The fun of choosing a name


Reading Time: 5 minutes

by Joni

Though it’s been thirty years since I chose a baby’s name, I still remember the fun of it all. Long before the Internet, a book of baby names and their meanings helped you with the choice of a name. As well, famous people’s names and trends in names influenced the choice.

Film star and Royal Names

Shirley Temple the adored child star inspired many parents in the 1930s to name their girl baby Shirley. Elizabeth and Margaret were very popular names in the 1940s and 50s due to the British royal princesses and especially following the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Royal names used to be very popular for one’s baby.

Movie stars inspired a following in names too. Marilyn Monroe and Rita Hayworth caused a spike of Marilyn and Rita babies, and no doubt actor James Dean and John Wayne had an influence as well for the boys. Nothing much has changed in this respect regarding famous people’s influence and the following of trends. Like many things in life, people follow like sheep. School teachers see this with every roll call. There will often be three or four children with the same first name, sometimes more.

Other Trends in Names

For a while, Victorian names were all the rage. They are still popular, but not as much. Charlotte is still a hot favourite as is Emma and Amelia. For boys Oliver, James and Jack are still tops. Biblical names have been a strong feature too. Noah, Elijah and Isaac are still favourites along with Hannah, Sarah, Chloe and Eve. Interesting at a time when fewer families embrace Christianity or even christenings. Then, a few years ago there was a surge of popularity in pre- shortened names like Archie, Lili, Abby, and Billy. These names sound cute for a baby, but not so good if you are later trying for a corporate job.

The latest trend has taken off in the opposite direction. Longer lofty-sounding names like Amadeus, Euphemia, Aurelia and Persephone. These are due to an interest in dark and Gothic academia and are a trend called maximising, opposite to the shortened names which must be minimalising. Also, trending are retro names from the 1950’s. These are familiar ones like Jeanie, Rickie, Chrissy and Marty. The one certainty in life is change. Get used to it, if you are young. Brace yourself for the ride ahead. Who knows what the future brings.

Unique and Bizarre Names

Famous people feel unique and so choose one-off quite bizarre names like Apple, Wolf, Cosmo and Umbrella, or Sunday. Willow was one, but is now quite accepted and popular. Perhaps there is a website to help them find these unique names or maybe they just take whatever pops into their heads while under the influence of fame, drugs or alcohol. Proceeding through life with some of these strange monikers could be a bit tough for these kids later on.

There are lots of gender-neutral names too. I quite like Quinn, Keaton and the ever-popular Billy. They are great for those who want to reinvent themselves later. No name change needed.

Name Trending Graphs

But now on the Internet there are trending lists and trending graphs to help you decide on the name for your little one. These enable you to see the waxing and waning of the popularity of your chosen name. It’s riveting stuff. A real trip down the rabbit hole. So, grab a cup of your favourite and google ‘baby name trending’ graphs then take your pick of sites. I linked one for you to get you started. This interest now has a name ‘namerology’. I mean it’s really scientific like numerology, I guess.

While sipping my tea I realised why only guinea pigs these days are called Nancy and Barbara. Or how about Sherman, Herbert or Stanley? Not hotties either at the moment. I once had a flock of chooks with all the good oldies like Henrietta, Florence, Ethel, Maud and the rooster was Archie, named after my dad. Actually, I had fifteen of them, but thought I’d spare you the entire list.

Fur Baby Names

Now pet names that’s also a lot of fun, maybe more so for some. No-nesters lavish all their love on their fur babies and come up with some beauties. I do research on this every day at the dog park. It’s a lot of fun learning the names and trying to remember them for the next time Buster, Max or Billy visit. There are very few Spot and Fidos these days. Dogs are not just dogs anymore. They are fashion statements.

Every now and then people give their dogs or their children a most unexpected name like Colin. There is a show trending on Australian TV at the moment called Colin from accounts. Colin is the dog, not the main character. It’s very funny. Highly recommend it.

Street Names

Then there are street names. These interest me too. While wondering past a new subdivision which was built on a site of flattened bushland, I marvel at the street names. Banksia Grove, Rainforest Court, Lorikeet Drive. Yeah, great idea, naming the places after the eco system you just destroyed. Where are the banksias, lorikeets and rainforests now? Certainly, nowhere to be seen in their namesake streets.

Man Names Everything

Names, names, names they are everywhere and on everything. It is part of man’s nature to attach labels to everything. Animals, plants, babies, streets the list goes on. But foods are the last one I will mention because it is time for my breakfast. I’m off to try some ‘Uncle Toby’s Oats’ or maybe a Bowen mango? Lots of foods have the additional label of a person’s name. Beef Stroganoff, Margarita Pizza, even the humble sandwich was named after the Earl of Sandwich. Foods tend to be named for either famous people like Anna Pavlova, or chefs who perfected the dish. Names have a value.

Initials and Surnames

But it’s always a lot of fun choosing a name. If your child doesn’t try to change their name later, I guess you have done well. Be careful too about the initials. Make sure there is no ASS, A. Nuss or P. Nuss jokes to be had at your little one’s expense once they enter society. The Nuss parents at my school should have taken more care before naming their boys.

Some people change their surnames too because of teasing. Surnames used to be associated with your profession or a physical or geographical trait. Hence plumber became Plummer, blacksmith, Smith and the short man became known as Short. But some have historic meaning and sound strange today. Who really wants to be a Longbottom, Shortbottom or Winterbottom? Or a Croak, Grubb or Fancy. Even Short can be issue if it physically applies to you.

Romeo and Juliet had problems with their surnames. It proved fatal. Their Montague and Capulet families were feuding, so they were star-crossed lovers in a forbidden marriage.

What’s in choosing a name? A lot of sentiment, history and societal influence. Just choose well and for the right reasons. Names have to last a lifetime.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Joni Scott is an Australian author with three published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel and Colour Comes to Tangles. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; and has her own website;


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