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Old Fashioned Names

When it comes to baby names, the newspapers generally run with one of two stories. Either they tell us that “normal” baby names are “back in fashion” (what a relief!), or else they give us dire warnings of “bizarre” baby names which are definitely the sign of the apocalypse, or can at least make us feel all smug and superior for five minutes.

It’s not often they run with both these at once, but in a journalistic triumph, they brought forth two opposing baby name stories within two days of each other. I’m not sure whether they didn’t bother co-ordinating, or hoped nobody would notice the obvious incongruity.

The Daily Telegraph told us that in the future, baby names will no longer be odd hyphenations or spelling variants, because when they looked through the New South Wales data, most of the names popular during the 1940s and ’50s, which had almost disappeared by the early 2000s, have had a resurgence in the past decade.

Henry has almost tripled from 106 in 2002, to 276 in 2012; Evelyn is up from 17 to 112; and Matilda has skyrocketed from 68 to 265. Of the twenty traditional names they chose to look at, only Samuel and Beatrice had suffered a slight decline.

This trend, we are told, reflects a desire for individuality, substance, and “a bit of class”. It has been spearheaded by the young royals, William and Catherine, although they weren’t even engaged at the turn of the century, so I’m not sure how they managed to influence an entire decade of baby names.

Furthermore, we can be assured this signals a return to conservative values, discipline being back in vogue, school uniforms, and clearly defined gender roles (which apparently means girls wearing pink and boys wearing blue).

Generation X parents get the gong for doing their research and picking out good solid names that you can yell from the soccer match sidelines without embarrassment, and which will, it seems, affect their children’s entire destinies and even give them a good Twitter handle. Goodness. Who would thought calling your kid Mabel was so significant?

Meanwhile, over the border, the Courier Mail interviewed an anonymous schoolteacher from Logan (love the old anonymous schoolteacher as a source – can’t be proved they exist, can’t be proved they don’t), and she says names have become increasingly bizarre over the past 20 years, and now spellcheck software can’t even recognise them. I find most names aren’t recognised by spellcheck – where is this spellcheck software which can recognise all the names in the world?

Then comes a long list of names of children who we are told are enrolled at Logan schools, and are meant to be horrified by.

One of them is Romaine – a French name, the feminine of Roman. Another is Cassius, a Roman name and also a saints’s name; it’s gaining in popularity in both the US and the UK. I say thumbs up to Romaine and Cassius’ parents! Felicitas is another Roman saint’s name, with the meaning “fortunate” in Latin. How does a schoolteacher not recognise these as names? That to me is the scary part.

There are names from other cultures, such as Alareal, a Spanish surname derived from the word for “royal”; Jadzia, a Polish form of HedwigSantiana, a Spanish surname which means “St. Anna”; Thiery, a French form of Theodoric. Qaira is Arabic, and Zenen is Spanish, but I don’t know anything more than that.

There’s quite a few vocabulary names, including Beautiful, Bravado, Brilliance, Cherish, De Ja Vu, Freedom, Gorgeous, Heritage, Miracle, Precious, Sapphire, Styles, and Twinkle. A spellchecker will recognise them, and they’re all words with positive meanings. When you think of it, most names start out as vocabulary words anyway.

There’s two titles as names: Caesar and Marquis. I’m mentioning these since it’s said Australians can’t use titles as names, but clearly we can in some cases.

There’s real place names: Australasia, which is patriotic; Avantika, the ancient name for a city in India; Jetiis, a village in Indonesia. And a fictional place name: Ataria, an island in Star Wars.

There’s names of celebrities, such as Beyonce, and Kahu, which is a tribute to Brisbane Broncos NRL star Jordan Kahu, and Kovee, after the musician.

There’s Caylis, who is one of the Neopets, Darian, derived from Darius, Hawke, a surname, and Jezzer, a short form of Jeremy.

There’s some variant spellings, such as Bayleigh, Emmerson, Izack, Kaelani, Khaileb, Khynan, and Psalmz, which I don’t find too outrageous.

There’s some “tweaking” of names such as Leilesha, Mikaiah, Shaylani, Tanyce and Taylay, which don’t offend me. I notice there is a Congresswoman in the US named Tanyce, so it doesn’t seem to impede your progress in life.

There’s some names I don’t recognise, although that doesn’t necessarily make them “bad” names, and I can see that they are in use elsewhere: Kalaize, Millieka, Narvasha, and Shizia.

Finally, we end with Sambo, which I agree seems a bit unfortunate, but does have a number of origins, and L-Car, pronounced Ledashcar (although wouldn’t it be Eldashcar???). Anyway I have already made my views known on this subject, and won’t repeat them here.

So there you go – either names are becoming more and more conservative, or they are becoming ever more strange and confusing. You can decide for yourself which one is correct, if either is.

29% believed that names were not becoming either more conservative or more bizarre, but were staying much the same
24% thought that names were becoming both more conservative, and more bizarre
20% thought they were becoming more conservative for the middle classes, but more diverse for the lower classes
12% didn’t know, and felt confused
7% felt that names were in fact all becoming more bizarre across the board
The remaining 8% (representing three people) chose options where they were the only person to have that opinion