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NewsThere seems to be a bit of a theme in the name stories I’ve been reading lately, which taps into a struggle to identify whether a name is “normal” or “unusual”.

Hooray for Normal Names

Every time the popular baby names are released, there is always a collective sigh of relief in the media that finally, normal names are back in style again. This strikes me as asinine, because popular names, by their very nature, are always normal. As most parents choose a name from the Top 100, then by definition Top 100 names are “normal” – common, usual, standard, typical, expected.

Apart from the classics, many of our “normal” names weren’t always so normal. Jayden would have been an extremely unusual choice in the 1940s, and Sienna almost unheard of in the 1900s. Meanwhile, Edna is rarely seen today, but in the 1910s it was the #3 name. No doubt some of our current popular names will be curiosities in one hundred years, while some bizarre name choices of today will have become popular. Yet normal names will always be in fashion.

Urban Name Legends

This journalist claims to know a paediatric nurse who tells her all manner of odd baby names. Abcd is plausible enough, and probably not as a weird as she imagines it is. I can believe in Kevin Ice-T quite easily – a mix of classic name up front, quirky name in the middle, which we’ve seen a fair bit of in birth notices. At Eeyore, I’m beginning to feel slightly dubious (I wonder if they misunderstood a name from another culture, such as Ayor. Or Aurore).

Another one she has heard is a baby just named , as in, a comma. Although she says this isn’t a lie, we know it is because that’s not legal in Australia. Same with Cuntley, which would also not be permitted under Australian law, as it contains an obscenity.

A-a (said Adasha) is interesting, because the urban myth is actually that the name is La-a (Ladasha). I’m not sure whether is this some new variation, or if she simply misheard it. It’s amazing how many people say they “know” someone who has met or heard of a La-a, yet these vast numbers never show up in the official data. It’s also interesting that when journalists had access to every single birth registered in Australia and got snarky about them, they did not mention seeing one La-a – a pretty glaring omission if it existed.

It’s a low point for journalism, but even the media will pass on these idiotic myths, giving them greater credibility for the credulous. Let’s just say I will believe in a La-a when I see one, and I will only tell you about it when I have at least some documented evidence to pass on.

Names with Variant Spellings … Too Risky?

When McCrindle released their version of the Australian Top 100, it came with a warning. Mark McCrindle said that if you chose a variant spelling such as Jaxon or Tayla, you risked being seen as unsophisticated, and that you may even harm your child’s career prospects.

This reminded me that when I was a teenager, the advice was that anyone with a tattoo would never get a job – at least, not a “good” job. Today I get served by people with tattoos at most businesses I go to, and my boss (working in a professional-level government position) has a tattoo. It’s hard to predict the future when you assume it will be much like the present.

If variant spellings continue being popular, then they will become so common as to be readily accepted. A future prime minister called Jaxon or Tayla seems just as likely as one called Lucas or Charlotte – after all, perhaps many people would have been surprised in 1950 to be told the Prime Minister of 2010 would be called Julia.

Not So Unusual

When the Daily Mercury in Mackay asked parents to write in to their Facebook page with their children’s unusual names, they received 68 responses. The “unusual” names were ones such as Axl, Caprice, Jakobi, Hudson, Kyan, Denham and Naraya. Although these don’t seem too out there (Typhoon was intriguing), the parents had plenty of people telling them their name choices were unusual. Which makes them unusual enough to suit them.

When most people say they want an unusual name, they don’t want to call their child Faceplant Extractia or Mining-Boom Jazzhands – they just want something that their friends and family haven’t thought of yet. You can’t help wondering what happens when someone else in their community decides on the name Caprice or Axl though … which brings me to the next story.

Stolen Dreams

This article describes the sense of betrayal experienced by Lisa, when her ex-boyfriend Adam married someone else – and had the exact same wedding that Lisa had once dreamed of. Cruelly, Adam and Mrs Adam had also decided on matching Tiffany rings, cocktails at sunset, and a honeymoon in Bora Bora.

Lisa was convinced this was all done as a mockery of her own nuptial dreams, and believed that Adam and his bride had “stolen” her wedding.

Clinical psychologist Amanda Symboluk (whose name must be made up, it’s so perfect for a psychologist) says that Lisa is probably “reading too much into it”, and advises that she (and others in her predicament) shouldn’t “take things personally”.

This reminded me a lot of “baby name stealing” – much as we fondly believe we have chosen a unique name, like Lisa’s dream wedding, it may be more generic than we think. Just as honeymooners tend to gravitate towards Bora Bora rather than Uppsala, parents are more likely to pick the name Scarlett Rose than Lucretia Zixi.

So if you are perturbed to find that someone has already taken that special name you had always dreamed of using, whether it be Odin, Penelope, Dashiell or Juniper, take the advice of Dr. Symboluk – don’t read too much into it, and don’t take it personally.