Yes, your child is special. No, hanging a name on your child that will haunt them until the the day they die won't make them any more special.
There are hundreds of ways to ruin your child’s life before it begins, from foetal alcohol syndrome, to making them play the harp, to raising them in a cult, like Keira from The Bachelor.
But the most fun is by saddling them with a terrible name. One that will haunt them through school, ruin CVs and knock potential relationships on the head before a prospective lover can even swipe right.
In the late 1300s, one in three Englishmen was called ‘John’. Now, as noted by Mark Mason in The Spectator, the name has dropped out of Britain’s top 100. “Mary doesn’t make the girls’ top 200,” he writes. “More girls are christened Skylar, Luna or Zoya than Mary. Thor is more popular than Gordon.”
While always amusing, granting your child a truly awful moniker may also require serious research and deliberation. But just as there’s more than one way to skin a cat, there are many competing schools in choosing a name that screws your child for life.
Several leading theories are listed below.
1. The ‘my child is unique and special and so must also have a name that is unique and special’ school
Examples: Any noun moonlighting as a proper noun (Gunner, Hunter, Sailor); any noun at all (Apple, Pilot, Scout, Dash); a noise (Zowie, anyone?)
If it’s good enough for celebrities, whether they are legitimately great, like David Bowie (son: Zowie!) or enduringly pointless, like Lara Bingle (son: Rocket Zot!) then it’s good enough for you. But the rich and famous have riches and fame to deter their schoolyard bullies, whereas your kid…
Crucially, it’s not someone’s name that makes them special (Bowie was born David Jones), it’s their talent. Bonkers titles are thus counterproductive – which is why Zowie changed his name to, uh, Duncan Jones, before becoming one of the UK’s most brilliant, in-demand film directors.
The choice is yours – just make it weird. Why not pick the name of an ingredient from the shampoo you used the night of conception? A hue from the Taubmans colour charts? An obscure cheese?
2. The M. Knight Shymalan school of unexpected phonetics
Examples: Braelyn, Declyn, Jaxon, Anfernee, Siimon, Bryttney, Britny, Britteny, Breetni, Britni, Brytny, Br’itnay, etc.
A splinter school, closely aligned to the previous entry, your offspring’s name seems like a normal, if usually clichéd offering (hello, Britney!), until you see it written down and then boom! LAST-MINUTE PLOT TWIST MUTHERF__KERS!
3. The ‘it was good enough for his dad’ school
Shitty family names are like shitty antiques: bits of tatt that nobody’s had the balls to throw out for five generations.
But by all means, call the kid ‘Tarquin’. He’ll hate it! And, by extension, he’ll also despise your distant relative who fought at Culloden! You’re more of a Jacobite anyway.
Disclaimer: my son is called Sid, a name he shares with his grandfather and great grandfather, and his middle name is Whitlam, because I moved into Tony Abbott’s electorate when he was born and if he decides to vote Liberal I will have to chase him into the street with my Gray-Nicolls double scoop.
4. The popular pop-culture reference school
Examples: Katniss, Juno, Legolas, Bella, Elsa, Jax, Zayn-Niall-Harry-Liam, Harley Quinn
Nothing dates faster than a name plucked from a popular TV show or film. In the 1980s, the name ‘Ariel’ – actually a boy’s name, and derived from the Hebrew for ‘lion of God’ – was deader than Shakespeare, even though the bard used it for the name of a spirit in ‘The Tempest’.
Then, in 1989, Disney dropped ‘The Little Mermaid’.
Over the next decade, 28,136 American girls were christened Ariel – the 116th most popular female name of the ’90s. All of them now forced to claiming that their name is drawn from literature, not a cartoon. And all of them lying.
Since then, we’ve entered a golden era of TV, which has made dooming your child by name that much easier. For example, in 2013, the UK saw 50 newborn girls named Khaleesi, five Sansas, and 11 boys called Theon. In Game of Thrones, Theon’s penis was razored off by a lunatic and express-posted to his old man. Just try living that down in high school.
5. The ghetto-name school
If you are American, and black, naming your sprog DeShawn, JaMarcus, DeAndre, or Aaliyah may be a legitimate protest against a prevailing culture of oppression.
But if you are a non-athletic white Australian child you will have a hard time with ‘Shaquille’.
6. The schoolyard bully-baiter school
“Homer, I’ve been thinking, if the baby is a boy, what do you think of the name ‘Larry’?” (pronounced ‘Layery’)
“Marge, we can’t do that! All the kids will call him ‘Larry Fairy’!”
“Well, how ’bout Louie?”
“They’ll call him Screwy Louie.”
“What about Bart?”
“Let’s see. Bart, dart, cart, e-art. Nope can’t see any problems with that.”
7. The Hipster retrograde school
Examples: Ebenezer, Emmett, Phinnaeus, Ethel, Ignatius
Your barista changed his name to Barzillai (Aramaic or Hebrew; meaning “man of iron”; popular among Nantucket whalemen of the 1800s), so why not revive something timeworn and authentic for your kid? And yet, hipsterism demands conformity to its own rules, so just steer clear of genuine rarity.
There are dozens of proper names fading from use – see Wayne, Gary, Dennis, Gordon or Kevin; nobody’s been called Graham since 1983 – but they’re much too unpretentious to really screw up your kid’s future.
Atticus it is!
8. The Johnny Cash school of calling him ‘Sue’, so he grows up tough in your absence
Life protip: if you are going to follow the advice of any musician, Johnny Cash is a poor choice.
For example, falling into a ring of fire is dangerous; shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die is psychotic. Hence, calling your boy ‘Sue’ is equally barmy, if only because – as expressly outlined in the song – that PTSD-addled child will one day track you down and try and beat you to death.