Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Naming Rites

My phone emitted an electronic beep at some ungodly hour last night.

I ignored it. It wasn't a persistent ring - or in my case, the unrelenting drone of the first thirty seconds of Nirvana's "Feels Like Teen Spirit". It was just some notification. The news could be received in the morning over a bowl of porridge and a triple ristretto.

I went back to sleep.

On rising a few hours later I looked over at my phone. My second cousin's wife had a son. Lovely news. Both mum and baby doing well. A stonking, big nine pounder in the old language. Name. Malcolm Callum Grant.

They called their son Malcolm!


I have an Uncle Malcolm. He calls himself by another moniker. I don't think anybody has called my uncle Malcolm since he came out of the womb. It's not going to be on his tombstone. It was a daggy name when he was given it some sixty-five years ago.

Oh for goodness sake. Malcolm. Enrol the kid in tap dancing lessons and buy him his first can of petrol and machete now - he's going to be a psychopath. End of story. Surely they're going to call him Callum - or Cal. Surely.....but you never know.

I texted my cousin - who happens to be my favorite cousin and grandmother to little Malcolm. Asked her about the name. "Malcolm?! Is he going to have brothers Trevor and Donald?"

"I know. Heaven help us!" was my cousin's response.

Taken into consideration is the fact that the baby's maternal grandfather is called Malcolm - sort of makes it okay (and mind you - the other grandfather is a Neville - the kid has no chance) - but still. Can't they find the kid his own name? And his initials. M.C.G. Named after the hallowed turf in Richmond where many a football and cricket match is played. Oh, bless.

As a childless woman, I've never had to name a child. I seriously don't know how I'd go.

I name my cars. I've had Edna the EJ Holden and Phoebe the Fiesta (inherited names), Colin the Daihatsu (Colins often have small man syndrome, would have called him Allan but he couldn't make the tea - Allans are often small and they always make the tea). Then there was Andrew the Echo - named after an ex-boyfriend's dangly bits (again associations - like the other Andrew, the Toyota was small but it got me where I needed to go) and now I have Neville the Mazda - suitably named after a middle-aged accountant somewhere - the only Neville I know has silver grey hair - the same colour as my car.

I also have Shirley the GPS - so named after a friend's indominable mother who is scarier than a herd of rampaging elephants - only with a fag in one hand and a pint of bitter in the other. My GPS scares me most of the time - especially when I ignore its instructions to go down Punt Road.

Naming can be hard.

My friend Max and her partner are still trying to find the right name for her daughter who is now a month old. They took their time naming their son too. His name really suits him now. He's going to be cool.

We've been having a few odd conversations on the subject. I was sitting at this hospital with this two day old bundle in my arms and Max went through the long list.

"I don't know why you're asking me this, Max. It's your child. I'll love her regardless of what you call her."
"She's known as Bam Bam at the moment."
"And that might stick. But it won't look good on a passport. You'd get pulled up every time you went through customs with a name like that."
She went through this list of names. Some lovely, classic, easy on the ear names. Others had my eyebrows raising.
"Max - it really is up to you and Ram. Don't ask for my opinion. It's none of my business."
"But you don't mind being used as a sounding board."
"As long as you don't mind getting the brunt of my sense of humour."

I've been getting the odd text since then.

'What do you think of Greta?"
"Smacks of Kingswood Country and kaftan wearing librarians."
"How about Eugenia?"
"Hmm. Bit posh. Not too bad if you're looking to put her through private school."
"Tries to hard to hide her cross eyes. Put money away for braces now."
"Like that one. But it's your kid. You name it. Don't ask for my opinion. I will only end up offending."

It's fun watching people name their children.

Some say absolutely nothing about what the kid will be called. I rather like these people. Others, like my friend Max, will ask for opinions and suggestions.

And what ever I say will normally be wrong.

Then there are the names you dislike by association.

Kevin will always be the slob who collected his fingernail clippings in a jar.
Simon - oh don't get me started on Simons..... in love with their computers for the most part.
Trevor - Named after St Trevor, the patron saint of those who wear socks with sandals.
Julian - Pot smoking lawyer with numerous DUIs under his belt. So far back in the closet he's in Narnia.
Derek - named after a frog's mating call.

