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Ah, look at baby Emperor! Our love of giving children unique names

PUBLISHED: 21:16 27 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:52 28 September 2018

David and Victoria Beckham with their family. Picture PA.

David and Victoria Beckham with their family. Picture PA.

PA Wire

Sarah, Mark, Claire and even Nick aren’t so common anymore, but Nick Conrad asks why do parents insist on giving their children outlandish names?

What’s in a name? Many of you reading this will have had yours bestowed by individuals who grew up when Al Bowlly was ‘chic!’ So it is no surprise that many of the monikers we are given don’t stand the test of time. A few resolutely appear as ever popular Christian names, however, most ebb and flow. 
Last week’s data from the Office for National Statistics once again gave us all an opportunity to gawp and say “I’d never call my child that!” So how hard is it to name a child? I think it’s now harder than many think.

Most parents seem to peruse the graphs troughs, rather than peaks, in a desire to give their baby a unique name. They will now be aided with regionalised data from the ONS, giving parents the best chance of avoiding duplication! Yes, that really is a ‘thing’ – god forbid there are two Pixies or Forests in one class.

It’s no surprise that Oliver and Olivia rank top, followed by Harry and George for boys and Amelia and Isla for girls. All of these names have lingered around the top of the charts for many decades and won’t be budged.

However, it’s vogue to find ‘individual’ and ‘unique’ names for our little ones, meaning we are seeing the rise in more creative, unusual and frankly pretty odd names.

First lesson, names are like milk…they have a sell by date. According to ‘rate my name’, Nicholas is fantastically boorish (now) and only a handful of babies these days have the ‘misfortune’ of being a Nick. I quite like mine. Many don’t appreciate theirs. A recent survey showed that over 40% of adults felt little, if any, appreciation towards their name.

I do wonder if in fifty years’ time Arizona, Apple, Binx, Gucci and Pax will look back in resentment at the fashionable names they had foisted upon them. Maybe all parents need to consider longevity when naming their children. That said I’m a fine one to talk with a child called Rupert and another named Margot. Let’s be honest… naming children is rather self-indulgent! Though we gave due consideration to my son enduring endless taunts of ‘Rupert the Bear’ and those who remove the ‘r’ and insert the hard ‘t’ into Margot…we felt eventually they’d thank us for their rather rare names. Only time will tell!

But then you can go far too far. Hollywood has a long tradition of foisting frankly odd names upon babies. Thanks to the likes of Uma Thurman, Jamie Oliver, Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow there appears to be a competition for the most creatively named offspring. I’d forgive the poor teacher reading the register a wry smile as she introduces ‘Banjo’ or ‘Buddy-Bear’ or ‘Honey Kinny.’

As a dad of three uniquely named children, the ONS data reminded me just how stressful getting the right name can be. Was it always like this? It must have been easier when naming conventions were a little more rigid? Interestingly the number of names given out, partly due to immigration, has increased by 700% since the 1950’s. Back then, almost nobody had an unusual name.

The school register was populated with safe Sarahs, middle of the road Marks, and conventional Claires. Now, in the leafier trendy suburbs, funkier names abound. Now parents will glean greater inspiration from their favourite film or song or oddly a combination of words they find pleasing. In fact, some names appear to be fantastically random.

Baby stores heave with books providing parents with advice. But the books only further play on our neuroses. The zillions of parenting websites are also patronising. For example, top baby names for “future achievers,” or most likely name of classroom bully.

I implore caution. In desperately trying to find a ‘creative’ name, we might unwittingly condemn our children into the clutches of the playground bully, embarrassment, and even low self-esteem. What at first seems fun, can quickly turn into a life-long burden, weighing heavy on the sorry owners’ shoulders. Parents may give their children remarkable names in the hope that they will become remarkable adults. An odd lottery.

But whilst what some term “flowery, silly names” are on the rise, the latest data is perhaps reassuring that the most popular baby names in Norfolk remain solid and familiar. T

Those at the top of the list wouldn’t be out of place in Dickensian times or would appear pleasantly familiar to the inhabitants of Downton Abbey. Sometimes being a traditionalist rules! I accept it is personal taste… but one parent had to forgive me the odd chuckle recently when I was introduced to her little one… Emperor!

There was nothing ‘imperialistic’ about a toddler crawling around in nappies and I very much doubt the name will lead to a future crown.

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