Diminutive Names for Girls – 2


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It’s been more than a year since we had a list of short form names, and as this is a huge growth area, it’s time for another.

Short form of Adelaide and related names. It has been an independent name since the Middle Ages, and was used by royalty and the nobility; an example is the Ada who was reputedly the sister of Charlemagne. There is also a 7th century St Ada, who was a French nun and abbess. Ada was especially popular during the 19th century, and a famous namesake from this era is (Augusta) Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, a daughter of Lord Byron and his only child born in wedlock – nearly always known as Ada Lovelace. Ada was a gifted mathematician who produced an algorithm designed to be used by a machine; in effect, the first computer program. A famous contemporary example is Australian actress Ada Nicomedou. Ada was #40 in the 1900s, and left the Top 100 in the 1920s; it was off the charts by the 1950s. Ada made a comeback in the 1990s at #845, and is currently around the 300s. Fitting in perfectly with the trend for short simple names like Ava, and for traditional old-fashioned names like Elsie, this is a hip retro short form that not too many people are using.

Short form of Isabella, and other names ending in -bella, such as Annabella or Arabella. However, many people connect it to the Italian word for “beautiful”, and understand it that way. Bella has been an independent name since the Middle Ages, and has had particular use by Jewish families from Russia and Central Europe – two examples are American feminist Bella Abzug, and writer Bella Rosenfeld, the wife of Russian-French artist Marc Chagall. A famous Australian namesake is actress Bella Heathcote, best known for her role on Neighbours a few years ago. Bella first joined the charts in the 1990s at #541, rising on the heels of Isabella, which began its impressive ascent in the 1980s. Bella entered the Top 100 in 2002, debuting at #99; it peaked in 2010 at #41, and is currently #48 nationally. Like Isabella, Bella’s success is often attributed to the Twilight series, although as you can see, it was rising and even popular before the first novel was released in 2005. Stephenie Meyer’s Bella Swan (an irritating character name because it describes the story’s outcome) probably did help though, if only by increasing visibility.

Short form of the Greek name Demetria, the feminine form of Demetrius, which is derived from the name of the agricultural goddess Demeter. The goddess’ name is often translated as “earth mother” or “barley mother”. Demi is also sometimes connected with the French word demi, meaning “half”, to suggest “small” (as in half-pint). This name has a big dose of star power, thanks to Hollywood actress Demi Moore, and from a generation younger, pop singer and actress Demteria “Demi” Lovato. The name is usually pronounced duh-MEE, but English-speakers sometimes prefer it to be said to rhyme with Emmie. Demi is around the 500s in Australia, and is rising in the US, but falling in the UK, so international trends are at odds on this one.

Short form of any name starting with El-, such as Eleanor, Ellen, Elizabeth, or Eloise, and long used as an independent name. It is well known from British pop singer Elena “Ellie” Goulding, and a favourite in the world of fiction. Fictional namesakes include the dainty little girl in The Water Babies, Ellie Linton, heroine of John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began, Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, brainy heroine of Carl Sagan’s Contact, adventurous Ellie Frederickson from Up, the woolly mammoth from the Ice Age series, and strong matriarch Eleanor “Miss Ellie” Ewing, from Dallas. Ellie joined the charts in the 1980s at #349, and was in the Top 100 as early as 1993, at #98. It managed to get in again a decade later in 2003, at #72, and has remained fairly stable in the bottom half of the Top 100 ever since. Currently it is #56. Ellie fits in perfectly with popular names like Ella, and is well-used without being overly common or rising alarmingly.

Unisex nickname that in the case of boys is a pet form of Francis, Francesco, Francisco, Frank, or Franklin, and in the case of girls, of Frances, Francesca, Francisca, or Francine. Famous male Frankies include American crooner Frankie Valli, British comedian Frankie Howerd, American actor Frankie Muniz, who played the title role in Malcolm in the Middle, and Australian kick-boxer Frankie Georgi. A famous female Frankie is British pop singer Frankie Sandford, and the name has been chosen for their daughters by several celebrities, including Drew Barrymore, and in Australia by rugby league star Johnathan Thurston, weather presenter Sara Cumming, and news presenter Rebecca Morse. In the US, Frankie only charts for boys, while in the UK, it charts for both sexes, but is only popular as a boy’s name. In Australia, Frankie is a unisex name, and significantly more common for girls. The reason for its increasingly feminine image here is no doubt because of the hip women’s fashion magazine, frankie.

French nickname for any name with a G sound, such as Georgine or Ghislaine. Its most famous namesake is the charming Parisian schoolgirl in Colette’s 1942 novella, Gigi, who is being trained to be a courtesan by her family. Their plans go awry when the gamine Gigi attracts a wealthy older man, and becomes his wife instead of his mistress. It has been turned into a musical and a couple of films, including the 1958 Hollywood production starring Leslie Caron as Gigi, which is surprisingly faithful to the book, except for discreetly upping Gigi’s age from twelve to around sixteen, and adding songs like Thank Heavens For Little Girls. Gigi’s name is short for Gilberte, by the way. In Italy it is a male nickname, short for Luigi. An Australian with this name is actress Gigi Edgely, who has starred in Farscape. A flirty French Lolita, Gigi is currently a hip girl’s name in the style of Coco. It was recently chosen as a celebrity baby name by swimmer Geoff Huegill.

Short for any name with a mil sound, such as Millicent, Mildred, Camilla, Emilia, or Amelia, and is also spelled Milly. You can see Millie as a vintage charmer, all bonnets and hoop skirts, but there’s also something a little Swinging Sixties about it, thanks to My Boy Lollipop, sung by Millie Small, and the 1967 film Thoroughly Modern Millie, starring Julie Andrews. It has a very Australian connection as Millie the Echidna was one of the official mascots for the Sydney Olympics (her name is short for Millenium). Millie was #196 in the 1900s, and left the charts in the 1930s. It returned in the 1990s at #501, had a definite upsurge after the 2000 Olympics, and in 2011 was only just outside the Top 100, its highest point ever gained. It fits in perfectly with popular names like Milla and Mila, and is right on trend for sprightly vintage names, so it feels as if popularity must be just around the corner for suddenly modern-again Millie.

