One of the most exciting parts of pregnancy, for me, was choosing my baby name. I wanted my son to have a name that was funky and original, one that would stand out from the crowd and people would instantly love.
At the time, I was set on Orlando – I thought it sounded cool and unique. His father had other plans, though, and was adamant his first-born child was named after him. Even at 17, I knew that no child I was bearing would ever have a name like his dad’s. I never liked it and detest it even more as I’ve got older: Trevor.
Baby name choosing is a minefield – they’re stuck with it for life, so it’s no easy decision. We to’d and fro’d continually throughout my pregnancy – he held fast with Trevor for a long time, but after what seemed like an eternity he started to relent and offer up other suggestions: Raheem, Hakeem, Rashad and Simeon. One day, he came up with a name we both liked: Tyrell.
Many thought we had combined our names to create it (Ty for Trevor and rell for Michelle) – but no, we weren’t that creative.
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Initially, I loved it. It was modern, I thought, and no one else would have it. And for years I was right – but fast forward to when Tyrell started school and I quickly grew to dislike it. Far from being original, different variations of the ‘ell’-ending name began springing up everywhere. In his class, there was him (Tyrell), Corelle, Sherelle and a Jamell.
I also didn’t like how his name seemed to put him in a box. People would instinctively know where he came from. Tyrell is very much an African Caribbean name – not that that’s a bad thing, I’m fiercely proud of my Jamaican and working class roots – but personally, I think it automatically gives the impression that the person with this name is an ‘other’. I have a ‘normal’ name and no one has ever looked at it and asked me where I’m from, yet Tyrell is often asked. I tell him to always reply Leyton – it’s annoying at best, and offensive at worst.
Trying to uncover the meaning of his name to see if it could bring me any joy, I discovered it derives from the Old French verb ‘tirer’ which means ‘to pull’ – or an old nickname for a stubborn person. That pissed me off. What kind of name had I bestowed on my child? Why did I do that to my own offspring, just because it looked nice on paper and rolled off the tongue well?
I know I’m not the only one who searched desperately for an original name for my child. To date, I’ve heard some really far out suggestions – like a girl named Baronessa, after her parents Byron and Nessa. But it made me wonder, do all parents who give their children unusual names stay confident in their choice – and am I the only mum who regrets it?
“I didn’t like how his name seemed to put him in a box. People would instinctively know where he came from."”
Nico, a 26-year-old dad to one-year-old Shine, always wanted to choose a unique name – and he doesn’t regret it at all. “I’ve always liked the name Shine,” he tells me. “When my son was born, I looked him and he was glowing like the sunshine, I thought, ‘yes he is going to be Shine’. The name just stuck and it really suits him.”
Nico believes having an unusual name makes people stand out – “I don’t worry about him not liking his name in the future because of the type of character he displays already to be honest, I think he will embrace it,” he says.
But for mum-of-two Trayce, giving your child an unusual name can have its disadvantages. “I love the name that I gave my daughter (Krishana), but regret the name she chose for her brother,” she says.
Trayce thought she’d made up the name Krishana, but recently found out that one of Oprah Winfrey’s family members has the same name. “I don’t think my daughter likes her name as much as I do,” she adds. “She is 27 now and people always question her about it.”
Krishana chose her brother’s name – Tyreke – after a character in the hit 90s TV show Sister Sister. “I wish I called him Troy or Trey,” says Trayce. “We don’t use his name at all anymore, the only time it’s used by family or friends is when he has done something bad – otherwise, he’s just known as Ty.” The mum says if someone they don’t know uses the name Tyreke, they often mispronounce it, resulting in Tariq.
And then I spoke to 25-year-old Pebbles, who is now a mum-of-two. “My mum always loved the name Pebbles and used it as a nickname for herself, but when I came along she gave me that name and I’ve never had a problem with it,” she says. “I always said that when I had kids I wanted them to have unique names, so when I had my first son I was toying with the name King – his dad wasn’t too keen so we settled on the name Roman. My second son is called Rocco. I’m happy with both my choices.”
Admitting you regret your baby name choice is no mean feat – it even took me a while. I spoke to my son about how he feels about it, and while he says his name doesn’t really bother him, he thinks it doesn’t sound very “grown-up”. Interestingly, when naming his own child Clay, he took a more thoughtful approach – Clay is named after the legend boxer Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali, who was himself named after a slave abolitionist and a politician.
Deep down, I’ve had to make peace with the name I gave my son. Unless he changes it by deed poll, it’s here to stay – and the reality is, I didn’t go for anything too outrageous.
And at least it’s not Trevor.