There are also the names that have become cliche by over use. Sharon, Tracey, Lisa, Michelle and Narelle are all now in their forties with kids in tow. Practical multi-taskers who really could have done with less common names.

You know that Darren, Mark, Steven and Paul are now hitting forty and wondering when they are going to trade their Commodore in for an E Type Jag or some other penile equivalent.

I used to hate my name - and as I went through school with five other Pandoras I though I was as common as muck. Since leaving Myponga, we Pandoras are a bit rarer. And I don't mind the name. I've grown into it. Just don't call me Pandy or Dora....

It's interesting watching some of the cultural naming that goes about. Having a chat with Dimitra in the office, she said that her daughter would be called after her mother, in line with Greek tradition. Fair enough. That appears to be the norm for some cultures - and good on them.

If I ever had children, I couldn't go the grandaparent route - the grandaughter of Reginald Lancelot, Eunice, Darcy Elliot and Ada Jean - nah, sorry couldn't do that to a child. They're almost Department of Child Welfare worthy names.

But I still wonder about poor little Malcolm.

Why not call him Callum Malcolm? Okay, you lose the cool initials - but still. It's a little more palatable.

Daggy middle names have a bit more kudos. My friend Alice's little boy's middle name is Mungo - named after the patron saint of Glasgow and recalcitrant journalists. Another friend was thinking about giving the middle name of Danger - then Danger would be his middle name... They didn't in the end. It would have set a precedent. What would the second one's middle name be? Trouble? Reckless? Rebel? Late-for-dinner?

And then there are the alternative spellings that appear to be cropping up. The Tiphphannees and Mikaylaahs and Jaaysonns and and Symins. That's just asking for trouble - and the wrath of teachers.

Or the cool but unpronounceable Irish names that were popular a while ago. I'm sure that Naimh, Aoife, Tadhg and Aoibheann will be used to spelling and pronouncing their names here in Australia once they turn five.

And of course the stripper names - the Ambers and Tawnies and Stormies and Misties - just can't be done. Just as Dirk and Roger are porn stars, these girls are fated to be walking around V8 tracks in bikinis. Just as Dawns, Veras and Irenes will always end up working at newsagencies and drycleaners.

I rather like the "supermarket test" that a couple of friend's swear by. Can you shout the name out to a misbehaving three-year-old and not make a mockery of yourself? Names like Robert, Michael, Laura and Ava pass with flying colours. Try whining out Barney, Oscar, Mabel or Bonnie in the aisle or in the park - and either watch a gaggle of three year olds or a pack of dogs turn their heads.

That also goes for what you call siblings. An old workmate related how he'd never been so embarrassed when his friends called out for Jenna and Talia to come in for dinner (think about it....)

And the sibling test. My mate Mack has children Mabel, Michael, Maisie, Mariah and Monroe. It's going to be diabolical when they get to be teenagers and start getting mail.

Ah, it's all too hard.

I wish little Malcolm well. He's going to have his challenges - he's a Libran after all. Being called Malcolm will only add to these challenges.

Oh, if I was to have a child  - I've always fancied giving a daughter the middle name of Serendipity. Why? Because any child I have will be a happy accident.


p.s. Thanks to Patrick Cook's Ultimate Book of Baby Names for the inspiration for this - and if you can track down a copy, you won't be sorry.


The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

I know a Malcolm - we call him "Malc".

Lucky kid - a Libran! He won't be able to decide whether he likes the name Malcolm or not!




Pandora Behr said...


Malcolm is a name that is acceptable for 50+ Engineers who wear cardigans with leather patches in the elbows (or sociopathic real estate agents) not small children. The only other time Malcolm is acceptable is if you are Scottish - then you can get away with it...

I'm in trouble with my family. "Malcolm"s dad's read the blog...

Kath Lockett said...

Poor poor Malcolm! One of my ex-bosses was a Malcolm and none too bright, either. Behind his back we'd call him Mal-formed, Mal-ignant, Mal-adapted and, mostly, Mal Function!

Cacked like a crow at this lovely line: "So far back in the closet he's in Narnia." Brilliant!