Unisex nickname for either the boys’ name Stephen or Steven, or the girl’s name Stephanie; these are Greek in origin, and mean “crown”. Stevie has been an independent name since the Middle Ages, and although you might think of it as very modern for girls, it’s been a female name since the 18th century. Famous male Stevies include Stevie Wonder, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Australia’s first international pop star, Stevie Wright. A famous female one is English novelist and confessional poet Stevie Smith, whose real name was Florence, and who gained her nickname from a perceived resemblance to jockey Steve Donaghue. However, the most well known female example is singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks, and it is no doubt her popularity in the 1970s and 1980s which made Stevie seem more feminine. In Australia, Stevie can be only be found in current use as a girl’s name, and it’s around the 300s. While writing this, I realised what a musical name Stevie is – look at all those namesakes from the world of pop and rock!

Short form of Teresa or Theresa, a rather mysterious name, because the various meanings suggested for it are always Greek, but the name itself is of Spanish origin. Nobody has been able to explain this to my satisfaction. Tess has a very famous literary namesake, the beautiful, tormented title character of Thomas Hardy’s rural tragedy, Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Tess Harding is the celebrated journalist trying to cope with marriage as well as a career in rom-com classic Woman of the Year (1941), with Tess played by Katharine Hepburn in her first outing with Spencer Tracy. Another Tracy connection is the adorably-named Tess Trueheart, eventual wife of comic strip detective, Dick Tracy. Tess Mcleod is one of the sisters in Australian drama series McLeod’s Daughters, played by the popular Bridie Carter. Last year comedian Dave Hughes welcomed a daughter named Tess Clementine, voted the most popular celebrity baby name of 2013. Tess joined the charts in the 1980s at #352, and peaked in the early 2000s at #209. Simple yet strong, pert and practical, Tess is a short and stylish choice.

Short for Matilda, this can also be spelled Tillie. Apart from being a short form of a patriotic name, Tilly has a notorious namesake in Australia. Tilly Devine was an infamous figure of the Sydney underworld between the two world wars, who became known first as a prostitute, then as a brothel madam and gang member. Her wealth was legendary – she owned real estate, luxury cars, gold and diamonds, threw lavish parties, and always travelled first class. Operating out of Woolloomooloo, Tilly was known as the “Queen of the ‘Loo”, and in the 1953 travelled to London for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Tilly’s story, and her violent gang war with rival vice queen Kate Leigh, was covered in Channel Nine’s drama series, Underbelly: Razor. Tilly is around the 100s in Australia, so not rare at all, while Tillie does not chart. It is something of a puzzle as to why Millie is preferred to Milly, but Tilly preferred to Tillie. Tilly is a sweet and spunky short form in line with British name trends, with an Australian identity all its own.

Thank you to Brooke for suggesting the name Millie be featured on Waltzing More Than Matilda.

(Photo shows New Zealand actress Chelsie Preston Crayford as Tilly Devine in Underbelly: Razor)

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Urgent Name Help Needed: They’re Completely Stressed About Their Big Baby Name Mess!


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The Situation
Charlotte and Jake have been blessed with a beautiful daughter, and they couldn’t be happier – except that she was born seven weeks ago and they still haven’t decided on a name for her. Charlotte was relieved to read on the blog that no terrible fate awaits parents who don’t make the 60 day registration deadline, but they still need to choose a name as soon as possible.

During the pregnancy they considered the names Myrtle, Elsie, Rosie, Mabel, Maeve, Mae, Agnes, Florence, Iris, Ida, Fern, and Pearl. Jake’s #1 choice for the name is Rosie, which Charlotte isn’t that keen on, while he completely vetoed Pearl. During the name process, Jake went off Iris and Ida.

Just before the birth, their short list of front runners was:
* Myrtle
* Agnes
* Elsie
* Mabel
* Rosie

How the Problem Started
As Charlotte was wheeled off to recover after giving birth, she and Jake were in complete agreement: the baby’s name was Elsie. Charlotte was sure she was an Elsie, and told the doctor that was her daughter’s name. Meanwhile, Jake was telling all the nurses they had chosen the name Elsie.

Unfortunately, Charlotte couldn’t bring herself to commit to Elsie because of a family issue. Elsie is the name of a family member, no longer in the land of the living, that Charlotte didn’t know or have contact with. However, other family members who did know Elsie didn’t get along with her, and weren’t pleased at the prospect of another Elsie in the family.

The baby came home without a name, and Jake was annoyed, believing they should have just stuck with the name Elsie.

Everyone Has an Opinion!
Jake and Charlotte have an older daughter called Olive, and Olive instantly recognised the baby as Myrtle, and called her such. However, Jake and Charlotte had already decided she definitely wasn’t a Myrtle.

Mostly Jake and Charlotte have been calling their daughter Mabel since she was born, and Charlotte is getting a strong emotional attachment to it. However, Charlotte also reasons that if Mabel was such a good name, wouldn’t they have committed to it by now?

Furthermore, they have shared the name Mabel with others, and received extremely negative reactions to it. They’ve been told it’s an awful name, a cow’s name, a scullery maid’s name, and an elderly relative said they could call the baby anything they wanted – but not Mabel.

Charlotte loves the name Fern, but this has resulted in people “pulling faces” when the idea is floated past them. She also worries that Olive and Fern are too botanical together, and wonders if Fern really has vintage charm, or is it actually a hippie name? She also wonders if Maeve really has that vintage feel as well.

Everyone loves the name Rosie, but Charlotte thinks of it as a “dog name”, and a bit too common.

