Giving your children exotic names is creating a rod for your own back. If you name your first child something like “Juanita”, you set a precedent that gives people high expectations when the second child is on the way: “How are you going to match the last effort? If it’s a girl, will you name her ‘Two-nita’?”
Looking back, that would have been the easy route. I can understand why people would call their children Sextus and Septimus or recycle their parents’ names: one thing less on the To Do list.
But we chose to take the difficult route of choosing names again. It seems to get harder with each new child. The most recent additions nearly had to go through life with the pragmatic monikers allocated by the Canterbury District Health Board: “Twin 1” and “Twin 2”. I understand Dr Seuss is on the CDHB.
When we were told that there were two babies in there, the first thing that passed through my mind was…
…well, nothing actually. It took a long time before anything could pass through my mind again.
But the first thing I remember was, “Oh, no: we have to buy a new car!” Closely followed by, “Oh no: we have to choose eight names!”
Because, although we know we can find out sexes ahead of time, that would be cheating. And all our other children have middle names, so it’d be unfair to deprive these two. And unisex names are too androgynous.
Well, you can download nearly anything off the internet, and that includes baby names. In the olden days there were name books; today web sites fulfil the same purpose, if you can read text printed between garish advertisements.
We’ve been mining these sites for a long time now. This time we were just that little bit more desperate, so I started reading lists of Scandinavian monarchs, popes, Shakespeare characters, astronomical bodies… There are lots of interesting possibilities; here are some you might like to consider for your children: Harald Bluetooth, Innocent, Bottom, Nix.
Seriously, if you’re after an exotic name, I’ll let you in on a secret. By definition, your best bet is to pick a name that is fairly ordinary in another culture. Nearly all of our children’s names fall into that category, including the twins. For the most part, we just find them on web sites that list names by country.
We have done Spanish, French (sort of), Russian, Greek/Latin, Latin again?, Hindi and Arabic.
We have often tried to choose middle names that “match” the first names by choosing both from the same country. The desire for this kind of consistency does not extend to the surname though. Dutch names don’t rate very high on my “exotic” scale, so we’ve not got names that match Havelaar (there’s some assonance for Avelina but that was not deliberate). Our girls may need to emigrate to marry if they want to become “normal”; at present I think our children probably all have globally unique names. But then, I guess their parents do too.
We have given some of our children more “ordinary” middle names they could fall back on should they come to repudiate their parents’ quirky taste.
So, name lists. Well that sounds easy, but there are so many reasons a name can be wrong. Here are a few.
- Ed doesn’t like the sound of it.
- Liana doesn’t like the sound of it.
- Sounds okay in some countries but not in ours (e.g. Joke, Chuck).
- Sounds okay in our country but not in others (e.g. Bill).
- Name shared by someone infamous (e.g. Adolf, Judas, Donald) or someone who was an idiot at school (examples suppressed).
- Name conjures up vision of a Scandinavian battleship.
- The sort of name tree huggers or movie stars give to their kids (North West?!)
- The sort of name weird home schoolers give to their kids (don’t get me wrong: some of my best friends are home schoolers).
- Name is too “old”. Names go in and out of fashion, so if you choose badly you could turn your child into an octogenarian on the spot (run your eye down the girls’ names in this list. Some of the names are still being used, but others… no).
- Name or initials would be ridiculed by schoolboys. This is hard to avoid. One boy who couldn’t pronounce the word “spaghetti” called me “Eddy Pasketti”. I hated it.
- Too common (for us, this means we personally know at least one other person with this name).
Once you’ve put your name list through that filter, there is not much left.
The next step is to rank the girls’ and boys’ names according to preference. If you can agree. You now realise you don’t have enough boys’ names to cover all contingencies, so have another look at that list of Persian kings.
But… we needn’t have bothered: they were both girls. So throw out the male half of the name list, or file them away recycling if you think you might use them next time!