What’s in a Name?

As every new parent knows, choosing a name for baby can be fraught with difficulty, even before the inevitable grandparental disapproval.

How frustrating! Gordon Bennett! It could all so easily go Pete Tong!

Firstly, it’s important to stress-check the acronym situation. It’s all very well mum and dad choosing two mainstream forenames like Donald and Oliver, but, if their surname is Giles, the poor little bugger will get called DOG all his life! And with the ubiquity of textspeak, initials such as WTF, FFS and OMG (look them up) need to be avoided at all costs.

Secondly, the choice must pass the rhyming test. You may, for
instance, love Celia as a forename, but if your surname is Melia, it’s
probably not such a good idea.

Thirdly, make sure the full name doesn’t sound like something you’d
rather it didn’t. I remember a footballer whose name was Bernt Haas. In
fairness to old Bernt, he was Swiss, and so his parents couldn’t have
been expected to anticipate that, when he played in England, his name
would sound to the locals as if his backside had been set on fire; but
the principle holds good.

Next, there’s sibling awareness. If you have a son named Tom, don’t call the next one Jerry.

And if you call that next one Dick, it’s probably not the best idea to call the one after that Harry.

Beyond these basic rules, it’s in the lap of the gods. My friend
Alexa, for instance, had nearly 40 years to enjoy her classic yet
unimpeachable forename, before Amazon hijacked it for their
smart-speaker virtual assistant. How she must enjoy every Tom, Dick and
Harry (get it now?) joking with her as if she’s their robot slave.

That said, there’s maybe one more rule to highlight: the
figure-of-speech perspective. Does the prospective forename or
combination appear in any well-known idiom or proverb; and, if so, does
it matter? (We already know that there are certain names that the
Bennett and Tong families must respectively avoid!) It might be
perfectly acceptable to be (‘as happy as’) Larry or Bob (’s your uncle),
but less so (‘nervous’) Nellie or (‘moaning’) Minnie.

In essence, no name can ever have a lifetime guarantee against
mockery. Circumstance, or maybe downright human comic-ingenuity, can
target the most seemingly normal of names at any time. Just give baby a
fighting chance, mum and dad, and make the appropriate tweaks where
necessary. There’s nothing wrong with Oliver Donald Giles. Or Pete
Bennett. Or Gordon Tong.

Yet.

You can learn and practise seven name idioms in the following lesson.

Rory Mulvihill, LOS Consultant