A name is a name is a name…

Your baby’s name is probably one of the most important things you'll decide on
By Anel Lewis

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Forget about breastfeeding and crossing the midline, deciding on your baby’s name is probably one of the most important things you will do for your child. A name sets the tone for so many things in their life: where they will sit in class if the desks are arranged alphabetically; how long it will take for them to write their name at the top of a test sheet; what their playground nicknames will be; and eventually how they are perceived in the workplace.
 
And while it is incredibly tempting to come up with a name that’s adorable for a chubby-cheeked toddler, bear in mind that one day your strapping son may not take too kindly to being called “Scandie” (meaning boisterous) on the rugby field.
 
I wanted to name my son Declan, after an Irish lad I had encountered on my travels in Dublin while in my twenties. Needless to say, my husband did not share my enthusiasm and we opted instead for Conor – with the Irish spelling – meaning lover of hounds. At the time, I thought we were incredibly clever with our nod to my Irish heritage. But, we soon realised that Conor will probably spend much of his literate life correcting people who insist on using the double “n” favoured by the Scots. So, bear this in mind when going for unusual spellings. Also popular with many parents is the double-barrel name, especially if there’s been disagreement about the preferred name. But while deciding on Jayden-George or Lily-Mae may seem like the perfect peacekeeper at the time, spare a thought for that hapless child when he or she has to start filling in forms with only a small block available for the name. Or, even worse, when it comes to school uniforms and you have to squash Anastasia-Jessamine onto an iron-on label.
 
Going one step further is the temptation to combine the parents’ names. My name, Anél, is an amalgamation of my parents’ names – Anne and Neville. Needless to say, the supposed beauty of this epithet was completely lost on me and I have been calling myself “Ally” since I was in high school, much to my parents’ chagrin. Besides having to deal with some colourful nicknames, I also just found it irritating to include an accent on the “e” every time I typed my name.
 
Cultural diversity and popular names
South Africa’s cultural diversity lends itself toward an array of interesting names, and according to Stats SA, the most popular in 2016 were Junior and Precious, for boys and girls respectively, followed by Blessing and Gift. It’s also common for parents to include a name of a grandparent or family member, either as a first or second name. Many Afrikaans-speaking children are given surnames as first names. Who could forget Scott Scott, a popular television presenter from the 80s?
 
The funny thing about the names we lovingly mull over when our children are born is that they will eventually be diluted and mutated into some sort of nickname. I deliberately opted for a short name for my daughter, Erin, in the hope that she would be spared any embarrassing abbreviations or associations. But, she’s already become “Errie” and I fear she may have to deal with some “Airy Fairy” jokes somewhere along the line.
 
Given our obsession with celebrities, it’s not surprising that many parents are emulating the bizarre baby names being touted in Hollywood. No one even raises an eyebrow at the thought of standing next to Apple, Rumi or Suri in the tuck shop. Movie characters are also wielding their influence, so look out for Khaleesi, Hermione and Jedi in a few years’ time.
 
Remember that a name is for life. It may tickle you pink to name your child “Gin”, as a nostalgic reminder of the night she was conceived, but it won’t be so amusing when she tries to establish her identity as a young adult. By the way, a recent study of LinkedIn found that male CEOs tend to have to-the-point, one-syllable names, such as Bob, Jack and Tom and, in both male and female leaders, most of the names started with a consonant, not a vowel. No “Airy Fairies” in the boardroom, apparently.
 
Navigating the baby-naming quandary
Name generator sites that explain the origin of names:
nameberry.com categorises names according to themes such as celebrity, classic and cool
babynamewizard.com has graphs depicting popular names over time and a tool that suggests similar names to the one you have considered
babynames.com includes meanings and a list of the most popular names
 
Useful books
Best Baby Names for 2017, Siobhan Thomas
Baby Names 2018, Eleanor Turner
Baby Names, Samantha Harney

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