Give a dog a bad name - but spare a thought for your helpless offspring...
We are taught that it is the height of bad manners to mock peoples names.
It is also the height of bad manners to mock their afflictions.
Sometimes the two amount to the same thing...
Like the parents of Johnny Cash's "Boy named Sue", some parents earnestly want their children to stand out from the morass of Davids and Annes at school and in life and so they hit upon the idea of giving them names that will help to shape their destinies.
What is interesting is the speed at which an extremely interesting and seemingly romantic name can become not just common but dead common so that it becomes shorthand for "dead common". Sharon and Tracy are two perfect examples of this. If you say of someone, "She's a bit of a Tracy", everyone knows exactly what you mean and the original glamorous association with James Bond is not part of it.
Some names which used to be dead posh have now suffered a reversal by becoming dead common - Samantha used to have a touch of the ballet school and pony club about it but it has now lost its middle class magic.
If you want to see just how transitory some names are, you must visit this site.
As you start to type in a name, all the options beginning with the letters that you have entered appear in the order of their popularity against a timeline. If you type in "Jordan" for example, you will see that, as a boy's name it came into popularity in the 1990s, reaching a peak of 4500 per million in the late '90s but has fallen off to 3000 per million this year. Tracy peaked at 5000 in the 60's and 70's but has now fallen off to practically nothing.
The wonderful "Jailene" peaked in 2003 at 25 per million but strangely has fallen to nothing since
Checking the Births columns in the papers, I have noticed that hardly anybody these days is called Douglas. Checking on the Baby Wizard site shows that it has, in fact fallen off from its peak of 28th position in the 1950s to 396th today. In the 50's parents had war hero Douglas Bader to look up to and the film "Reach For the Sky" brought it into prominence. Now there is a shortage of heroic Douglases but author Douglas Adams should have inspired a revival.
Posh, Romantic or Trailer Trash?
If you don't believe that we are influenced by peoples' names, try this little quiz:
1) The ultra sophisticated superhero James Bond was briefly married once.
What was his wifes' name?
Veronique (b) Ursula (c) Katya (d) Tracy
2) Which of these is least likely to be a redneck?
Joe-Bob (b) Nigel (c) Wayne (d) Jimmy-Ray.
3) Which one of these little boys is most likely to be taken to school in a Volvo?
Arran (b) Darren (c) Rupert (d) Jordan
4) Which of these little girls is most likely to be taken to school in a Volvo?
Kelli (b) Keairaa (c) Jocasta (d) Brianna
(What's so great about being taken to school in a Volvo anyway? Give me a Tonka SUV with monster bull-bars anyday.
Badly parked, it can bring half of London to a total standstill.)
5) Which of these boys will have the most half-brothers?
Nigel (b) Toby (c) Josh (d) Rupert (e) Dakota-Lee
(6) You are considering candidates for interview for a top executive position. Which of these may not be called for interview?
a) Kree-Anne (b) Randall (c) Edward (d) Jean
A brief glance in the Births column of the local paper will show that soaps and celebs are inspiring parents to produce a whole generation of kids with arresting, interesting and romantic names. What is particularly striking is that the most arresting, interesting and romantic names begin with the letter K. Here's a selection:
Kelis, Kallee, Kalamita, Ko, Keb, Klaine, Kallum, Kelli, Koranne, Kalashnia, Keesta, Koynne, Karisma, Kretinna, Keeg-Anne, Kree-Anne, Kacka, Khyba, KayLynne, Kandice , Kaylee , Kayleigh , Kenelma , Kiah, Kaye-Telle, Kate-Elle, Klamidia, Kandee-Relle, Kay-Janne, Kandeena, Kyrone, Kasseea, Kheironne.
I am not making these up - well only six of them - and three have already appeared in the Births column of the local paper since I first published them here....... parents are frequently inspired by this page.
At the rate at which arresting interesting and romantic names are being coined, it will not be long before kids with unusual and bizarre names like John and David and Graham (and Douglas) will be beaten up in the playground and have their mobile phones stolen by armies of Kretisias, Kolumbuses and Krettinnias.
In many cases, a single celebrity with a fairly unusual name can inspire a whole generation of parents - how many Kylies (the original K name after Kellogg) are there now compared with twenty years ago? This doesn't always work - there are not too many Sherlocks, Mycrofts, Conans, or Rudyards around - either now or when these names first came into public view with the popularity of Sherlock Holmes and Rudyard Kipling in the late 1880s. Arthur Conan Doyle actually had a lucky escape - his father's name was Charles Altamont Doyle - you can just hear the name Altamont ringing round the shops in Hackney and Basildon: "Altamont get off that dirt!"
