We argue about baby names.

“Well what’s on your list?” she demands.

I show her my list. I examine her list once more. Our lists are not quite like those Venn diagrams where the circles don’t overlap, but are more like those Venn diagrams where one circle is at the centre of your piece of paper and the other is in your mate’s kitchen, in Chelmsford.

“I am not calling my child ‘Humphrey,'” I insist.

“I am not calling my child ‘Floyd,'” she insists. But she has fallen into my trap; by putting a ridiculous name on my list, I have started my negotiation with an impossibly high demand, and everything else that I will ask for will seem reasonable. I stare at her list again.

“Charlie,” I read. I think about it. “Hm. That seems reasonable,” I admit.

We have borrowed Big A’s baby names book, and I am bored with reading through it. It is basically just a list of names. Which is very useful and all that, but not incredibly interesting. All I can say is: show me a kid called ‘Aaron’ and I will show you some fucking lazy parents.

I am also bit torn with the issue of Googleability. This is a new consideration for parents. Is it an advantage to have a fairly anonymous, privacy-friendly name, e.g. ‘John Marsh,’ where nobody can particularly track you down? But on the other hand I am obviously expecting my children to be highly successful and renowned. Would it be more helpful to them to name them something like, e.g. ‘Xylophonehead Marsh?’ It is tricky.

I grab my list back and write ‘Xylophonehead’ at the bottom.

Neither of us can agree or compromise. We put the book down. It can wait.

35 Comments

  1. Your mate’s kitchen in Chelmsford? Since when do you have mates?

    Keep on stringing it out, Jonny. You’d be surprised what you can smuggle past the wife in the Delivery Room once she’s doped up to the eyeballs on epidural, as my four (Dante, Truman, Mathilda and Magnus) can attest…

  2. Use a family name. You get big props from your relatives and you have a built-in defense against obnoxious people who criticize your choice. Also, being older names, they tend to avoid the more frivolous excesses of modern baby monikers.

  3. Hmmmm… Dante the Terrible, Truman the Terrible, Mathilda the Terrible and Magnus the Terrible – they do have a ring to them. But admit it Ivan, you have a natural advantage with that surname (although I think Aaron the Terrible might struggle a bit – he’d be more likely to dominate sort of checkers clubs and whist drives and things while Mathilda goes storming over half of Romania).

    Jonny – I offer up the really brilliant idea I had which one self-publishing squirrel totally rejected: name your child using those yes-I’m-a-human verification code words that some bloggers have. Not only will the infant have a unique name, it will have the advantage of only being googleable to someone who really, really wants to find Bechmirsrompf B AND the child will be immune for life to spam emails.

  4. My surname sounds even more Terrible in the original Russian, Megan. But you raise a fair point about Jonny’s nominal handicap (as opposed to all his actual, physical ones). Perhaps he should settle for Swampy?

  5. Hmm. ‘Capcha’.

    It’s – catching. ‘Cap’ for short…

    I like ‘Magnus’. I hadn’t thought of ‘Magnus’.

  6. I’m starting to warm to vuvuzela as a name.

  7. Don’t tell him you had no name ready and how long it did take you on agreeing, or he will develop a few complexes….

    ‘Magnus’ is a family name in my country.

  8. Hilde, they are bound to develop complexes anyway because they are children of celebrities.

    Seriously now, an easy-to-pronounce name is usually the best way to go without causing strife. If you want to honor family members who had an unusual name ripe for poking fun such as Percival Humphrey Beauregard, then just put them as middle names.

    I speak as a person who hated to have such an unusual name that people didn’t know how to pronounce, and when I was legally old enough I did have it changed. (Though my friends still call me by my nickname, Kermit).

  9. I didn’t get named until after I’d been here a few days. Dad heard a song on the radio with a girl’s names as the title, suggested it to Mom, and ta-da! Named. And a good thing too. I almost got called “Candace.” I can’t see me as the type to be called “Candi.”

    Other folks let the older siblings name the child. Your little girl’s for that now, isn’t she?

  10. Speaking as someone who has an anonymous, privacy-friendly first name AND middle name, which has always been a pain in the arse, I would recommend that you go with John Xylophonehead Marsh as a compromise.

  11. There are some tribes who believe the baby already knows its name and will smile when the correct name is suggested to it. I suggest you attempt this procedure away from any hazards that may elicit an accidental oath or audible Rage Against the Machine records.

  12. Interesting. Kermit – did you also change your middle name, ‘The’..?

  13. My mother in law thought venereal diseases had a certain ring to them as names – Chlamydia, Gonnoreah etc. Possibly only works for girls (although you could move from “Cap” to “Clap” if that helps).

