Baby It’s Cold
It’s official – the name Elsa has become more popular since the movie Frozen came out in late 2013. In Victoria, the number of babies named Elsa doubled in the year following the film’s release, from 19 babies named Elsa in 2013 to 38 in 2014. However, the numbers were increasing even before the film, with 11 in 2011 and 22 in 2012, so it seems as if the movie was jumping on a trend (or else pre-publicity for the movie doubled numbers too). So far in 2015, there have been 6 babies named Elsa.
The article goes on to say that the number of babies named Anna has held steady in Victoria. Anna has returned to the Top 100 in Tasmania and was one of Queensland’s biggest risers in 2014, going up 19 places, and also in Victoria, where it went up 25 places. So although overall numbers haven’t changed much, the name Anna had a definite boost in the rankings after the film, which is significant for a name that peaked in the 1980s, and which you would expect to be on a slow decline.
The Victorian birth registry cannot reveal how many babies have been named Kristoff, Olaf or Sven, because if less than 5 babies have a name, the information must remain confidential.
Naming Babies in the Lebanese Community
Journalist Antoinette Latouff had an entertaining article at the start of the year on being pregnant with her second child as part of the Lebanese community. Bad bits: lots of pressure to have a boy (Antoinette was pregnant with another girl), tons of interference. Good bits: oceans of love, support, and practical help.
It’s the norm for grandparents to expect to name the baby (one mother-in-law just started calling the pregnant belly John), while in some cases the eldest son is expected to name his children after his parents – which might mean Osama is your child’s default name. Antoinette says sometimes it can be a challenge finding a name which sounds good with your exotic surname, and name sharing is very common in extended families.
The Trouble with Amelia
Yusuf Omar, a Muslim poet from Somalia, wrote about when he and his wife Khadijo were expecting a baby girl. On the advice of a young Western-educated Somali friend, they considered the name Amelia, as being beautiful, easy to pronounce, and fitting in well with Australian society. Unfortunately, the older generation amongst the Somali-Australian community felt hurt and betrayed by their choice: it was especially shocking as Muslim poets are supposed to be cultural custodians.
They were told that the name Amelia was “non-Muslim”, but Yusuf protested that there is no such thing as a “Muslim name”, and that names are neutral. He came to realise there is no such thing as a culturally neutral name, especially after meeting a Mohammad who goes by Moe in order to find employment.
He also notes the number of converts to Islam who change their names, even though this isn’t called for by Islamic teaching. The prophet Muhammad never asked that his followers change their names, unless the meaning of it was offensive to Muslim belief. In fact Muhammad himself kept his original name, which was a traditional pagan name. Yusuf notes that whenever someone changes their name they risk obliterating their own history and culture.
In the end, Yusuf and his wife named their daughter Eemaann, meaning “faith”, on the advice of his mother-in-law. However, the young people call her Amelia.
Legal and Illegal Name Changes in the News
Dorothy Barnett was recently sentenced to prison in the US after kidnapping her baby daughter Savanna from her home in South Carolina in 1994, and eventually bringing her up in Australia. Savanna Todd, now aged 21, grew up believing her name was Samantha Geldenhuys, and that another man was her father. It’s been a very high-profile case of changing a child’s name by illegal means, but Savanna still goes by Samantha, and has been supportive of her mother. She says that a name change does not change who you are, even though this is a case where a name change did indeed obliterate her history and culture. Dorothy’s most common alias was Alexandra or Alexandria.
Gable Tostee, who was accused of murdering Warriena Wright after a Tinder date, and in an unrelated matter gaoled for traffic offences, has changed his name to the more generic Eric Thomas. Police are baffled as to why someone would change their name while legal proceedings are still underway, rather than at their completion in order to start a new life. However, they stress there is nothing illegal or sinister about it.
Choosing a Baby Name on Struggle Street
Did you watch the confronting series Struggle Street on SBS? Before it had even appeared on television it was condemned as exploitative “poverty porn“, but by the time the first episode aired, it had been hailed as a powerful, poignant, complex, thought-provoking insight into the lives of those affected by terrible hardship.
Probably one of the most difficult things to watch was young mother Billie Jo Wilkie, who had a horrific start to life herself, giving birth at home with the aid of illegal drugs, and the assistance of her mother Carlene, who was also on drugs.
At one point, they discussed possible baby names and liked the idea of the name Crystal – after crystal meth. This shows context is everything, because Crystal is a perfectly nice, normal name, but what an appalling reason to choose it.
I don’t know what name they eventually chose, but Billie Jo’s child, her third, was taken into care soon after birth. And in what seems to be something of a pattern for this Name News, Billie Jo shortly afterwards ended up in a women’s prison, on remand for traffic offences.
Nearly everyone (91%) thought that Elsa would keep becoming more popular. 54% thought it would probably become more popular, while 37% were absolutely sure that it would. 9% thought it probably wouldn’t become more popular, and nobody was definite that it wouldn’t.