What Charlotte and Jake Want
* Ideally, a vintage-style name
* A soft, beautiful name to suit their gentle, placid daughter
* A name that isn’t a “burden”
* Jake likes names that have a nickname

Current Name List

* Elsie (Charlotte is still concerned about the family issue, and isn’t sure about the -ie ending)
* Mabel
* Maeve
* Fern
* Martha
* Maggie
* Alice
* Nora
* Edith or Edie (Charlotte not keen)
* Mae (too short, but maybe a nickname for Mabel or Maeve?)
* Agnes, Ida, and Rosie are still in the mix and seem usable, although Jake has gone off Agnes

Middle names they are considering are Birdie, Josephine, and Rose. Charlotte quite fancies Birdie as a short form of Brigid (and it could be her name for everyday use), Jake really loves the thought of an Elsie Josephine, and the Rose is a sop to Jake, so that he can still have the option of calling his daughter Rosie as a nickname.

Where They Are Now
Going around and around in circles and getting stressed and anxious. Charlotte can’t let go of any of the names, and has been through the complete register of all births from 1880 to 1920 to find fresh name inspiration. The 60 day deadline expires next week ….

* * * * * * * * * *

Goodness, you two have got yourself in a real pickle, haven’t you?

This is the fourth time on the blog I have heard of a couple having trouble choosing a baby name after the birth – three of you have written in, and one was a news story. What you all have in common is that other people have become involved in the baby naming process, and in each case, this wasn’t the slightest bit of help, and turned the whole thing into a huge drama that went on for weeks.

You both chose the name Elsie, which I think is a beautiful name which sounds lovely with Olive, and with your surname, and pretty much ticked all your boxes, being vintage, and soft-sounding, and nicknamey. It sounds as if you would have happily come home with a baby called Elsie if not for the opinions of family members.

I tend to agree with Jake – I think you should have just named her Elsie, and announced that as her name. Despite the family disagreement, I don’t think it would have taken them more than a few minutes (a few weeks for anyone of exceptional stubborness) to realise that the Elsie they didn’t care for is gone forever and will never bother them again, while little baby Elsie is a completely separate person and utterly sweet and delightful in every way.

That’s another problem with choosing a baby name several weeks after the birth. Your heart is bursting with love for your daughter, and every minute you fall more and more in love with her. And each day she’s getting cuter and cuter, developing winning little ways and adorable baby quirks. No name is going to seem good enough for her, and a great enough expression of your love, and if you wait until she’s giggling and cooing, you’ll be toast.

You look down at her and think, “Oh she’s such a beautiful baby, so soft and gentle and placid and cuddly and happy. We need an extra specially soft and beautiful and cuddly and happy name for her”. But what name is ever going embody that unique combination of beauty and softness and gentleness and placidity and happiness to your perfect satisfaction?

And she’s so tiny and perfect and fragile and defenceless that you can’t bear the thought of anyone poking fun of her name, and every name you consider seems to have a hidden trap in it. Of course you don’t want her to grow up in a family where people say, “The last Elsie in the family wasn’t very nice”, or amongst friends who say, “Mabel sounds like a cow”, or pull a face when they hear her name. The more time you think about it, the more every name will seem as if it has tease potential.

Also the longer you wait, the more you feel under pressure to come up with something amazing. It will seem ridiculous that it took you three months to pick the name Elsie Josephine or Mabel Rose or Fern Maeve. You have to drop the idea that there’s a perfect name out there that will match your daughter’s personality with exqusisite taste, silence all criticism, be utterly tease-immune, and make everyone think, “Oh well no wonder it took them all this time to find a name that good”.

I have two main pieces of advice for you, and even if you ignore everything else, please please please PLEASE follow these two things in the headline.

1. Nobody Else Gets to Name Your Baby Girl
It’s time the committee meetings on what to call the baby come to a complete halt. Other people haven’t helped, and have made you second guess all the names you’re considering. I feel absolutely furious that people have been so rude about the names you like, and I agree it’s absolutely none of their business. On the other hand – why did you ask?

You worry that their opinions show what your daughter will have to face in the future, yet, being extremely blunt, some of these people will have passed on by the time your daughter reaches adulthood, and your colleagues aren’t going to be part of her life (they won’t even be part of your life forever).

In any case, asking a ton of people for their opinions is a waste of time. The kind of names that  won’t be criticised are ones like Amelia Mae, Chloe Elizabeth or Olivia Grace – “safe” names. And besides, if you were going to pick a name based on what other people approve of, Charlotte would have agreed to Rosie – Jake’s favourite name, which everyone else likes, including me. But none of that matters, because Charlotte doesn’t really like it.

Baby name discussions should only be held between the two of you, in private. Don’t ask other people for their opinions, and if they offer them, just say something like, “Thank you, we’ll have to think that one over”. Don’t let people see that the process is getting you stressed, because that’s an opportunity for them to “help” you. If they ask how the baby name choosing is going, smile brightly and say, “Oh we’re nearly there – we’ll be announcing the name soon”.

If they make a comment about how long it’s taking, say something like, “I know the time we’re taking must seem a little silly to an outsider”, then change the subject at once. That lets them know that it’s no big deal, and puts them firmly on the outside – and the bigger fuss they make, the more of an outsider they become. It’s a polite way of letting them know it’s none of their concern.

2. Your Name List Should Be Getting Shorter, Not Longer!
I’m bewildered as to how you had five names on your name list before going to hospital, and now you have around fifteen. I know you said that you were having trouble letting go of the names, but you’re still adding to your name list, which means you’ll never pick a name at this rate. You’ve even put names that have been vetoed back on the list!

You’ve got to stop thinking up more names, and just stick to what you’ve got. That means no getting out of the shower with a great name you thought up while shampooing your hair, no wondering if a name you vetoed is really that bad and could still be considered, and definitely no going through four decades of birth registers!

