’m now almost 32 weeks pregnant we’re getting to that point in the pregnancy where Nick and I will try to nail down the name of our nearly here baby. In the past we’ve usually had a short list at this point and then from there the final choice gets picked. We always keep the shortlist nearby in case when the baby is born they are definitely not a Rufus or and Eloise, but so far we guessed correctly. We’ve found it a bit harder this time. Perhaps it’s because we’re having another girl and it was harder to figure out Eloise than Rufus, perhaps it’s because I went to a girls’ school and so most names are immediately vetoed due to some negative encounter I had with them but most likely it’s because I have my heart set on a name that Nick doesn’t love. He doesn’t hate it, but it just isn’t exciting him like some other names are.

My mum and dad named me Jennifer and my brother Thomas, however aside from annoying teachers, doctors’ receptionists and on official forms, neither of us have ever referred to ourselves by these given names, always opting for Jennie and Tom – or Tom and Jennie as he is older (and yes, we’re aware it sounds like Tom and Jerry). Our parents have never called us Thomas and Jennifer either. So why did they bother giving us these more formal names if they never intended to use them (my mum doesn’t even like Thomas, she always preferred Tom)? When pressed on the issue, they always say ‘because that’s what you do on birth certificates’ and in a way I guess they’re right. How many Victorias do we call Vicky? How many Charles’s are called Charlie? And how many Jennifers are called Jenny, Jennie or Jen?

But why is it ‘what we do’? There’s no rule, no law – I checked. You can call your child whatever you want, within reason. There are a few banned names around the world which I particularly enjoy. In Mexico you can’t name your child Facebook, in France Nutella is ruled out as name for your newborn and New Zealand has a huge list of banned names including Master, Constable and Messiah. However if you stick to more conventional names you can do what you want.

When choosing our children’s names I wanted names that weren’t so unusual that people would have to ask twice, but also not so common that there would be five of them in their year at school (I was friends with at least 5 other Jennys). I also liked the idea of choosing names that couldn’t be obviously shortened so that the names we gave them were the names we truly intended to use. With Rufus, we already had a short list but none of those names were a definite yes and then one day when changing the bed sheets the name Rufus popped into my head. I may well have been listening to Rufus Wainwright and been inspired subconsciously but either way, that was it. I thought ‘Rufus’ and from that day on, we loved the name. When Rufus was born we were ready to be wrong, but we couldn’t have been more right. He looked like a 40 year old man in a baby’s body and he acted like one too. Rufus seemed like quite a mature name but it suits him through and through. So Rufus’s name came easy but with Eloise the choice was harder, almost certainly because of my history of attending a girls’ school. Although I had another name I loved, I had been talked out of that name and as it turns out, now that I know Eloise – she is most definitely an Eloise. She has some sass, some feistiness and absolutely knows how to ‘work’ a room. The other name would be for someone a little less sure of themselves and Eloise is anything but lacking in confidence.

So what is in a name? Do our names shape our personalities? Have you ever met someone who doesn’t suit their name? I am most definitely a Jennie. The name Jennifer conjures up images of someone far more mature than me, someone a little more well spoken, a little more confident and definitely someone who is unattainable. Jennie, on the other hand, is someone who is a little quieter, less confident and more ‘girl next door’. My mum and I have spent many any evening messaging names back and forth in an attempt to strike gold but I find that I have preconceptions for almost every name. There are a lot of nosy neighbours (Margot), divorcees (Florence) and bitchy girls (I’ll refrain from giving an example for that one). Is it fair to rule out these names? It mostly comes down to the fact that I just can’t picture myself saying them and you do have to think about that. You’ll be saying your child’s name regularly for the rest of your life and if it doesn’t roll off the tongue, doesn’t fit with the names of your other children, and generally sounds a bit weird in your accent (particularly when you’re yelling it across a playground) you’ll come to regret choosing it.

So what will we do? Will Nick concede to my choice? Or will, I have to give up on using a name I have loved for so long?

How did you choose your kids’ names? How did your parents choose your name? Also, do you have any name suggestions? We’re getting into the home stretch and I would really like to choose something soon so I can get used to it.

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