Choosing a name for your baby can feel like a huge decision, for some almost as fraught as choosing to have the baby in the first place. After all, your kid will alternatively be celebrating (or saddled with) your choice for a lifetime.
Now, research from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute says picking a name is becoming even harder. Parents want something unique, yet media access, global communication and rising migration are increasing people’s exposure to new names, making the unusual names common more quickly.
The researchers analysed trends in the names given to more than 22 million babies born in the UK between 1838 and 2016. They found the use of hyphens and variant spelling to make names distinct – such as Amelia-Rose and Rebekah – had increased substantially in recent years. They also found more distinctive names were on the rise.
[Read More: Most Popular Baby Names Of The Year Revealed]
Amid these challenges, how do parents actually choose their child’s name? It inevitably involves compromise with your partner as well as (trying to) take on board the suggestions of well-meaning family, friends and strangers. And then of course, there’s the minefield of first names not becoming ludicrous when paired with surnames and the endless nickname pitfalls to angst over. I should know – I spent my school years as Tampon Smelly.
We asked parents to explain their inspirations for name choices, some funny, some moving and some, well, you decide...
The Parents Who Take Inspiration From Booze And Books
Some parents I spoke to took inspiration from every corner of their lives to find a suitable name for their little one. “We called our son Tobermory because my husband and I have great memories of drinking gin in the sun in Tobermory harbour in Mull,” says Suzy.
Sticking with the drinks theme, one dad, Pete, says he campaigned for the name Leo after his favourite Thai beer. “My wife agreed because she’s soft on Leonardo di Caprio,” he says.
I also spoke to Phee, whose baby is due this month, but his name has been planned for ages. “I am a massive fan of Agatha Christie’s Poirot and the novel ‘Five Little Pigs’,” she says. “The victim in the novel is called Amyas. When I first heard the name, it never left me but I didn’t really consider it for a child’s name. Fast-forward 15 years and the moment we’re told at the scan we’re expecting a boy, Amyas just popped into my head.”
Kate took inspiration for her four-month-old daughter’s name, Calypso, from Homer. She explains: “In the early weeks of my pregnancy I fell down a rabbit hole of Greek mythology and wound up in the Odyssey, which I read at university but forgot almost entirely. Calypso was a nymph. But we just tell people we like it because it’s happy, or we’re into the music or John Denver.”
The Parents Who End Up Compromising
“Our daughter is called Morgan Seren,” says Claire, a vintage car enthusiast. “Her dad wanted a nice Welsh name and I’d always wanted a car name. We wanted to give her our mums’ middle names but she couldn’t be Julie Joan, so we chose Seren as it means star in Welsh for her two grandmas she’s never met.”
Sharon and her husband had a lot of different passions, so found a name that would try and combine them all. They loved the film ‘Pulp Fiction’ and also loved impressionist art, classic British bikes and Hammer horror. Their name choice? Vincent, obviously.
The Parents Who Combine Languages And Cultures
Hilary explains her daughter’s name as follows: “I chose Sidonie because my beloved late grandad was called Sidney. I wanted something French because my daughter’s dad is French. It’s a beautiful very old French name and not very common; and it was the French writer Colette’s first name, and she was kick-ass.”
On the French-English theme, Helen says she and her French husband chose the only name they both liked that worked in both languages: Marguerite. “But day-to-day we call her Margot. It was only when I started getting messages saying what a lovely thing we had done from my late mum’s friends that I realised her name, Marjory, is derived from Marguerite.”
Geraldine’s son is called Ishmael. “My husband’s family is Bengali and we spent ages trying to find a boy’s name that would work for both cultures. Then we thought back to how we met – at a pub quiz - and how often we used to get the question ‘Which novel begins, “Call me Ishmael?”’ That was it – sorted!”
The Parents Who Let Their Older Children Choose
Rebecca, tells me her sister and her husband let their two older boys choose their third son’s name. “They were big fans of wrestling so chose ‘Undertaker’,” she says. “My third nephew’s name is Cain Taker Smith.”
And Martha says her six-year-old son Karl begged and begged to choose his new brother’s name. “He wanted Wolverine,” she says. “Never going to happen, but it did get us thinking. We now have a six-month-old baby called Logan.”
Of course, ‘Harry Potter’ made it in there too. Mum Clara says her youngest was named by her sister, a ‘Harry Potter’ obsessed six-year old. “As she was a girl, she was Lily (the boy wizard’s mum),” Clara says. “I drew the line at Hermione but if we’d had a boy, it would have been Harry. ”
The Parents Whose Choices Don’t Exactly Go To Plan
This has to be one of our favourite naming stories, with thanks to Anucyia. “My first name is Lavender,” she explains. “I was born in Malaysia and rules are a bit lax over there so my grandfather was the one who registered my birth. He decided to scrap the first name my mother had chosen, Anucyia, and popped Lavender in front of it because... wait for it... he was a big fan of Yardley’s Lavender toiletries. My mother was, and still is, furious.”
Another mum, Kirstin, says she bowed to pressure from the midwife. “We considered calling our first daughter Poppy when she was born, but my hospital midwife was horrified,” she says. “She insisted Poppy was the name of a small dog. The next day she visited me on the ward and asked how the baby was getting on. She was relieved to hear (mainly because of her) that we’d changed her name to Megan. When I pressed her on why she hated Poppy so much it transpired she’d thought we’d said ‘Puppy’.”
Then there are the names that get vetoed by partners who forsee all sorts of nickname possibilities. “We were going to call my son Mackenzie, until my over imaginative hubby decided he’d earn the nickname ‘Burger Butt’ when he grew up,” says Georgina. “I had no idea how he could get to that, until he explained he’d get called Mac, he might get called Big Mac, which means he’ll get called Burger Butt! We ended up calling him Cameron.”