Let’s see what names could be trimmed:

Elsie – I think this name has been ruined for Charlotte by her family’s interference, and she’s gone off it because it’s too much like Rosie.
Rosie – Charlotte thinks it’s a dog name, and too common. I disagree, but to heck with me, it’s not my baby.
Maggie – I’m getting the feeling Charlotte isn’t mad about two syllable names ending with -ie. And Maggie is actually a common name for dogs, so if Rosie is out for those reasons, then Maggie should be triply out.
Edith and Edie – Charlotte doesn’t like them.
Mae – you both agreed it’s too short.
Agnes – Jake has gone off it.
Ida – Jake has gone off it.
Iris – Jake has gone off it
Florence – neither has vetoed it, but you never mentioned it again either, so you can’t be that keen

And what’s left:

Maeve, possibly nn Mae
I think it’s a beautiful name, but you did wonder if it sounded vintage, and I don’t think it really sounds vintage at all – it’s only come into common use in Australia quite recently.

I love the name Fern too, and although some people might see it as hippie, it was quite popular in the late 19th century, mostly in the middle. It does sound botanical with Olive, if that’s an issue. Blog contributor Madelyn suggested Fern as a nickname for Frances – could something like that work?

This is a very dignified name, and I think it does have that gentle image you were after – although it also seems strong. Very much in line with British name trends too.

I think this is bang on for beautiful, soft and sweet, and a nice match with Olive, but if you wanted to get technical, it’s a classic rather than a vintage choice. It seems like a great replacement for Elsie – it’s got a vaguely similar sound, without being so alike that it brings back memories of Elsie (as Elsa would, for example).

Very hip choice, excellent match with Olive, well ahead of the trends. I wonder if it might be too nicknamey for Charlotte’s taste though. If so, what about Eleanor, nn Nora?

This just leaves Mabel, which seems like the obvious choice. It’s beautiful, soft and sweet but still spunky; it literally means “lovable”; it’s vintage-style; it makes an awesome match with Olive; it sounds adorable with your surname, and it’s the name you are already calling her, and have taught Olive to call her.

You’ve said that you’re getting emotionally attached to Mabel, which makes me think that you may have already chosen it without quite admitting it to yourselves. You say that the fact that you haven’t committed to it yet shows it can’t really be that great, but you haven’t given yourselves a chance to.

I know other people have been critical about Mabel, but there’s a good reason for that – you’re slightly ahead of the trends, because Mabel only came back on the charts in the 2000s, and it’s not zooming up in a bothersomely trendy way, but remaining fairly stable. People just aren’t used to it yet because it’s so fresh. And your friend who thinks it’s a scullery maid name? Hasn’t she been watching Downton Abbey – doesn’t she know that “scullery maid names” are hot right now?

I love both the middle names you have picked out, and I think Mabel Birdie Rose is utterly, utterly lovely. It gives you the option of calling her either Mae, Birdie, or Rosie for everyday, and luckily you don’t have to register nicknames so you can take as long as you want to decide which one (or use all three if you want – there’s no law on nicknames!)

If it was up to me, I’d say Mabel Birdie Rose. But it’s not up to me – it’s your privilege to name your daughter, and no one else’s. So what will it be?

Readers, have you ever had terrible trouble choosing a baby name, or been criticised for your baby name choice? And what name would you suggest for Olive’s sister?

Justice and Pax




Annie Jane (Lucy, Milly)
Avalen Marie Germaine
Aylah Shae
Beatrix Rose
Brae Winter (Hunter, Ason, Taylan)
Cameron Noelene (Kyle, Cally, Connor, Carson, Constance, Carter)
Caoimhe Maya Constance
Eden Margaret
Elvy Sue (Ollie)
Freya Jean
Helena Kata (Sofia)
Hillary Winnie (Abigail)
Juliet Lily (Charlotte, Dali-May, Ryan)
Kenzie Isobel
Koa Amani (Ella, Tate, Mason, Ruby)
Lucia Elizabeth (Thomas)
Nellie May (Poppy)
Olive Patience (Oscar, Hugh, Ivy)
Rose Charlotte (Jack, Harry)
Sharon Sue Kim (Alice)
Sunny Janice Dorothy
Tallulah Judith Calliope (Oberon, Hannah)

Aisea (Laylani)
Archie Jim (Mitch)
Baiden Miller (Cooper, Deegan)
Bob John (Indie)
Bryson Sydney (Ebbonni, Talia)
Callan Grayden (Xavier, Lexie)
Charles Edward (Olivia, Henry)
Clay Aston
Davy Liam
Edward William (Julian)
Elliott Quinn
Frank Dylan (Lachie)
Harvey Ryeland (Aislinn)
Jeremiah Stanley
Jet Ethan
Judd Thomas
Ned Jean
Otto Ross (Millicent)
Sanmaan Singh
Tate Davis (Leo)
Theodore Francis (Jakson, Sullivan, Rafferty)
Timothy Patrick (Benjamin, Melissa, Elizabeth, Victor, Daniel, Walter, John)

(Picture shows the coat of arms on Melbourne Magistrate’s Court, with the state motto, Peace and Prosperity; photo from the Herald Sun.)

Celebrity Baby News: Curtis Stone and Lindsay Price


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blog190914_curtisCelebrity chef Curtis Stone, and his wife, American actress Lindsay Price, welcomed their second child on September 16, and have named their son Emerson Spencer. Emerson Stone was born in Los Angeles weighing 3.4 kg (7lb 11oz), and joins big brother Hudson, aged 2 1/2. Hudson’s birth was announced on the blog.

Since Hudson was born, Curtis has opened his first restaurant, named Maude, in Los Angeles, and he and Lindsay got married in Spain last year.

Hudson had one of the fastest-rising names of 2012 – will Emerson increase the popularity of his name, or will it be his middle name that rises?

