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What makes a name (in your opinion) pretentious and why ?

(171 Posts)
Stannie Tue 22-Sep-09 17:46:55

Just wondered really..

I think labelling something/someone pretentious is very dependant on where your own background/standing but as we all are only very loosely gathered into social groups/trends it's fairly impossible (IMO) to call a name in particular pretentious.. what might sound so to one person maybe a perfectly normal name to another..

What in your opinion makes a name fall into the dictionary meaning - which is "characterized by assumption of dignity or importance" - and why ?

For example I don't think Persephone (mentioned in another thread) is in any way pretentious but I went to school with a Mungo and I have a very, very unusual name which I love.

SardineQueen Tue 22-Sep-09 18:02:50

Good question. It's all tied in with our class system isn't it, and where you see yourself within that, and what is the norm amongst your friends etc.

The interesting thing is when more unusual "aspirational" ie posh names become popular, giving them the dubious honour of being both pretentious and common, a double whammy!

For me it's pretentious when it seems people are trying too hard... But I have two mildly unusually named DDs so I am sure people think I am pretentious. Or maybe just a bit of a tit grin

overmydeadbody Tue 22-Sep-09 18:08:02

when the parents have chosen a name for aspirational reasons, because they think it will somehow reflect or indicate that they are higher up the social ladder than they actually are.

Names are not pretentious, but some parents are.

MaggieBeauLeo Tue 22-Sep-09 18:08:53

Something like Persephone.


1) very unusual
2) has a load or erudite baggage which isn't that cheerful
3) would be hated by the mum of a chardonnay or Bailey-Rae
4) we all (even the parents of Persephone herself) know that it's hard to pull off, so, by naming their child Persephone it's like announcing that their daughter will be more intelligent, confident, attractive and spectalur than average.... and maybe she wont be. Maybe shock she will be average. And then, her name will heighten that disparity between potential brilliance and what she actually became....and everybody put her parents will see that.

THere, I hope that helps?!?!

monkeysavingexpertdotcom Tue 22-Sep-09 18:11:21

I knew a very average Ophelia. As Maggie says, her name just made the averageness seem unacceptable, somehow - like she was a disappointment to her glamorous posh name.

bigstripeytiger Tue 22-Sep-09 18:11:54

Actually, after reading the other thread Persephone has really grown on me. It seems pretty normal to me now I have seen it on mumsnet a few times. grin

Stannie Tue 22-Sep-09 18:13:02

I kind of agree with you thinking that pretentious is being when it seems people are trying too hard.. and I agree with your point about apsirational names becoming very popular.

But.. I think having aspirations is no bad thing - why not name your child/dog/horse/parrot with an aspirational name ? It might reflect.

I think my name has made a difference to my life - maybe if I had had a different (less .. er.. exotic/bonkers.. name I might have led a less er.. bohemian existance ? My name didn't make me but I think perhaps it influenced some parts of my life..

My mother insisted on my name as she loved it (from a very old film) not for any other reason - aspirational or otherwise!

lockets Tue 22-Sep-09 18:14:59

Message withdrawn

anamaria22 Tue 22-Sep-09 18:19:22

I wonder that myself!

Having lived in several countries, I find the UK is the only country where people (mumsnetters in particular) even bring up the topic of 'poshness' and 'chavviness'.

From my experience in other countries, elegant/unusual names are generally very favourably commented on!

But most importantly, it is the person that matters, not their name! And I cannot imagine that children could care less whether a child is called Persephone or Alexandra or whatever. To them these are just names!

I therefore also don't understand comments like "I hope he/she will go to private school". Why would children whose parents happen to pay for their education perceive names in any other way than those in state schools????

Stannie Tue 22-Sep-09 18:19:24

Have to pop out but back soon! Am interested in this!

MaggieBeauLeo / monkeysavingexpert

Curious about your point - so should we all name our children "average" or not-unusual names just in case they turn out to be average and so don't disappoint ?

Most people are average - and yet some exceptional people have very ordinary/average names .. Marie Curie ?

MaggieBeauLeo Tue 22-Sep-09 18:21:21

No, we don't expect anything, they can surprise us or disappoint us.

And a litte Annie is just as special to her Mum and Dad as Anastasia is to her mum and dad. And to everybody else, she's just somebody else's child with a silly name.

MaggieBeauLeo Tue 22-Sep-09 18:26:58

Stannie, my children's names aren't even in the top 100 (approx), so I didn't pick average names in that respect. My son's name is about #400 I think!

But their names won't be too heavy for them to carry at any point. They say, don't let your clothes wear you, wear the clothes and I guess I see it like that.

I'd hate to think their names were steering their personalities. Their personalities can steer their personalities iyswim.

NObody will expect them to be arty, boring, pretentious etc...

I am only answering the question that was asked. But it is my opinion.

I like unusual names, fwiw, but I think people who use the names generally perceived to be pretentious have to be aware of the fact that some people will consider them pretentious. For those parents, I think that's part of their appeal.

lockets Tue 22-Sep-09 18:28:10

Message withdrawn

MaggieBeauLeo Tue 22-Sep-09 18:29:28

Stannie, what's your name!?

