MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Mon 18-Aug-14 12:57:19

Guest post: Baby names - what do our choices say about us?

Last week, the most popular names in England and Wales were announced, with Amelia and Oliver taking the top spots. Here, Kirsty Smith tackles the thorny issue of what our kids' names say about us. How did you decide yours?

If you're currently facing this conundrum, why not come to Bumpfest - Mumsnet's one-day event dedicated to all things birth and baby-related. You might even stumble upon the perfect moniker...

Kirsty Smith

Eeh Bah Mum

Posted on: Mon 18-Aug-14 12:57:19

(58 comments )

Lead photo

Amelia or Tethys?

For parents of small children the ONS report held no real surprises - it's basically a list of all your friends' baby names put in order of popularity. (Not actual popularity - that would be a list worth reading.)

But where do we want our name choices to appear on the list? What is the optimum positioning? Did you choose from the top, middle or bottom? I reckon, where you want to be in the chart says more about you as a parent than the actual name you choose.

Selecting a top 10 name says 'I want my child to be popular and easily understood.' But there's a major drawback - if your son or daughter shares a name with half the class, there's got to be some way of differentiating them. People start throwing adjectives around for clarification.

It's already bad enough being constantly referred to as 'Harry's Mum'. When there are two Harrys and you become 'Y'know, Angry-Harry-who-pooed-in-the-dressing-up-box's Mum', being in the Top 10 doesn't seem too appealing. So, if you're in the throes of baby-name picking, ask yourself this: is your teeny, tiny, perfect little baby likely to grow up and poo in a dressing up box? (the answer is yes, by the way.)

Fortunately, this new generation of Ivys and Arthurs will be spared our upset when they revive the lost names of our parents' generation. Their children's names - Pauline, Sheila, Brian and Kenneth - will conjurer up memories of TV sets with only three channels and Fray Bentos pies, rather stories of the war and the workhouse.


On the other hand, deliberately selecting a name that is not in the Top 100 says 'I want my child to stand out from the crowd.' Again there are drawbacks, not least that your child will spend many hours of their life spelling and clarifying their unusual moniker.

While Hereward and Tethys waste entire days explaining Saxon legend and Greek myth to 'Steve' in a call centre, Oliver and Amelia have used the extra time to master the flute. Who's outstanding now?

The third path is to aim for a name that charts, but not too near the top. A good, solid choice. Classic but not trying too hard. This basically says 'I want my child to be popular but not common.'

Personally, I'm a huge fan of aiming somewhere the middle. Mid-table is where all the old fashioned names fall. Mid-table is home to Violet and Esme taking tea in the drawing room with Freddie and Stanley.

But, a note of caution - and here I speak from personal experience. Choose one of these names and you will no longer be able to watch Who do you think you are? or Downton Abbey without a shit-load of tissues. Old fashioned names are brilliant, until you discover what happened to old fashioned people.

Fortunately, this new generation of Ivys and Arthurs will be spared our upset when they revive the lost names of our parents' generation. Their children's names - Pauline, Sheila, Brian and Kenneth - will conjurer up memories of TV sets with only three channels and Fray Bentos pies, rather stories of the war and the workhouse.

If this all sounds a bit stressful, there's one thing it helps to remember: no matter what name you choose, be it classic or kooky, at some point you will find yourself screeching it down the supermarket aisle after a 3-year-old doing a runner with a packet of Haribo. And it will sound awful, wherever it charted.

If you've an infant in the offing, and could use some more insider info, come to Bumpfest, Mumsnet's one-day event dedicated to all things birth and baby-related. No fuss or fluff - just the expert advice you need. And a lovely lunch, treats and try-outs - plus a goody bag packed with lovely stuff for you and your newborn.

By Kirsty Smith

Twitter: @eehbahmum

magicalmrmistofelees Mon 18-Aug-14 14:39:58

I just chose a name I liked, it's popularity (or lack of) was the least of my concerns. Incidentally it is apparently at 141 in this years charts which I am surprised by, it's not an 'unusual' name so I thought it would be higher. Popular names are popular for a reason, they're usually lovely smile. My name has been popular for years, there were 6 of us in my year group at school and it is still top 10. Can't say it has hindered me at all.

FabulousFudge Mon 18-Aug-14 15:26:06

If there are 2 Harrys in the class, they become known as Harry P and Harry T etc.