Famous Name: Bruce


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When the name Acacia was featured for Wattle Day, I mentioned that Monty Python made gentle fun of our national flower with their Bruces Sketch, where all the philosophy faculty at the (fictional) University of Woolloomooloo are named Bruce. This seems to be the origin of the notion that Bruce is a particularly Australian name.

Barry Humphries has said that the inspiration for the Bruces Sketch was his Barry Mackenzie character, who began life as a comic strip in Private Eye. Barry Humphries’ television series, The Barry Humphries Scandals, was a precursor to Monty Python, and Eric Idle has cited Humphries as one of his comedy influences.

It’s rumoured, not implausibly, that Humphries himself suggested the name Bruce as an Australian signifier, either directly or indirectly. The name Bruce peaked in Australia in the 1930s, and in Britain slightly later, in the 1940s. Even at its height in the UK, it was only around the bottom of the Top 100, so it wasn’t nearly as common there.

Humphries was born in 1934, so had peers called Bruce. The most obvious example is Australian director Bruce Beresford (born 1940), who directed the Barry Mackenzie films. Like Barry Humphries, Bruce went to England in search of career opportunities, but was unable to break into the British film industry, and found success at home, with movies like Breaker Morant and Puberty Blues, and in North America with Driving Miss Daisy, and Black Robe.

The connection between Barry and Bruce continued when Humphries took the role of a great white shark named Bruce in the animated film, Finding Nemo. The American film-makers named Bruce, primarily not as an Australian reference, but after the shark in Jaws, whose models were all called Bruce after Steven Spielberg’s lawyer. Bruce the Shark does have an Australian accent though, and uses ockerisms like “Good on ya, mate!”.

From the United States, the name Bruce gained a different stereotype, being associated with homosexuality. The reasons are unclear, but one of the most popular theories is that it’s connected to the campy Batman television shows of the 1960s, as Batman’s real name is Bruce Wayne. Another is that it is from the 1960s parody song Big Bruce, where Bruce is a camp hairdresser.

Apart from these reasons, it does seem that the “tough guy” names of one generation are often seen as effeminate, dorky, or otherwise laughable by the next. Something to think about should you be considering one of today’s rugged baby names, such as Axel, Blade, Diesel, or Rowdy.

Bruce is a Scottish surname of Norman-French origin. The Clan Bruce are from Kincardine on the Firth of Forth in Scotland, and trace their origins from the French de Brus or de Bruis, coming from Breux in Normandy (now Brix), sometimes said to mean “the willow lands”. This history and etymology is now considered doubtful, due to lack of evidence.

The first of the family on record to come to Britain was Robert de Brus, who accompanied King Henry I there after the Battle of Tinchbray in 1106. He was granted large tracts of land in Yorkshire, and named 1st Lord of Annandale by King David I of Scotland in 1124. A family legend says that the first of their line was Robert de Brus, who came over with William the Conqueror but this is more wishful thinking than fact.

Of course the most famous member of Clan Bruce was Robert the Bruce, King of the Scots from 1306 to 1329, claiming royal blood as great-great-great-great grandson of David I. One of the most famous warriors of his generation, he led Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence against England. He fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland’s place as an independent nation, with a great victory at the Battle of Bannockburn. Today he is remembered in Scotland as a national hero.

According to a popular legend, while on the run from the English, Robert the Bruce took shelter in a cave. Here he whiled away the lonely hours watching a spider trying to connect one area of the cave’s roof to another using its web. Each time the spider would fail, but kept trying until at last it succeeded Inspired by the plucky little arachnid, Robert the Bruce returned to defeat the English, winning more supporters, and eventual victory. If you ever read this story as a child, it probably ended by saying the moral was :”If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again”.

This story was first told by Sir Walter Scott in in his Tales of a Grandfather: Being Stories of the History of Scotland (1828), and it is believed to have been adapted from a story about Sir James Douglas, Robert the Bruce’s ally and lieutenant. However, the story is very old, being similar to Jewish tales about King David, and Persian stories about Tamerlane and an ant. Apparently people love the idea of beleaguered rulers being inspired by small creatures with exoskeletons.

Robert the Bruce was the high point of the Clan Bruce, although Robert’s son David also became King of Scotland. Various Bruces did historically worthy things, and one of the most famous is Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, who was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries. He spent most of his fortune taking sculptures from the Parthenon in Athens, which was falling into ruins: today they are known as the Elgin Marbles, and on display in the British Museum.

Bruce has been used as a first name since the 17th century, and was used in both England and Scotland. Although it has plenty of history, Bruce didn’t become a huge success as a boy’s name until the 20th century, which gives it a rather modern feel.

In Australia, Bruce is a classic name which has never left the charts. It was #85 in the 1900s, and peaked in the 1930s at #22. It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the 1970s – perhaps Monty Python wasn’t a help to it, or perhaps after many decades its time of popularity was up. Although uncommon, Bruce has remained stable for years around the 400-500s.

So how Australian is the name Bruce really? Well, apart from the Monty Python sketch (which is, you know, fiction), it peaked earlier here than elsewhere, and peaked much higher than in Britain. However, it peaked only a little higher than in the US, where it is also a classic, and peaked at #25 during the 1950s. Its current popularity in Australia is little different to that in the UK and US, so possibly not quite as Australian as you might have thought!

(Photo shows Bruce from Finding Nemo)

What Happens If You Don’t Register Your Baby’s Name?


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Recently I answered a Name Assistance problem, where the mother was worried that her baby might arrive early, and she was therefore running out of time to find a name for her daughter. I reassured her that as Australians have 60 days to register a baby’s name after its birth, there was no need to panic.

Blog reader Ingrid asked, what happens if you don’t name the baby within 60 days? Would the authorities take your baby away from you, she wondered, or would they name the baby on your behalf?

