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Wendy Harmer is a highly successful comedian, who for many years has entertained on stage, television and radio. She was the first woman in Australia to host her own comedy show, The Big Gig, in 1989, and for more than a decade she was co-host of a top-rating breakfast show on 2-Day FM, when she became one of the nation’s highest paid entertainers.

Wendy is a prolific and successful author, having written humour for adults, chick lit novels, teen fiction, kid’s books, two plays, and the libretto for an opera. Her best-selling children’s series, Pearlie the Fairy, has been turned into an animated TV show. She is also editor of The Hoopla, a women’s news and opinion site.

Wendy is married to Brendan Donohoe, and has two children. Her son is named Marley (aged about 15), and her daughter is named Maeve (aged about 13).

Wendy appears to be yet another star of radio with a bee-lined bonnet in regard to baby names, because she has written an article about them for The Hoopla. It’s one of those “names not to call your baby” lists, which I must admit I don’t usually care for, because they don’t seem to really be helpful to parents so much as bullying anyone who happens to have different tastes and opinions from yourself.

Interestingly, Rule Number 2 on the list states that you shouldn’t use a famous person’s surname as your child’s name. Her son is named after Bob Marley. Okaaaay. Number 4 is that you musn’t name all your children with same letter. Mmmmm.

This article is an “update” of an earlier one, where one of the pieces of advice was that the pronunciation of your child’s name should be clear from the way it is spelled. Even now, when the name is quite well-known, some people don’t know how to pronounce Maeve from its spelling, and think that it must be MAY-vee or mah-EEV.

I do notice that so often when parents criticise baby names, the same criticisms could be levelled at their own children’s names. The most obvious example is that rather ghastly woman who said that place names as baby names were lower-class, when her own daughter was named after a country in Asia. I guess we all have mother-blindness about our baby names, and I have been guilty of the same thing myself – it’s an easy trap to fall into, but luckily I didn’t do it on TV or anything.

When we come up with rules on naming babies which we ourselves cannot stick to, it may be a sign that the rules aren’t all that useful. Just a thought!

Wendy doesn’t like her own name, which peaked at #15 in the 1950s, when Wendy was born. Part of her disappointment is that her mother chose the name out of a knitting pattern book, when the layette she was knitting was called the “Wendy”. She imagined that she had been named after Wendy Darling from Peter Pan, so being named after a knitting pattern didn’t seem so special.

Wendy much prefers her father’s choice for her name, which was Claire, the name of her beloved great-aunt. In the 1950s, Claire was #224; it rose steeply in popularity during the 1960s and ’70s, and has been in the Top 100 since the 1980s.

Now I think that’s really useful naming advice taken from real life. It may not be the best idea to choose a baby name peaking in popularity and about to fall and become dated, or select one virtually at random.

A better choice could be a classic which is lower in popularity and about to start rising, to become very popular in the long-term future. And it’s probably preferable to honour a beloved family member than to name your baby after a product – it’s nice to have a name which has some significance.

Think about the name story you are going to pass on to your child – a knitting pattern clearly doesn’t cut it. And sometimes dad knows best.

PS Wendy did manage to give the name Claire to one of her characters, the heroine of her novel, Farewell My Ovaries.

(Picture of Wendy and her family taken some years ago at Uluru; photo from Body + Soul)

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