Sounds like it is quirky and unusual with meaning to your mum, rather than 'pretentious' iyswim.

anamaria22 Tue 22-Sep-09 18:31:25

MaggieBeauLeo, I am really intrigued by your viewpoint....!

Do you really feel that parents who give their child an unusual name are "announcing" that their child "will be more intelligent, confident, attractive and spectalur than average.."???

If you do seriously believe that, then I feel it says more about you (and your insecurities) than the parent naming their child (whatever name they chose)!

clop Tue 22-Sep-09 18:35:04

I had a good friend named Persephone when we were 11.
She was the child of a single mother, who must have been severely depressed because the house (small and ordinary) was never cleaned -- inch thick dust everywhere, including on the floor.

Persephone and I were both social misfits at a school in a very aspirational area (most parents were lawyers or doctors or estate agents). Can't believe that named got labeled pretentious! My Persephone's family were hippies, if any label could be applied to them.

hulabula Tue 22-Sep-09 18:42:11

I am also intrigued by some people's attitudes towards names in the UK. I am German, dh is French and we named our son a name that we love and that gets commented on very favorably in both Germany and France when we visit.

Here, on mumsnet, it is sometimes called 'posh' or 'pretensious' or 'nerdy' or whatever....sad and that makes me sad.

Not being English, I luckily don't need to worry about the class issues smile, but I really don't understand why some people are so vocal and negative when it comes to names.... Why don't they get to know the person before forming a judgement? It makes me quite angry, almost to the point of wanting to leave the UK (which we probably will anyway at some point).

Laquitar Tue 22-Sep-09 19:05:19

Do you remember the days when the only children who had Greek names where either a) Greeks or b)their mum went to Greece for holiday and erm... met Costas the waiter grin

I have some Greek blood and many Greek friends and the funny thing is that many Greeks change their names or shorten them in order to make it easier for others to remember it and now the British make intentionally their names difficult to pronounce grin. Why?

MaggieBeauLeo Tue 22-Sep-09 19:20:27

I'm not insecure on my children's behalf. I know, knew,that whatever I called them, they'd be the people they were going to be. Children's names reflect the parents' tastes.

Anyway, my viewpoint is not the intriguing one, seeing as most children are not called Persephone or Aphrodite or Ophelia.

My taste is names is probably more adventurous than average, so I'm not the right person to 'quiz' on this point.

MaggieBeauLeo Tue 22-Sep-09 19:27:14

"I therefore also don't understand comments like "I hope he/she will go to private school". Why would children whose parents happen to pay for their education perceive names in any other way than those in state schools???? "

Well, I didn't say that, but funnily enough, I went to private school and in my year there was a Crispin, a Neville, a Gaius, a Matthias... (this was in the 80s) practically every boy seemed to have a fairly way out name. They weren't teased (much) over their names at private school, that is true. But when I mentioned people from school in other circles, tehy often used to stop me and say "whaaaat?"

So, I'd agree that a Persephone's parents should be thinking of private school and not the local comp.


SardineQueen Tue 22-Sep-09 19:37:06

I think that some names are hard to live up to. I once read an interview with the actress in buffy who's first name was Charisma, she said it wasn't a stage name it was her real name, and I thought wow that's got to be hard.

People with way-out names and genuinely eccentric parents are fine by me. It's when the parents have chosen the name mainly to sound posher than they are.

I suppose the whole thing is a huge show of the class system at work, rife with snobbery and impossible to explain to anyone not entrenched in our culture grin

SardineQueen Tue 22-Sep-09 19:37:47

It's when someone says what their child is called and the general reaction is "oooh get her".

Pingpong Tue 22-Sep-09 19:38:04

lots of issues and questions here but what hulabula asked jumped out for me

"but I really don't understand why some people are so vocal and negative when it comes to names.... Why don't they get to know the person before forming a judgement?"

the point on mumsnet is that we don't know the person or child in question and if people ask an opinion on a name then people give it. In RL a lot of people are very polite and mutter 'mmmn nice' when inside they are screaming 'what on earth are you thinking?' On MN you get honest answers from a broad spectrum of people from all over the UK and even further afield.
If you take offence at the opinions then you shouldn't ask. I love commenting on people's choices but I can't ever imagine posting my list of names here as I don't really care what the MN jury thinks, if DH and I are happy with the name then that's all that matters.
Also a name alone (without knowing the person) conjures up an image in an individuals mind and that is often dependant on where they live, what sort of school they went to, whether they read celebrity magazines and all sorts of other factors.

wheniwishuponastar Tue 22-Sep-09 19:45:41

although some people disagree, for me it rings true that parents will hope that their children are confident enough to pull off their name (and they may well be right).

this is making me think twice about going for my unusual name. me and my partner like it, but i don't want to saddle our child with something they will hate. and we've had fairly neutral from other people so far.

MaggieBeauLeo Tue 22-Sep-09 19:49:43

What's the name?!

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