A very reasonable question! The main things to remember are a) registering a birth is free, so you don’t need to put it off until you can afford it and b) authorities must always register a birth, so no matter how late you are, they are legally obliged to register your child. Don’t ever think that it’s “too late” to register your child’s name, or you’ve “missed the deadline”.

I thought I’d have a look at what penalties are officially in place for those who fail to make the 60-day deadline. This varies from state to state.

* New South Wales does not issue any penalties for a late registration, and they say their role is to support parents during the registration process. However, you may have to provide more forms of identification, and the process can be longer and more complex. For that reason, they recommend you make an effort to reach the deadline promptly.

* In Victoria, the penalty for failing to register a child’s birth within 60 days is $1408 – although in practice it is almost unknown for any penalty to actually be applied. They can issue a court order to insist on a birth registration, or to alter one which is considered invalid or incomplete. Children who have been abandoned and their parents unknown will have their births registered, and a name will be given to the child (so yes, they can name the baby on your behalf, if they can’t find you).

* In Queensland, if you register your child’s birth after the 60 day deadline, you can be charged a $4.50 late fee. Queensland is the only state to charge for registration, and that’s only if you’re past the deadline.

* In South Australia, you can be asked to make a statutory declaration before a Justice of the Peace for a late birth registration.

* In Tasmania, you may be asked to provide extra information and identification, including a letter from the hospital.

* Western Australia says nothing about late registrations. They note that staff will help you with the registration process (as they do in all states and territories).

* In the Australian Capital Territory, you are given a full six months to register a child’s birth. They say nothing about late registrations.

* In the Northern Territory, if you do not register a birth within six months, it will be registered as “Unnamed baby”, and they will complete the registration process on your behalf, with what information they can find. This information will assist you when you register the birth yourself, and apply for the birth certificate.

It should be remembered that failing to register a child’s birth is a serious matter. The Australian Human Rights Commission states that every child has the right to a name, and to have their name registered immediately after birth.

Unicef released a report last year which found that a third of children worldwide do not have their birth registered by their fifth birthday, with the lowest registration rates in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Without birth registration, these children are the first to fall through cracks in the system. They are much less likely to be immunised against diseases, or to gain an education.

They are much more likely to suffer abuse and neglect, to be abducted and trafficked, and to become separated from their families during conflict or natural disaster. Without being able to verify their age with a birth certificate, they may be forced into child labour, treated as an adult in the justice system, conscripted into the armed forces, or be sexually exploited through under-age marriage or prostitution.

You might think that this is something that only happens in developing countries, but unfortunately it is a problem in Australia too. Just this year, a couple from Melbourne pleaded guilty to failing to register their son’s birth, and also pleaded guilty to neglect – neglect so severe that their five-year-old son died from a cut on his foot due to living in filthy conditions. The little boy had never been immunised, was not enrolled in kindergarten, and barely had contact with the outside world.

This is exactly what Unicef is talking about. While failing to register the birth doesn’t necessarily make you a neglectful parent, neglectful parents are less likely to register their child’s birth – and failing to register makes it easier to hide child neglect and abuse. Just as with the statistics from Unicef, this little boy wasn’t immunised or part of the education system. Not that those things are illegal in themselves, but it shows that the patterns identified by Unicef hold true, whether we’re talking about a village in Africa or a suburb in Melbourne.

That was an unusual case, but failure to register children’s births is a significant problem in Australia, leaving thousands of young people bereft of an identity. Many of them are Indigenous, and in rural or remote communities, but some are from non-English speaking backgrounds, homeless, or have parents who are drug affected, mentally ill, or intellectually disabled. Some have their births unregistered altogether, while others have been registered, but do not have a birth certificate – although registration is free, a birth certificate will cost around $45.

In a study conducted by Dr Paula Gerber, associate professor and deputy director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University, the cost of the birth certificate was often cited as a reason for failing to lodge the paperwork. There could also be problems with literacy and English language skills, a distrust of authority, and the lack of confidence to handle official business. There could be strong feelings of shame stopping people from asking for necessary assistance.

Dr Gerber also believes that changes to the birthing system have played a role. It used to be that when women gave birth in hospital, they spent up to a week there after the birth, with hospital staff on hand to assist them with registration. These days you are discharged from hospital as soon as possible, and as you leave, handed a huge pack of paperwork, which can get lost or damaged.

Some are calling for changes to the registration process, so that birth registration and receiving a birth certificate is automatically done on the basis of hospital admission records. In Africa, birth registration can be done by mobile phone, and mobile birth registries travel regularly through regions: perhaps this could work better than our highly centralised system where forms must be mailed in.

The consequences of not having a birth certificate in the 21st century are dire. You need a birth certificate to enrol in school, and without one cannot apply for a driver’s license or get a bank account. This seriously hampers employment prospects, and if you do manage to find a job, without a tax file number you will be forced to pay tax at the highest possible rate, losing half your pay. Without access to a driver’s license, many young people whose births were never registered resort to driving unlicensed, which eventually leads to their imprisonment for traffic violations.

If you would like to know what it’s like to not have your birth registered, listen to Charmaine Webster, a Queensland woman who was born forty years ago, and has no official identity. She grew up in a family where birthdays were not celebrated, and her birth was never registered, even though those of her four older siblings were. Her older sister cannot remember Charmaine being born, and only remembers her being part of their family from the age of three.

Charmaine lost contact with her parents, who she considers to have been abusive, in her early adulthood, and hasn’t been able to obtain information about her birth from them. In her teens, she was able to work fairly easily by registering for a tax file number at the post office; however, in the last decade laws have changed, and employers are now fined for hiring workers who cannot prove their Australian citizenship. Because Charmaine cannot prove her citizenship with a birth certificate or passport, she cannot get a job.

She began asking help in 2000, when she wanted to get married; in the end a friend who was a Justice of the Peace organised the necessary documents for her. Since then, she has continued searching for answers, with each government department sending her on to another in a fruitless quest. She has become exhausted by the search, and watched her children get their driver’s license and start work while she can’t. She says that without being registered, you officially don’t exist, and when you don’t exist, you live in poverty.