There are one or two others that have been genuine one-offs that are not too bizarre. As far as I can tell (try Googling this) the name "Ogden" as in Ogden Nash, the American poet, has never appealed to any parents.
If you are looking for something unusual, try an Irish name. But be warned, everybody else is doing the same thing so what is unusual now could be dead common in a few years time.
The great thing about Irish names is that they are totally unpronounceable.
Throw a bowl of alphabet soup at the wall and the chances are that the letters that stick to the wall will spell an Irish name. Here are a few good examples: (I am not making these up):
Top Irish names for unpronounceability by an English person:
Caoilfhionn KEE-lin Caoilin, Keelin:- Slender and fair. Nothing whatever to do with that well-known cure for diarrhoea, Kaolin. The more discerning readers will already have guessed that the word "diarrhoea" is actually Irish which is why it is so difficult to spell.What they may not realise is that, if it only goes down one leg, it is monorrhoea.
Maeahhfhimk - Mick
A very popular Irish name but the Irish spelling is too tricky for all but the most dedicated Irish Traditionalists.
Niamh - Pronounced Neeve!! How the hell do you work that out? I wouldn't have the nearmh to call my kids this! Have the Irish run out of "V"s? Maybe that's why they don't have a reputation for being clever - the most that they could hope for is to be cleahfmhe.
Naoise NEE-sha. Whats that naoise? It's the baby crying (after the christening).
Donncha From the cockney, "Ooh doncha love him?". Adopted by the Irish and, after consultation with Top Irish Literacy Experts, pronounced DUN-a-cha.
Niall Irish spelling of a river in Egypt.
Rorschach A well known Irish Psychiatrist. Famous for reading dirty meanings into ink blots.
Isaac Tortured soul - specially if his surname is "Hunt"
David Son of unimaginative parents. In any club, workplace or neighbourhood there are always more than three Davids. It's time for a cull.
Candida Sounds romantic doesn't it? But, alas, it is a yeast infection of the vagina. The poet, John Betjeman, had a daughter called Candida. Hmmmm....
Mavis This, like Candida, means "thrush" except that it has a spotty chest and sings a bit.
Adrian Mighty Builder. Best known for a wall to keep the Scots at bay. Sadly, the wall is now mostly derelict.
Shirley Daughter of Mr and Mrs Nott.
Constance. Lady Chatterley made this name popular. Frequently shortened to Con which is a very rude word in French. Which was probably why her book was banned for so long.
Colin Son of a US Stoker, so called because he gets the coal in.Cf Colin Powell. Frequently mispronounced "Collin"
Jordan Son or daughter of a single parent. Usually having 5 or more half brothers (or sisters).
Tarquin Wimpy yoghurt eater and Guardian reader.
A close variant is Dargan. Now there's a name to conjure with. Not a whiff of yoghurt or sandal wearing there. It's guaranteed to catch on with owners of pitbull terriers looking for additional family menace. Expect tattoos and piercings
Tarka An Otter. Gave his name to Tarka Dahl, an Indian dish made from chick peas.
(What is the difference between Tikka and Tarka. Answer: Tikka is a curry. Tarker is a little otter.)
Stacy Very similar to Tracy but implies a few more brain cells. After an ancient blonde Queen of Dagenham in Essex.
Widely held to be a girls name except for Stacy Keach, who is not at all girly. Perhaps his parents weren't convinced of this when he was a baby?
Arthur Not quite whole…
Jane Well known owner of ships, aircraft and defence equipment. She has such an extensive collection that whole books are published about them. E.g. Janes' Aircraft, Janes' Military Systems etc. Don't cross her.
Rudyard The name of a reservoir in Staffordshire.
Mrs Kipling, wife of the man who made the cakes, named her son after this reservoir and the rest is history. Naming people after reservoirs is not a new idea - our own Queen was named after a reservoir near Heathrow airport.
Neil A command which, frequently repeated, was mistaken for a name.
Theodor This is actually a misprint and should really read "the odor". I'll leave you to guess what the meaning of this name is.
Natalie One of a group of names associated with Christmas. Natalie is derived from the word "Natal". Other similarly festive names are Carol, Noel (Noelle) and Robin.
