Wednesday 17 February 2010

Choosing names

We take such pains to choose attractive names for our children. We think how they might sound when the baby is adult and consider how they might be shortened and whether the initials look and sound right. Friends of ours realised too late that their daughter would be forever BF no matter what her eventual married surname might be. Frederick Alan Taylor may live to regret his parents' choice of names.

Some parents are amused by the combinations and associations that present themselves and mistakenly, at least in my opinion, allow the humour of the moment to cloud their better judgement. At least Teresa Green might marry a man with a more harmonious surname (not Brown) but John Thomas is stuck with his name and the sniggers it can cause.

Names which suit a small baby or young child may not grow with them. John John is appealing but not for an entrepreneur; Sue Sue suits a girl but not a merchant banker. A woman called Willow cannot afford to be short and plump and Hercules must be broad and strong.

I have never been keen on shortened names and hate mine being abbreviated to Jan. It amazes me that some people assume that they can do whatever they like with other people's names. One girlhood friend had a tendency to truncate names but, realising my dislike of this, lengthened mine to Janissimo! You can't win with some people! My eldest daughter has the same penchant and once had a boyfriend called Tony who became by turns Tone and then Toe. Barry remarked that had his name been Toe she would have shortened it further to 'T'. Strangely, she does not like her children's names being altered.

I remember thinking how weird it sounded to hear my college friends' parents calling them by their given names when we had only ever known them as Maggie or Jen or Dave or Pete. When I first met my husband and then started going out with him everyone called him Baz and I am ashamed to admit that there was a part of me that fervently hoped his name wasn't Basil! Sometimes he was called Punchy as he was a pugilist. No-one calls him Punchy or Baz these days though one old friend still calls him 'Squire'.

Our children's names were shortened, of course, though not by us. Gillian became Gill or Gilly and is only ever called Gillian by the older members of the family – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older cousins – and, oddly, by her youngest sibling, Bethan. If her husband calls her Gillian she knows she has caused him displeasure!

Gareth became Gaz though never Gary but most people call him by his full name now.

Susannah's name was first shortened by her judo coach when she was about six years old. He called her Susie but everyone, apart from older family members – and Bethan - now calls her Sue. I do sometimes call her Sooozzz and Barry's pet name for her is Ozone. (Ozone is an unstable gas which becomes dangerous when heated to boiling point. She's very like her father!!)

Bethan is occasionally called Beth and is always known as B to Gillian and her family which is quite sweet but sounds wrong to me as my late sister's name was Beryl and my brother-in-law never called her anything but Bee.

However, with animals I can indulge my silly side. Our newest pet, Gus, has many monikers and answers to all of them. He is variously Gus, GusGus, GusGusGus, Gussy, GussyGus, Gustopher, Gustopher Robin, Lanky Long Legs, Ploddy Paws, Thunder Paws, Who Me?, Augustus, Little Boy and Lazarus.


  1. Interesting post. I have to call people the name I was introduced to them as forever after all other names don't sound right. I agree with the pet name thing-We have lots of variations, my favourites being Lily the Pill(which I sing!) and Polooka for Tiger-not sure if that is the right spelling. My Mum tried to pick names that couldn't be shortened-Jane for my sister-but went wrong with Antony for my brother in those terms. My sister's initials are Jaw and Andy's work colleague Antony Robert Smith-well. I have mentioned Ronnie Barker in my class on the blog-his Mum named him after Grandad-not the comedian! Linda who I work with shortens lots of children's names-Jess for Jessica, Syd for Sydney-wherever she can-it seems to me affectionate the way she does it.
    See you later Janissimo!

  2. We've just been through all this with our first grandchild. It was especially complicated because three different nationalities had to be considered, each with their own ideas of what might sound good.

  3. Very interesting post Janice. I always knew I was in trouble if called Christine by my parents. I hate being called Chrissy. As for the dogs, they have a few odd names too. Jarvis becomes Jardy boy, Jardine, Shorty and Titch. Bryan can be Bry Bry, Big Boy and Butch. Crazy eh?

  4. nice to know that the name issue is global. The shortening thingy happens in my country tooo !!

  5. lol..i enjoyed reading your post. same here in the Philippines, we usually shorten our names when we're teenagers already.. some are funny, some are cute lol.

    thanks for the visit and comment anyway.

    Have a great day.

  6. Sarah - my parents tried to find names for us that couldn't be shortened too. It's strange how short names have to be lengthened by some - our youngest granddaughter Eve was Evie for quite a while when she was tiny. Poor Antony Robert Smith, though - I bet his life was 'interesting' at school!
    Sheila - I hope you all managed to agree on a name you liked and thought suitable.
    Chris - using the full name seems to be a universal 'warning' of trouble ahead!, kat - interesting to hear that all nations behave the same way with names. 'Tis a small world, indeed :-)

  7. And what about second names, the ones we're born with. The old patriarchy dictates that we adopt the name of our fathers and husbands, but more recently some people have elected to decide on a new married name as a couple.

    So much for genealogy.

  8. Fun post, Janice! I had never given it much thought, but I think North Americans tend to shorten given names. My grandmother shortened mine...and that was a very long time ago. :) When I hear my given name, I at first think I am in trouble. :)

  9. Elisabeth - I hadn't heard of that development. It's always been the case that couples sometimes choose to hyphenate their respective surnames.It wouldn't have worked for us - Mayne-Cooke!! - and in any case we couldn't take it seriously. My mother gave my brother her surname as a middle name and my sister did the same with her son.
    Stine, though I don't like shortening names I did with my second granddaughter just as your grandmother did :-) Shakira was such a BIG name for a little tot so she became Kiri to me and Kira to others.


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