So I think that has answered the question of what happens if you don’t make the 60 day deadline to register your child’s birth. Nothing. You just have to do it as soon as you can, which may be more complicated than if you’d done it straight away. If you haven’t done it by their sixth birthday, your child won’t be able to start school.

And if you neglect or refuse to register your child at all? That has been answered as well. You will have made it impossible for them to get a passport, a bank account or a driver’s license, ruined their prospects of employment, increased their chances of imprisonment, and condemned them to poverty.

They will have no identity, and no citizenship. Furthermore, it won’t be something that they can easily sort out for themselves as an adult without your help – help that they should have been given as soon as they were born. A name is the first gift you give your child, and registering that name is the first human right they receive.

Question: What could be done to make birth registration easier?
Birth certificates should be an automatic part of the registration process – 21%
Birth certificates should be free for everyone – 21%
Mobile birth registries should travel regularly through remote areas – 18%
It should be possible to register a birth online – 14%
Birth registration should be completed before leaving hospital – 12%
Fees for birth certificates should be waived for the disadvantaged – 11%

Only one person thought that the system was fine as it was and didn’t need to be changed, and nobody thought it was a good idea for birth registration via mobile device to be made possible.

Thank you to Ingrid for helping to suggest this post.

(Example birth certificate from Births, Deaths and Marriages Victoria)

Celebrity Baby News: Celebrity Baby Round-Up



SCN_12-07-2014_EGN_21_The Trace Clan_fct1024x768x33_t460

Chef Alessandro Pavoni, and his wife Anna, welcomed their daughter Jada on July 7. It was especially wonderful news because Alessandro had bone cancer two decades ago, and was told he would never be able to have children. He also had a double bypass after two near-fatal heart attacks three years ago. The Pavonis had five years of IVF, and suffered four miscarriages, before having Jada. Alessandro was born in Brescia, in Italy’s north, and worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, including La Rotonde in Paris, before moving permanently to Sydney in 2003. He opened his own restaurant at The Spit in Mosman in 2009, and Ormeggio at the Spit has won several awards since then. Alessandro is well known as a celebrity chef on Channel Ten’s Masterchef.

LNP candidate Matt Trace, and his wife Michelle, welcomed their fifth child early in July, and named their son Noah. Noah Trace joins big brothers Hayden, aged 13, Jacob, aged 10, Bryce, aged 4, and Liam, aged 2. Matt is a dairy farmer from Kenilworth in Queensland, and a cricket coach in his spare time. Matt has been selected by the Liberal National Party to stand for the seat of Nicklin against long-standing Independent Member Peter Wellington in the state election next year.

Journalist Emma Heron, and her husband Brian Schafer, welcomed their daughter Ruby Sue earlier this month. Emma writes for the Chinchilla News in Queensland, while Brian is the Venue Manager for the Commercial Hotel in Chinchilla.

Fern Eden and River Joshua


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Jemka Pearl and Edin Keith

Ada May (Jaxon)
Angela Cate (Isaac, Lachlan)
Aria Marion (Gia)
Aubrey Luanne (Kinzie, Harry, Luca)
Blair Alexis
Edie Raine
Eloise Charlotte
Eleanor Constance
Emma Florence Catherine (Georgia, Claire)
Felicity Lucy
Fern Eden (Eliza)
Kameron (Jackamos)
Kellah Margaret Rosemary
Layla Polly
Lucia Rosa
May Mary-Rose
Millie June (Bonnie)
Nina Poppy (Jack)
Sadie Lola
Sienna Kronhoej (Isabella)
Temperance Elizabeth
Tessa Penelope (Piper)
Vivienne Jean (Charlotte)
Willa Whittaker (Evie)

Asten David
Axle William
Campbell James
Darien (Karen)
Dustin Reginald
Ellis Frederick (Lilly, Ella, Esther)
George Lewis Stanley (Harry)
Illya Vanya
Jed Francis
Leo Charles Edward
Macklin George
Mahmoud (Mustafa, Nouha, Ahmed)
Nash Laurence (Kayden)
Nolan Rodger “Gemmy”
Otis John Kelso
Peter Janos
Quinn Ryan
Rafael Thomas
River Joshua
Rory Eoin
Seamus Gerard
Sullivan Reid
Tyreke Alexander
Vaughn Elias

(Photo shows ferns on the bank of the Yarra River at Warburton, a rural locality in the Yarra Ranges on the outskirts of Melbourne)

Celebrity Baby News: David Warner and Candice Falzon



Cricketer David Warner, and his fiancée, ironwoman and model Candice Falzon, welcomed their first child yesterday, September 11, and have named their daughter Ivy Mae. Ivy Warner was born at 1.47 pm at the Royal Women’s Hospital, weighing 2.8 kg (6 lb 1 oz). David and Candice have identified Ivy as an “Ashes baby”, because she was conceived during the exciting Ashes series against England last summer.

David is a batsman with the Australian cricket team; an athletic fielder, he is also a part-time spin bowler. He joined the national side in 2009, making his debut in a Twenty20 against South Africa, soon followed by a One Day International against South Africa. His test debut was in 2011, against New Zealand. David also plays for the New South Wales state team, the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, and for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League. In the past, he has played county cricket for Durham and Middlesex.

Candice, who is of Maltese heritage, became the youngest ever professional in the Ironman series when she was 14, and by 16 was the New South Wales state ironwoman champion; she has won 9 national gold medals and is also a Manly Surf Life Saver. A model who is the face of Rival Swimwear and Infinity Fitness, she was often named as one of the “hottest” Australian athletes, and considered one of Sydney’s “It” girls. Candice and David met just over a year ago, and live in Coogee.