Boxing Day names include Frank, Bruno, Lennox, Lewis and the ever-popular Henry. Another name which is inspired by a day of celebration is Eileen.which is a corruption of Halloween.
Mick Urine. From "Micturate" meaning to urinate.
Usage: Take the Mick. Sometimes short for Michael.
Roderick Mistakenly supposed to mean "Famous power" from the Germanic Hrod "fame" and ric "power". In fact the name is an amalgam of Rod meaning "stiff" and Derek meaning "smelly" (Derek is a derivation of the German form Theodoric - the odoric - see above) Many students' socks can be said to have a touch of the Roderick about them.
Malcolm This name was popular with Scottish Kings since it meant, "Och awa', I'll buy ye a dram, yer tutah."
A more recent famous example was Malcolm X whose father was actually stuck for a surname.
Bill This name, together with Hughie and Ralph is very popular with late night drinkers who can often be found calling them, usually on the big white telephone.
Howard Keeper of Pigs. We called our son Howard in all innocence. It was always a problem to get him to clean his bedroom.
Osama Means Lion in Arabic. Bin Laden means "been dumping". Osama Bin Laden means Lion been dumpng. Osama also means God in Japanese. (This is actually true).
Morris Was really supposed to be Boris but the Vicar had a harelip.
Norman Not a man. From the Geordie "Nor" meaning "No" and "Man" meaning Man.
Not a very popular name today although at one time England was invaded by Normans.
Cyril Father of 50 daughters, all with unspellable Irish names.
Best known recent example Cyril Cusack.
The first examples were all Bishops and Saints from the Fifth and Ninth Centuries. The one from the Ninth Century named an Alphabet after himself and it was adopted by the Russians to stop foreigners reading their correspondence. The name "Cyril" is frequently given to boys having bad lisps. The question is - were they going to lisp anyway or was it the bestowal of the name that made them do it.
Steve Steely-eyed, granite-jawed version of the wimpy and effeminate Stephen.
Shannon A well-known sea area off the West Coast of Ireland. Other sea areas potentially useful as names are Rockall, Malin and Dogger.
Fair Isle used to be popular but came to be associated with a particularly vile type of sweater favoured by knitting pattern models and folk singers in the early 1950's. (Dogger is not recommended even if the child does show a precocious tendency to hang around car parks.)
If you really want to name your child after a sweater, try Aran. "Aran sweaters are a national emblem to the Irish people. These beautiful works of woven art originate from the austere, windswept Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. For centuries people have been attracted to the unyielding, isolated islands. Their independence and endurance led to the crafting of these rugged woollen sweaters."
. ......of course, you could also try Jerzee or Sue-Etta but that would be stupid....er...wouldn't it?
Condoleeza Generally speaking, bizarre names are given to kids by stupid parents and this means that kids with bizarre names are stamped as being the offspring of stupid people. There are one or two exceptions to this and of course, Condoleeza Rice, George W Bush's Security Adviser is an outstanding one. What does the name Condoleeza mean? Apparently it is derived from the musical term "Con Dolcezza" which is an instruction to play with sweetness. So now you know. (I am not making this up)
Terri A stripper
Kerri Another Stripper
Kandi Yet another stripper. The message is clear - if you want people to think that your daughter is easy or shallow, substitute the letter "i" for "y" at the end of her name.
If you live in a really stupid neighbourhood and you are afraid your neighbours will mispronounce the "i" as "eye" then substitute "ee" for the "y".
Conni Yet another worker in the sleazier reaches of life, Mrs Lingus's little girl had a really hard time at school.
Kelli Only kidding! No one's really called Kelli. Are they? (Alas, yes - see the Special K Section above)
Aaron If there is any premature baldness in your family, don't even think of calling your little treasure Aaron.(Because he won't have any)
Shania - Now that's an interesting name. The only example that I know of is Shania Twain. Now that really is interesting. What makes it so interesting is that Twain is an IT acronym which stands for Tool Without An Interesting Name.... It's a funny old world.
If you think that any of these entries are cruel or you are about to choose an unusual name for your firstborn you must follow this link:
Single parent, Shirlee Nott has solved the problem of individually calling her nine children for meals, etc.
How? She has called them all Jordan.
Now she simply opens the kitchen window, shouts "Jordan get in here!!" and they all come running in.
Asked how she differentiates between them, she smiles. "That's easy , I just call them by their surnames"