What’s in a name? A lot of trouble if you get it wrong, that’s what…

Evie or Elspeth??

I was interested to read today an article featured on gurgle.com about the 10 worst celebrity baby names. It was the usual suspects – Paula Yates, Jordan, the Beckhams – but strangely enough not the Grogans. This is a surprise, because over the past 12 months I have been given to believe by my daughter that she had been saddled with the worst name in the baby book. No-one can spell it, no-one can pronounce it, no-one else she knows is called it. Basically her name has been ruining her life.  She is a teenager and is entitled to rebel, but the fury at this injustice runs so deep that she has actually taken it upon herself to change it. She is no longer the daughter I gave birth to.

Now her birth name is not Apple, or Fifi or Princess. It does not lead to double entendres or rhyme with anything dubious (or anything at all, thinking about it). Tell me then, what is so wrong with Elspeth? Admittedly her ancestry is Irish not Scots but Elizabeth is a name firmly rooted in our family history on both sides, so we thought it made a real connection.

I genuinely looked at her for the first time in the labour ward and said ‘she looks like an Elspeth Alice’. But she looks at herself now, and sees Evie.  School now has her as Evie, as do all her outside school activities. Her friends struggle like I do, but new ones will have no such trouble and Dad and Auntie are almost getting the hang of it.

I actually feel a bit hurt. There I have said it. I gave birth to Elspeth, not Evie, and I don’t think I will ever get used to the change, although I am trying very hard.  But it led me to think – do we actually think carefully enough in all the excitement of naming our babies?

Although good old names like Alfred and Edith are coming back into fashion (albeit via Alfie and Edie), giving your child the name of a favourite great aunt or uncle might not be such a good idea if they were called Herbert or Gertrude.

Looking through that A to Z of Babies Names is so exciting that the urge to be creative and different is so strong that perhaps we forget whose name it actually is? I haven’t got to sit in class while the teacher struggles to say my name without spitting on the front four rows, or see it spelt wrong in birthday cards from my friends. Perhaps then there is an argument for having a kind of ‘holding name’ for our offspring, something they can be labelled with until such time as they can make their own mind up what tag they want to go through life with?

As a family historian I should know better than to suggest such a thing. How confusing could studying a family tree get? And many will say ‘oh but that would be no fun, what would we do in those long evenings at 36 weeks when we can’t move off the sofa?’

But just think, whose label is it anyway?

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3 Responses to What’s in a name? A lot of trouble if you get it wrong, that’s what…

  1. Jamie knight says:


    Names and the ownership from there is really powerful! Eg, he can be my “Jimmy” but your “James”.

    I have a great friend from china, we all know him as “Alan” his real name I have heard said and almost chocked on my tounge to try and say, he uses his western name when studying here but never uses it outside of the uk. Something he has often remarked is that his western name makes him think of study and work but his real name makes him think of home. For him his name is contextual, his geographic context in a way defines his identity. I have always found thus fascinating!


    Jamie + Liom

  2. keatsbabe says:

    Thanks for the comment Jamie. I think you are right, it is fascinating. ‘Jimmy’ suits James anyway, its cute. And ‘jameswolf’ doesn’t sound half so good!

  3. Jane Earthy says:

    I don’t blame her for changing it at all. You knew I always hated my middle name of Elsbeth and still saddled her with virtually the same name! Evie is a very pretty name and actually its a good idea to choose your own name. After all, you have become Suzie rather than Suzanne. Jane x (not Janie!)

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