TheBear13 Mon 18-Aug-14 15:53:48

I picked Charlie for my lb because Charles is my grandads middle name and it was also my dh great grandads name plus we love the name and it suits him... to me it doesn't matter how popular a name is so long as the parents love it then who's cares lol

Orangeisthenewbanana Mon 18-Aug-14 15:55:47

We avoided names in the top 20-30 for DD ( though her middle name is in there). We found another name we loved for a variety of reasons which was about 90ish this year. Currently TTC #2 and would like to apply the same criteria but when it comes down to it, if one of the most popular names is our favourite, we'll use it.

Joeyest84 Mon 18-Aug-14 16:09:51

We chose a name we liked, although popularity did play some part. Felt a lot of pressure when it came to finally announcing and registering his name. Did well though I think, everyone comments on how nice and unusual it is. And number 560 on the 2013 census of top boys names grin

ITrulyMoustache Mon 18-Aug-14 16:44:13

DD has a name outside the top 100, and I'd be surprised if it ever got in there. We chose it mainly because we loved it, what it gets shortened too and its meaning. We had a far harder time with DS (we found we like fewer male names and DH's surname made life really hard), and he ended up with an not too unpopular name. His name is top 10 this year. DH is not happy. And tbh, I feel like we slightly copped out with the poor boy. Hopefully neither kid will hate us for it!

My own DPs went for unusual names, mine became associated with chavs in the decade after I was born, my sisters never did gain popularity. You just don't know I suppose.

iamdivergent Mon 18-Aug-14 17:02:10

I chose a name I liked which just happened to be in the top 10; funnily enough she doesn't go to school (300+ pupils) with another of her name. There are a couple named her middle name though which was also in the top 10 the year she was born. DD2 first name is nowhere near a top 10 name but again her middle name is, there is a girl named her mn in get class and the other P1 class too.

plinth Mon 18-Aug-14 17:05:36

DDs name is just outside the top 30.

I liked it, dp liked it and it went with the surname.

It's also not a "marmite" name - people might think "meh" but they wouldn't truly hate it. Important when you have a very opinionated mother smile

Bicnod Mon 18-Aug-14 17:21:04

Didn't have any idea how popular/unpopular DS1's name was when we named him, we just loved his name. Still love it, as do lots of other people it would seem - it's now in the top 10 (Oscar).

DS2 is James which we knew was popular, but that's because it's an excellent name and (IMO) will never go out of fashion.

DC3 due in December and judging by our previous efforts I suspect she/he will end up with a top 10 name.

TheHoneyBadger Mon 18-Aug-14 18:30:26

i'd be interested to see the charts for the year ds was born - his name (an old, simple classic one) didn't seem popular now but is in that chart quite high up due, i should think, to it's having become popularised in recent times. can't make that any clearer without giving away his name [sorry]

so i guess the point is that you can do great at picking a name that's no.72 or something (not that i agree with the conclusions drawn in this opinion piece) but all it takes is a new cartoon, actor or royal birth and suddenly it's in the top 5 a few years later. my own name remains rare but not unknown so i was in the happy position of not having a 'weird' name but never having to have another of the same name in my year let alone class. in fact i think i was the only one in primary and one of two in secondary. i very, very rarely have to look round at the sound of my name to discover it's not me being called and when i do it leads to a happy conversation of oooh we've got the same name, that's unusual.

as an ex teacher i can warn you that teachers do draw conclusions from names when they look at their class lists - i remember one year sitting drawing up a seating plan for one class whilst having a glass of wine with a friend and her laughing and saying god you got all the porn stars in that class, better spread them out. the other pet hate seems to be children with usual names but spelt 'wrong' either intentionally or to be quirky. that attracts judginess too.

AnnaMagdalena Mon 18-Aug-14 18:31:55

I chose names I loved (still love!), and it turns out that they're not even in the top 500, never mind 100. But they have been mentioned on MN as revoltingly/ridiculously snooty, so they're not completely outlandish.

I wouldn't have chosen anything popular, even if I'd liked the names (and I do like some of them). I did want my DC to be the only one in the school with their names, and we did manage that!

TheHoneyBadger Mon 18-Aug-14 18:32:53

sorry that should have read, 'either un intentionally or to be quirky'. the assumption is often that the parents actually weren't aware they'd spelt it wrong.

not saying i agree with these judgments - just highlighting they do get made.

