Not on your Nellie: perils of the baby-naming game
If my husband and I disagree about something, we can usually compromise easily. But we've reached an impasse over baby names. Our second child is due this summer. It took no time at all to name our first, Tom; we agreed as soon as the scan revealed that he was a boy. This time we agreed on a boy's name before we even had a scan. But it turned out that we are expecting a girl, and now we cannot agree.
Every time I suggest a name, he returns to the same one name that he likes. "It's OK, but it's not as nice as 'X'," he says to me, slapping down each new option.
I use "X" because I realise it's a terrible mistake to reveal a child's name to anyone before the baby's actually been born.
It's like revealing that you have dodgy bowels - it invites all sorts of unwelcome looks and comments. "Oh, no! I don't like that at all," and "You can't possibly call her that - it's so old fashioned!" are two actual reactions that I've had when mentioning the choices.
Of course, once the baby's named, no one's going to say: "What a dreadful name you've burdened that poor creature with".
So, what's in a name? After all, that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet. Actually, the name Rose might have been on our list, had not every other girl born in the past three years been named that.
There are many considerations. Does the first name go with the surname? Will it shorten nicely? Does it mean something terrible in another country? (I think of my cousin Fanny.) Will the child's initials spell something rude?
"Nell," I suggest. "Not on your Nellie! She's an elephant!" my husband counters with some small wit for the early hours of a Monday morning. What's wrong with elephants, I want to know.
According to my husband, my first choice of name is, "OK for a little girl, but too girly for an adult." He has a point, but I love the name. My favourite great aunt was called it, and she was cooler than cool and not at all girly. Unfortunately, my second choice is the name of his late grandfather's dog. He cannot say it without conjuring up the image of a small boisterous terrier. I point out that he loved that dog dearly and that there are worse things in life than being small and boisterous.
Choice three is the name of a lioness. (I have a penchant for books and films about animals.) He likes this name ("though not as much as X"), so I am gaining some ground. Choice No 4 is "X".
I like his choice, but not enough to settle for it without discussion. It is my fourth choice, after all.
An old university friend of mine and his wife took 10 days after the birth of their daughter to come up with a name. At the time, I thought this was bizarre. How could they not have already chosen one before she was born?
I assumed that when I had children, I'd pick a boy's name and girl's name well before the birth, and that would be that. But I gave no thought to the idea that it's chosen by mutual consent with the father.
My brother and his wife had a boy's name ready for the birth of their first son. But when he arrived, my sister-in-law took one look at him and decided he didn't suit the name. So they had a rethink. This also amazed me. A baby looks like a baby, right? Small and a bit alien-like. They hardly look human, let alone like a specific name.
We asked Tom, now nearly two years old, what he wanted to call his sister. "Peppa," he said. Peppa is his favourite cartoon pig.
You've got to admit, it does have a certain ring to it.