“Jack?… No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations… I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain. Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John! And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John. She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude. The only really safe name is Earnest”
This how Gwendolen responds when Jack Worthing hopes that his beloved would consider loving him by another name in Oscar Wildes Play the importance of being Ernest.
It’s a play which identifies in a small way the critical role that names have on our lives. We all have one but we don’t usually get to pick it and the choice of name given to each of us has a profound impact on our personality and our lives.
Some of us have had the pleasure of having children, and we’ll often pick the name based on personal preference or family history. My wife and I don’t have a great history of naming kids after people in our family, but we do have some strict criteria on which we base our personal preferences. To make it onto the short list we must like how it sounds, our experience of the name, and its meaning.
Firstly it is important that we like the sound of a name, it mustn’t be too long, no rhyming; Ann McCann, was a no-no and it can’t be messed with too much.
But that’s not the end of it; you also have to consider what their friends and not-so friends might call them in the future; would you call your Ginger haired son Garrett, only to spend years in school called Garrett the Carrot?
 And I’m not alone in doing this…
Research in Sweden has found that parents are picking names for their kids based on where they would like to see them as adults, Vilda as for a artistic performer, William for a future CEO and Henry for that Nobel Prize winner they are raising.
In the UK an adoption agency whistleblower found that children were not being adopted by middle class parent because they don’t want to adopt children who are named after someone’s favorite celebrity or tipple, misspelt jewels, or other names which mark the children out for their whole lives as being from a peculiarly British underclass.
It’s not a new phenomena, in 1983 research in the US found that college students with unusual or unique names were disproportionately among those who experienced academic failure, or who had personal adjustment problems, these unusual names we less frequent in professionals, and more likely to be unpopular among their peers however they were more likely to end up in Who’s Who.
So how the name sounds is important, not just because I need to like it.
Then we need to consider our own actual experience of the names, ex-girlfriends or boyfriends is out, it’s a bit too creepy. Then there are names associated with scandals or horrific news stories that we wouldn’t want the child to be linked with, like Bertie, Charlie, Richie or Edna.

 

And finally we need to consider the meaning of the name. Some 1982 research suggested that a person’s self perception and personality are related to behavioural expectations and stereotypes based in their name.
My own name for example is an ancient Irish name, meaning charioteer or son of Corb, Gráinne likewise is another ancient Irish name borne by Diarmaid’s lady and by the O’Malley sea queen, any relation? Aidan means little fire, Susan is a Hebrew name meaning lily-grace.
However not all names are as nice as they sound Neasa derives from the wife of Cathbad whose name was originally Assa meaning Gentle, until she took up arms to defend her people against him, her name was changed to Ní Assa, “Not Gentle”.
The meaning must also fit the child; you wouldn’t call a black haired baby Ruadhán or Finnian which mean “Red haired” and “Fair Haired” respectively.
 Deluzain identified that we are all consumers of names, and we have a need and right to know about the psychological, magical, legal, religious and ethnic aspects of our names.
So you can see that picking a child’s name for my wife and I at least, is not a simple matter of picking a name out of a hat, it is important to consider how it sounds, our experience of the name and its meaning.
Now you may like Lady Bracknell accuse me of displaying signs of triviality, however as Jack would reply: “on the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I’ve now realized for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.”
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