More names, names, names

I’m fascinated by names, I love unusual names… in fact i do often get criticised for my choice of names in my novels. Once I’ve named my characters  it’s really difficult to change their names – just as when a friend suddenly changes their name, you just can’t help thinking about them as the original birth name. The study of names is onomastics… here is another article from teh BBC about anmes:

A New Zealand couple blocked from naming their baby 4Real have instead settled on Superman. So what are the rules on naming children in the UK? Apple, Brooklyn, Zowie, Fifi Trixibelle… celebrity offspring have often ended up with more colourful entries on their birth certificates than us mere mortals. But British parents hoping to bestow elaborate, unusual or just plain bizarre names to their children may find it easier than those in other countries. The UK’s rules on baby names are among the most liberal in the world. A spokesman for the General Register Office says there are no restrictions on parents – except for exceptional cases, such as a name which could be deemed offensive, when an official could refuse to register it. He refused to divulge if there had been any such cases. But there have been two children named Superman in the UK since 1984, along with six boys named Gandalf and 29 Gazzas, according to figures released last year by the genealogy website There are even 36 Arsenals of both sexes.

Nor is there anything to stop an adult exchanging his or her given name for something more subversive – hence Professor Perri 6, of Nottingham Trent University. New Zealand, like the UK, has few controls on the names parents can choose, but Pat and Sheena Wheaton were banned from registering their son as 4Real as names beginning with numbers are forbidden. He’s now Superman instead. The Kiwi authorities are more relaxed than their counterparts in Sweden, where in 2003 a couple were prevented from naming their son Staalman, the Swedish title for the comic book Man of Steel.

Banned names

And the likes of Denmark, Spain, Germany and Argentina all publish lists of acceptable names from which new mothers and fathers must choose.In Portugal, the Ministry of Justice’s website includes 39 pages of officially-sanctioned names and 41 pages of those which are banned. Included in the latter group are Lolita, Maradona and Mona Lisa. But Portugal is being lobbied to repeal its controls, and four years ago, Norway replaced its own list with a ban on swear and sex words, illnesses and negative names.

But not everyone is convinced that the trend for non-traditional nomenclature is good for children. Professor Helen Petrie, from the University of York, has studied the psychological effects of having an unusual name. “I found that people with unusual names had a really hard time, particularly when they were children,” she says. “They described getting teased and how traumatic it could be – because all children want to fit in. But when they became adults, they are often glad that they have something to help them stand out from the crowd. People with very common names sometimes feel that they aren’t unique enough. So I think there’s a happy medium to be struck.”

( UK permits any name, except for those deemed offensive. Two UK children have been named ‘Superman’ since 1984 but countries like Portugal, Argentina, Germany and Spain have an officially-sanctioned list)


  1. tinasrabbithole

    I have this fascination with Norse mythology, and would love to call my kids Ask and Embla. But I realise that naming a boy Ask in any non-Norwegian speaking country would be devastating for the little dude… However, if/when I get kids, I want my first daughter to be called Embla Synnøve. It’s maybe a bit hippieish, but in a good way I think. At least not sharola, dizolia or such white trash names…. No offense to people who have them (they didn’t choose them after all and probably got used to them by now) but yeah… 🙂


    1. Lois

      Nice names… yes, lovely! I had a penfriend from Norway called Kjell – I pronounced it Kyell, I don’t now if that was correct but I thought it sounded such a good name for a boy… my husband is more conservative so we ended up with a Celtic name, Rory for my son!


      1. tinasrabbithole

        Haha! It’s pronounced Chell (like cello without the o). Rory is a top name though, so not to worry! Have you ever pondered how some names are really stigmatised? My brother is called Ronny, and he’s angry with mum because no one ever called Ronny ended up without trouble, he says. 😀 He might be onto something!


      2. Lois

        Thank you for that – I never realised as I only ever saw it written down and I don’t know any Norwegian people! I like it even more now, I might even use it in a story!
        There are plenty of famous Ronny’s aren’t there, the two who spring to mind for me are the much loved comedians, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, and of course there is the famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club… I know they are Ronnie with an ‘ie’ but I guess they all have the same origin!


      3. tinasrabbithole

        But you would never call a super-villain in a book something like Bert.. Bert is almost always a nice guy. I don’t actually know any Berts, but I can’t imagine one that would be foul tempered or indecent.


      4. Lois

        Although maybe Bert would be the best name because no-one would eve guess how super-villainous he was… they’d just think “Good old Bert, he’s such a gent, isn’t he?” and meanwhile he would be plotting to blow up the moon and shower the earth in cheese!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s