  14. In real life I was three days away from being called ‘Herbert’ – one of these so-called family names (anyway, aren’t they all family names? Just some of them are from a different family).

    Thankfully my Mum convinced my Dad it would lead to a life of ridicule. If only they’d known a change of name would make no difference.

    If you think I’m angry now, can you imagine what I’d be like if I’d been called Herbert…?

  15. *crosses ‘Herbert’ off list*

  16. There was a Leech McBugnuts in my town when I was a child. And someone claimed to know a Dane Bramage.

    Have you considered how important nicknames are? Perhaps you should take the initiative. Surely if celebrities can name their children after fruit and body parts and things then you can register a name with inverted commas already included. This also opens up the opportunity to be topical or political (Henry ‘Carbon Footprint’ Marsh) or you could try to set the child up for future success (Sam ‘I have a very large penis, no really’ Marsh).

    Ivan – I do think it was kind of you to go with Swampy rather than Bog which might have been subject to misinterpretation. Although the child’s middle name could then be Roll…

  17. I think Mallow goes very well with Marsh.

  18. Lola is a beautiful name that never goes out of fashion (mostly because it never came into fashion). Although when I come to think about it, Lola might not be suitable for a boy.

    My real name is both boring and inappropriate, although it is not a completely bad name. Unlike my sister, Daphne, whose name is truly awful (although I wouldn’t dare say that in her presence). And not suitable for a boy either.

  19. I didn’t have a middle name in the first place, and don’t now.

    I never cared for definite articles much anyway. For conveying gravitas and authority, I find that polysyllabic words do the trick just as well, if not better than definite articles.

  20. Romney has a certain ring about it.

  21. So it’s a boy then?

  22. I’m noted for my kindness, Megan. Noted for it.

    And Vee, anyone whose interests include belly-dancing can easily carry off a name like Candi. Just get higher boots and replace the sequined silk with (less) leather and you’ll be fine…

  23. My ex really did go to school with a kid called Wayne Kerr.

  24. Come to think of it, on South Park one of the main characters is named Stan Marsh. Surely that beats Xylophonehead Marsh.

  25. Yes but they will never get to page one of the Google rankings with a name like ‘Stan Marsh’. That is just ridiculous.

    Xylophonehead it is.

  26. But he’d only get to page one of the Google rankings generated by that vanishingly small percentage of the population who can actually spell “xylophone”, Jonny. And you’d look silly looking it up all the time.

    If it’s google rank you’re after, why not name him after an existing Norfolk celebrity to kick-start his ascent? Pick Tony, and get middle name Martin absolutely free!

  27. “Although when I come to think about it, Lola might not be suitable for a boy”

    The Kinks would disgree with you. Sort of.

    My children both have unusual names which no-one can spell or pronounce. But we gave them sensible middle name they can fall back on if necessary (and use for real with little legal difficulty). We avoided family names altogether, as we didn’t want to show favouritism. But our family names are deadly boring anyway.

  28. My initial suggestion “Morbius” still stands, as it is frankly badass, but if you’re looking for something more classical and LTLP=friendly, how about “Vesuvius”?

    It’s a fabulous name – the letter V occurs twice (that’s eight Scrabble points right there) and it’s cooler than the letters Q or K, and nearly as cool as the letters X and Z.

    Vesuvius Lava Marsh – just try it on for size; if the kid doesn’t take to it, obviously you can start calling it something else when it gets older. That happened that with my last cat, and it only ran away twice.

  29. I was almost christened June after my mother – May.

  30. Rodney? Or Jody?

  31. This is a great chance for some viral marketing: how about Sexandbowlsandrockandroll? Then whenever he/she meets someone or fills in a form it will be a plug for your book.

    There is a long and noble tradition of naming children after your business interests, eg Paris Hilton.

  32. I favour names that can’t be shortened. My own is a good example. Four letters would seem to be enough. I suggest you consider ‘Plug’ or ‘Boot’!

  33. Right. I am going to print out this thread, and give it to him when he is eighteen, along with all your IP addresses. That way Daphne Pingbottom or whatever he ends up being called will be able to thank you all personally.

  34. Ah, the first page of Google requirement rules out my suggestion, Eyjafjallajökull.

  35. My parents kindly chose names for my sisters and me that (in theory) couldn’t be shortened, and yet various “friends” and cousins managed ridiculous one-syllable short forms. Or else ridiculous lengthened nicknames – even worse!
    I’ve taken the other course, and named my three (2 boys and a girl) long names that have proper, recognised short forms. The only possible downside was the concentrated effort needed on their part to learn how to write their own names. On the other hand, persistence and concentration are traits to encourage!

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