(Photo of Candice and David from Cricket News World)

Royal Baby Meltdown, Name Discrimination, and Other Name Stories in the News


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Royal Baby 2.0
Yes, it’s another baby expected by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, due in April next year. The Internet goes wild, bookies make billions, name bloggers all collapse from guessing until our brains explode. So far, punters are gunning for a brown-haired girl, and the most popular names for the prince or princess, younger sibling to George, are James for a boy, and Elizabeth for a girl.

I am very sceptical of an Elizabeth, as the queen has apparently made it clear she is not interested in having a namesake (royal babies with Elizabeth as their middle name are supposedly named after the queen’s mother, not Elizabeth II). To me, George and James are too similar-sounding as brothers, and surely the heir to the throne needs a distinctive name, if only for publicity purposes? However, the Duke and Duchess may not agree with my name advice.

You can read plenty of baby name predictions online (most of them are just recycling their guesses for Prince George, with the name George removed). I won’t be doing anything in regard to the name until much closer to the royal birth, as I think it is far too early. They aren’t even at the twelve-week mark yet, and the duchess is ill with severe morning sickness. Give them some space, people!

Last time, my bizarre method of tracking royal baby names turned out to be unexpectedly successful (for a boy, anyway; it might have been totally wrong if George had been a girl), but next time we might try something completely different, and see how that goes.

Utter Drivel Bogan
Kidspot have brought out a rather cringe-making article on “bogan baby names”, which they pretend is all in good fun.

Clare asked on her Scoop page whether this was as controversial or potentially offensive as calling names “chavvy”? I would say, yes Clare, it is: it’s like an article about chavvy names, redneck names, ghetto names, and the like. Despite protestations to the contrary, articles like these are intended to be offensive, and they certainly seem mean-spirited.

Apart from being copied from other sources, the article has some real clangers, such as saying Zaiden is “made up”, when it’s an elaboration of the Arabic name Zaid. Or listing the name Princ’ess, which isn’t even allowed in Australia.

Jorja Fights Back!
One person who took exception to Kidspot’s article was Jorja Orreal, whose name happened to feature on the list of “bogan names”. She loves her name, and her mother says it is not bogan at all, but very pretty. Jorja was named thus because her mum noticed that best-selling author Sidney Sheldon dedicated several of his novels to his wife at the time, actress Jorja Curtright. As she points out, how could the man behind I Dream of Jeannie possibly be associated with something in poor taste?

Jorja believes her name actually looks like a name, rather than Georgia, which is also a country and an American state, and seems more feminine. Unfortunately, she then loses every bit of my sympathy she might have mustered by going on to trash the names that she thinks are really bogan. Thanks to her intervention, my comments on the Kidspot article were much less severe.

Reach the Top of Your Game with a Creative Name
Almost everyone agrees: “creative” names are a terrible idea. Received wisdom is that it’s better to be a Chloe than a Kloey, James looks more professional than Jaymezz, and a traditional name like Elizabeth or William will gain greater esteem than a modern concoction like Neveah or Latrell. Essential Baby examines this idea by seeing if it stands up in the modern workplace.

In fact, there’s a lot to be said for “creative” names, perhaps most of all that they tend to be memorable, and can also be a great ice-breaker. Interviews with a couple of creatively-named people in business demonstrate that their names have been an asset to their careers. It seemed to me that their attitude to their names was really important, because they expected people to have trouble spelling their names, and were relaxed about the idea that people might find them amusing. Could those people skills have been gained through constant negotiations with others over their names?

Paul Barbaro, a spokesman from a recruitment agency, believes the idea that a “classic” baby name has prestige is an old and outdated one, and that people today are much less judgemental, being used to a wide variety of names (someone alert Kidspot to this valuable information!). He suggests that unusual names are now the norm, and that it can be helpful to have a name that is a little different, or globally recognised.

However, language expert Roly Sussex, from the University of Queensland, appears to be unconvinced. He can’t think of many people in public life with an unusual name, and thinks it would be far better to have a name that everyone knows how to spell and pronounce. But perhaps his attitudes really are outdated.

Should You Change Your “Ethnic” Name?
Roly Sussex thought that people with ethnic names were more likely to be successful if they anglicised their names, or used a nickname.

While I’m not sure if it will help you become successful in the long-term, the sad news is that it will probably help you to get a foot in the door. Researchers from the Australian National University submitted 4000 fictitious CVs for entry level jobs, and found that people with a Middle Eastern name need to submit 64% more applications that one with an Anglo-Saxon name to gain a job interview, while those with Chinese names need to submit 68% more applications, Indigenous names 35% more, and Italian names 12% more.

The study also showed that name discrimination was not evenly applied, and there could be differences when other factors were changed. For example, men of all minority ethnic groupings found it harder to get interviews than women; waitstaff and data entry jobs were the most likely to discriminate against ethnic minority males.

The city the person is in makes a difference too, with Sydney the most biased city against people with ethnic names – a Chinese person in Brisbane must submit 57% more applications, while in Sydney, it is a whopping 92% more. There was no evidence of discrimination against Italians in Melbourne, which has a relatively high Italian population.

Middle Eastern job seekers fared better when they applied for jobs with a non-Anglo employer or in ethnically diverse neighbourhoods. Interestingly, while a Chinese employer was much more likely to give someone with a Chinese name a callback, Italian employers were significantly less likely to offer someone with an Italian name an interview!

The entry level job that appeared to have the least amount of discrimination was customer service: your name doesn’t seem to make much difference when it comes to getting an interview in this field.

And there is some good news to go along with this rather depressing research. A study conducted by the University of Melbourne this year found that ethnic minority jobseekers were much more discriminated against during the application process than they were once they had actually secured a position.

Some people who did use an English name or an English nickname to find work felt comfortable enough to revert back to their real name in the workplace, and some were even encouraged to do so by their fellow colleagues. So if you write Rick on your resume, it doesn’t mean you can’t become Rashid again once you have been successful in your interview.


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