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Honour a War Veteran … With a Baby
ABC Radio publicised an interesting new campaign for the centenary of World War I. Martin Hamilton-Smith, the South Australian Minister for Veterans Affairs, has a plan to encourage new parents to give their children the names of World War I Anzac soldiers as a way to honour the country’s war veterans.
Martin’s own parents gave him the idea, because they bestowed on him the middle name of his paternal and maternal grandfathers, one of whom served on the Western Front in World War I, and the other who was a Rat of Tobruk in World War II. Martin followed their pattern, giving his son Thomas the middle name Theodore, which was the name of Martin’s great-uncle who was killed in France, and has been able to pass on to his son stories and letters about Theo.
He is calling on parents to consider giving their baby either the first or middle name of an ancestor who served in World War I, and to post their story to his Facebook page. He encourages those who don’t have a direct ancestor to go to a war memorial and pick the name of a soldier. Girls could be named after a nurse who served in World War I, or after a wife or mother bereaved by the war, or who cared for their returned loved ones, many of whom were left with injuries or post-traumatic stress.
The national secretary of the RSL thinks it’s a good idea, but wonders whether children will find it an honour, or a burden. In his wife’s family, a boy has been named after a great-uncle killed in World War I, and it doesn’t seem to have affected him in a negative way.
ABC Radio pictures the playgrounds of the near future filled with children named Bert, Clarry, Reg, Olive, and Edith, but Olive is already in the Top 100, and vintage names are on trend, so it may be difficult to gauge how much influence this campaign will wield on baby names.
57% of people would consider naming their baby after a World War I veteran. 43% saw it as a way to connect their child to our history, while 14% saw it as a way to honour our heroes.
12% were in favour of the idea, but didn’t think it was suitable for their family.
19% of people were against the idea, with 17% saying that children deserved their own identity and a name all their own, while 2% thought it was too much of a burden.
12% weren’t sure how they felt about the idea.
Nobody thought that names from World War I were too old-fashioned for modern children.
Hot Baby Name Trend, 1914 Style
The Canberra Times had a column looking at the events of a century ago. Back in 1914, British army officer Earl Kitchener was the face of the war effort, and a popular subject for Toby jugs, statuettes, and souvenirs. The newspaper looked at the patriotic column of “Clio” in Melbourne’s humorous Punch magazine:
Do you know the baptismal names of Lord Kitchener?”
Not one person in a dozen does. Horatio Herbert. Perfectly appalling names, aren’t they? Shakespeare was perfectly right, you know, when he pertinently inquired, “What’s in a name?” for after all it is not the name but the man who bears it that matters most; and if Lord Kitchener bore any other names … he would still be the most splendid figure in English history to day.
Horatio Herbert is to be the fashionable name for boy babies this year. It is a curious medical fact that during war there are more boys born than girls, and mothers delight in choosing the name of some great soldier for their sons. And so this year the fad is in full swing. It began last week in the birth columns of a daily paper, when the announcement of the birth of a son was followed by his name in brackets (Earl Kitchener). But most mothers are quite content to drop the title, and bestow on their babies the plain names ‘Horatio Herbert.’
I did not find an Earl Kitchener born in 1914 (he might still be alive, or the story might refer to a British newspaper), but there were several born during World War I, and one born during the Boer War, where Earl Kitchener also played a leading role. I only found one Horatio Herbert, and he was born in the 1870s; however, Earl Kitchener went by his middle name, and there are quite a number of Herbert Horatios, and many Herbert Kitcheners. More than a hundred babies were given Kitchener as their middle name, and quite a few had Kitchener as their first name.
Note: “Clio” does not seem to have realised that there are always more boys born than girls, with an estimated 107 boys born for every 100 girls. There is some backing for their statement that more boys than usual are born during war-time, although the reason why is not known. However an Australian newspaper reported in 1941 that Australia bucked this trend, as numbers of boy babies decreased here during World War I, and the first years of World War II.
People’s top choice to honour Earl Kitchener was to make Kitchener the middle name, with a third of respondents voting for it. The least favourite choice was the name combination Herbert Horatio, which got only one vote.
The First Casualties of War Are … Names
And on a very sombre note, a baby name which has been a casualty of war: Isis. The Daily Mail reports that an eight-year-old girl from Sydney named Isis Leskien has suffered the effects of her name.
I know it seems absolutely stupid (because it is), but since the terrorist group often referred to as ISIS has been in the news, people have been distancing themselves from her family, scared to be associated with her. Her brother Maximus has noticed that when they go to soccer together people stare when they hear the name Isis, and mum and dad Sheridan and Frank remember the days when people used to say, “What a beautiful name”, when they heard the name Isis; alas, not any more.
In the US, a petition has been started by a woman named Isis Martinez to ask media outlets to stop referring to the terrorist organisation as ISIS – it currently has more than 35 000 signatures, and the Leskiens are urging people to sign it. Whether it’s the petition or not, I have noticed that on the news here the organisation is now usually called ISIL or the Islamic State, but that may be slender comfort to people called Isis, as the name ISIS continues to be commonly used elsewhere.
66% of people said they didn’t feel any differently about the name Isis
17% said the name Isis now made them feel very uncomfortable
15% said the name Isis now made them feel a little uncomfortable
2% said the name now made them feel so extremely uncomfortable that they would prefer to avoid someone named Isis
(Photo is of a statuette of Earl Kitchener, from the Australian War Memorial)