TheHoneyBadger Mon 18-Aug-14 18:36:31

grin just checked and my son's name wasn't even in the top 100 in the year of his birth and is now pretty near the top. point proved. things change too quick for their to be any weight given to this piece unless we all only ever associated with people with the exact same year of birth as us. you'd need much bigger brackets re: decades of popularity lists.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 18-Aug-14 19:02:59

We chose names because we liked them, they were traditional and didn't seem popular.
The internet wasn't about for 2 of them and the third we didn't bother to look at what was popular.
They are now all in the top 15 and I am gutted as wanted them to be different. grin

eehbahmum Mon 18-Aug-14 19:56:32

Obvs The Daily Mail have gone with a different angle on this story: 'Muhammad is now the most popular names in Wales & England'

TheHoneyBadger Mon 18-Aug-14 20:09:51

bless the DM - never let the facts get in the way of a catchy for the bigots headline.

IsabellaRoarsome Mon 18-Aug-14 20:28:32

I didn't even know these lists existed when I had my ds and dd we just chose names we loved.
I have just done a quick search and ds (George) was at 14 back in 2006 when he was born but is obvs more popular now! And dd (Isabella) was at 13 in 2011 when she was born and has also shot up in popularity.
Even so they are both the only George and Isabella I know of in our town lots of Isabelle/Isobel's but no Bella's.
So no my children's names aren't 'unique' but they are timeless and beautiful which is just what I was going for.

Strokethefurrywall Mon 18-Aug-14 21:05:36

We didn't look at any lists with either pregnancies, just went with what we quite liked.

DS1's name is mid-100s in the UK lists, DS2 is well over 1000th place - neither are "popular" names but they aren't particularly weird either.

We're not in the UK though and my boys' names are probably less "quirky" in the USA - I think I tend to steer away from really popular names. I really loved Darcey for a girl but heard that it shot up the charts in popularity in the UK recently which kind of put me off, but I don't know why.

gamescompendium Mon 18-Aug-14 22:29:57

My DCs names are incredibly popular where I grew up but very rare in England. So my DC go all year meeting people who have hardly heard of their names them we go on holiday to see my Mum and they start meeting people with their names left, right, and centre. It's a fun experience, especially for DD2 whose name gets the fewest positive comments in England.

I have a name in the top 10 from when I was born, there were 4 others at school and I know several that I see regularly these days as well. I guess I've gone to the opposite extreme, even though my name is a gold star MN timeless classic.

MummyBeerest Mon 18-Aug-14 23:24:28

I have a very unusual name, never in the top 1000. My parents wanted to be cool.

My sister has the most common name, ever. Because they learned their lesson after me.

My DD' s name is not extremely popular here in Canada, but more so in the UK. As it happens, I like many of the MN style names. The Baby Names Forum is my entertainment.

ZenNudist Tue 19-Aug-14 00:17:30

I have an unusual but not outlandish name and wanted the same for ds1, which we duly found. I still know one other little boy born the same month with the same name.

I also keep meeting people who have used the 'unusual' names that I loved when naming ds2.

With ds2 I tied myself in knots trying to find uncommon names that I wouldn't hate when bellowed across the playground. I ended up with a popular name which I feel very happy with.

Names inevitably date and the current names which are popular will eventually be of an era. There's always going to be solid names which could be of any time and that has its own attraction too.

As I named ds2 I came to realise that ons names lists are supremely unhelpful and you may as well just pick a name you like. Selecting 'mid table' is not necessarily going to help you get an unusual name. If depends what everyone else does in the same year and thereafter.

GrapefruitILoveIt Tue 19-Aug-14 00:36:47

I obsessed over the lists and gave my children familiar sounding names that werent in the top 100- or even 200! I checked american stats too, to check how fast names were rising.

I still feel i ended up giving my dd a very 2002 name because it is so 'pretty', feminine and soft. It has a 'l' in it.

Their names work though. We never come across others but people dont say "what sorry?"

kinkytoes Tue 19-Aug-14 04:24:15

Even with a popular common name you have to spend time spelling it, I've discovered this with my own - there are three different ways of spelling it! I did get fed up of being one of a few (this happens in the workplace not just at school).

Hence I wanted a less usual name for my ds, and outside the top 100 was in the criteria. People compliment us on his name when they hear it. Tbh I don't know why it's not more popular, but I'm not complaining smile

Snog Tue 19-Aug-14 07:16:34

Dd's name was out of the top 100 when she was born but has since climbed to top five then fallen a bit again.
She's still the only one in her year but the name is now vv common in younger years which isn't what I wanted! But I can understand why so many other people like it.

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