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What's in a name?

The Beckhams have a baby girl and named her Harper Seven. Apart from the fact that it sounds like 'half past seven', or a well known brand of lavatory cleaner, does it really matter? After all 'a rose by any other name will smell as sweet'.

A name is a brand. It's not the whole story but a name gives us some indication of the child's background, ethnicity, religion, parental aspirations and current fashion. According to the book Freakanomics, a 'unique' made up name like Ataraisha or B'lela or Taranique (I made all these up) is indicative of someone from a certain background. In the US this is usually poor and black, they are ghetto names. In an experiment, social psychologists sent off job applications with identical CVs except for the applicant's name; half had conventional names and the others had unique made up names. Employers made assumptions about the brand name (or name brand) and the made up names were less likely to be called for interview. At the other end of the scale the aspirational Middleton family gave two of their three children 'royal' names, Catherine and James. (Pippa is not a 'royal' name but it is posh)

In 2005, Government research showed that girls named Katherine had the best GCSE results, with Madeleines coming second. The worst results came from boys named, Wayne, Dwaine, Lance, Jermaine and Duane. 

Think about how names are shortened, so however much you love Arsenal Football club, do not name your child after it. The annual list of most popular names shows an increasing tendency towards diminutives. Once boys would be given the names Charles, Edward, John etc., but be known as Charlie, Eddie/Teddy or Jack. Now these names appear in their own right. Girls names interestingly have gone in the other direction to less feminine abbreviations. Once a Nicola or Jennifer would be known as Nicky or Jenny. Now it's Nic or Jen.

Don't give your child a name they can be teased about. John Wayne's real name was Marion Morrison. Asked 'How come a tough guy like you has a sissy name like that?" he is said to have replied, 'That's how I got tough.' I don't think there is evidence that being constantly teased toughens up a child as Johnnie Cash's song 'A boy named Sue.' suggests. Much more likely in my opinion to make them permanently miserable.  

Back to the Beckhams. Why give a child a number instead of a name?  There has been lots of speculation, time of birth (no, apparently) or his shirt number (dunno) but personally I don't like it. People are given numbers instead of names in places where their humanity is downplayed or ignored; in concentration camps, in prison, in the military.

Will they start a trend? I hope not. Let's hope that jokers who want to go one better than the Beckhams don't start naming their children Eight.

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