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Clare has a wonderful Name News page on the Scoop.it website, which collects interesting blog posts and stories in the news about names. Her collection includes posts in languages other than English, so if you want to know what they think about names in Portugal or The Netherlands, click the “Google translate” button and read on! One of the most useful functions is the “Find” key, where you can search for topics which interest you. Name News is so handy for keeping up to date with what’s going on around the blogosphere that I consult it every day – it’s easier than subscribing to hundreds of sites, or getting dozens of e-mail alerts. Attractive and user-friendly, Name News is an invaluable contribution to the naming community.

What is your name?

Yvonne Clare.

Have you ever changed your name?

I went by my first name until I was four, when I decided to use my middle name instead. Now my first name only appears in official situations, and on the odd family Christmas card – and in messages from a friend called Yvonne, who is tickled that we have a hidden name connection. I don’t dislike the name, but it feels like an old toy or a piece of baby clothing: it was great when I was little, and I’m still attached to it, but it no longer fits for everyday use. I’m happy as a Clare and I like the fact it’s more typical for someone my age.

How did you start getting interested in names?

When I was about six, I was visiting a relative who was clearing out some books, and someone handed me The Pan Book of Boys’ Names and The Pan Book of Girls’ Names. I took them home and have been dipping into them ever since. They are particularly strong on literary and legendary figures and references to names in poetry. I’m sure that they contributed to my love of languages, as they gave me a first taste of Latin, Greek, Old English, Welsh, and many others. Each book has a wonderful appendix of names considered unusual by the authors. A couple of decades on I have dozens of name books, but those two are still among my favourites.

What inspired you to sign up with Scoop.it in order to share name stories with the wider community?

At the beginning of this year I became aware of the many name blogs that are out there. I wanted to read everything, but was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of posts. I wanted to contribute in some way, but didn’t feel inspired to write a blog. I’m not so good at regular research and writing; I prefer reading, organising and making accessible the work of others. (That’s why I’m a librarian in real life.)

An acquaintance started a Scoop.it page gathering stories about rare books and manuscripts, and I decided to try something similar for name stories. It’s straightforward to create a Scoop.it account and set up a page, and to add “scoops” – I normally use a button on my browser. It’s pretty much as simple as reading name stories that come up on my feeds and alerts, and adding them.

I would do it just for personal interest, which sounds rather nerdy, but it’s very encouraging that others are looking at the site too. I know there’s been a huge leap in the number of views whenever the site has been mentioned by other bloggers, especially in Appellation Mountain’s Sunday Summaries, so many thanks to you all for getting the momentum going!

I know I’m a bit of a vulture, existing on other people’s hard work, but I hope the site achieves two things: providing a one-stop feed of name stories for people who don’t want to follow lots of different sites, and enabling people to easily search the archives of all the name blogs and articles.

Any other way to connect with you online?

Name News has a Facebook page, although at the moment I’m using it for following news and the odd “like”, rather than anything more dynamic. I also keep a list of my name books on LibraryThing. If anyone uses that site, feel free to connect! I doubt the list is of much use to anyone else, but it’s quite handy for me, as my collection is currently scattered between two houses.

What is it about a name story that makes you interested to know more?

I always get excited when I see one of my favourite names in the title. For example, the very first scoop I made was Appellation Mountain’s post Edith, Everild, and Eden: Getting to Edie. Everild was the catalyst – I just couldn’t resist sharing it! I also enjoy birth announcements, clever data analysis, gems from historical records, personal stories … pretty much anything that’s informative, positive, and open-minded.

Do you have a pet peeve when it comes to names?

My peeves are with writing about names, rather than the names themselves. I’m sure I’m not alone in disliking:

  • proscriptive advice and “rules” that will make precious little difference to naming habits as a whole
  • unhelpful criticism and negativity about parents’ name choices
  • false claims about the “meaning” of names – and false information in general
  • overuse of the word “unique” (I know: now who’s being proscriptive?!)

What are some of your favourite names?

Girls: Annest/Annice, Everil/Everild, Freda/Frida, Hilda, Miriam, Naomi, Tamsin, Tess

Boys: Arthur, David, Edward, Henry, Hugh/Huw, Robin

What names do you dislike?

I’m not so keen on names with excess “frilly” syllables. I usually prefer the streamlined option, so Isabel over Isabella, Mark over Marcus. Maybe even Em over Emma, or is that going a bit far? By that logic, I should prefer Hild to Hilda, and in some ways I do, but sadly it crosses the threshold of being a bit too much to inflict on an unsuspecting British child.

Are there are names you love, but could never use?

Names that would be hard to spell and pronounce, culturally unsuitable, and more about me showing off than the child’s best interests. For example, Ælfric (“Alf-rich”), Buddug (“Biðig“, the Modern Welsh form of Boudicca), and Elestren, which I’ve loved since I saw it in a book of Cornish names years ago. I’ll save them for pets and inanimate objects! I’d also be wary of names that sound similar to mine or my partner’s, like Cleo and Robin.

What are your favourite names in the England/Wales Top 100?

Amy (#62) and Arthur (#52).

What are your favourite names which have never been in the England/Wales Top 1000 (since 1996)?

Hilda and Clem.

Do you have any names picked out for your future children?

I have an ongoing list of favourites, but don’t really have a clue how my partner and I will feel if/when the time comes. I expect that choosing a name for a real person will bring out sides of us that we never knew existed.

What is something we don’t know about you?

I’ve recently taken up morris dancing, a traditional English dance style with props such as sticks, bells and handkerchiefs. It’s great fun, but a challenge as I’m not very co-ordinated!

What advice would you give someone who was choosing a name for their baby?

I’ve tried and failed to come up with a wise, snappy, universal answer to this question. Every time I think I’ve got it, I think Oh, but there could be exceptions, or But that might not work for everyone. Maybe that’s a cop-out, but it’s a personal, sometimes complicated decision, with no clear right or wrong way to do it. Plus it’s not something I’ve had experience of yet. I think I’d have to ask for a few more specifics before feeling qualified to give advice. Or, true to form, I could point people towards helpful books and websites.

(Clare’s profile photo of her favourite name books supplied by interviewee)

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