Making sense of whacky names

Kim Kardashian West and baby North West
Kim Kardashian West and baby North West

What drives parents to give their children whacky names? After all, what is in a name? Rather a lot, according to a French judge, who recently ruled that names such as Nutella should not be allowed.

I can relate to parents who, having fixed on an unusual name can’t understand the problem with it, because we named our middle daughter Merrily. Her father and I thought it would help her stand out as the unique and sunny girl we were certain she would turn out to be.

“So you named me after an adverb,” is how Merrily, now 16, dolefully sums it up. “You signed me up for a life of having to spell out my name because it’s either constantly mispronounced or nobody can quite believe anyone would actually call their child after a grammatical term.”

In fact Merrily was the name of one of my husband’s former colleagues: a gregarious, attractive woman, who was funny and edgy. The minute you heard her name, you couldn’t imagine her being called anything else. I wanted something equally arresting for my daughter.

But research suggests it was our egos that were responsible. A study by the University of Amsterdam claims that it is parents with a sense of superiority – people who overvalue their children’s place in society, and therefore their own – who land their children with whacky names.

Perhaps that means the likes of Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Gwyneth Paltrow and Beyonce have overdeveloped self-images with kids’ names North, Apple and Ivy Blue.

This may be true and I have felt some pangs of guilt over the years, dating back to when Merrily started primary school and soon after refused to answer to her name.

Her teacher pulled me aside and said she thought that being surrounded by children with names like Brittany, Emma and Charlotte left Merrily feeling “different“, before adding, pointedly: “At this age, children really don’t like to feel they stand out.”

Trips to the zoo would end with fury in the gift shop because her name wasn’t on any of the mugs or pencil cases available.

So why did we inflict such names on our children? Either way, I have no regrets. My Merrily has grown up to be a funny, sunny, extrovert. If anyone could carry that name off, it was always going to be her. And little Nutella? Apparently, the parents involved in France agreed to compromise and have chosen Ella instead.

– The Daily Telegraph

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