ETCETERA / Home thoughts

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The Independent Culture
WHEN people see me lumbering into view at the moment, they ask three things. First, when is your baby going to be born? Second, is it a boy or a girl? Third, what are you going to call it? Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to any of these questions, although I wish I did, to number one in particular. (Will it be (a) today? (b) this week? (c) next year, because I am a rare freak of medical science?)

Anyway, I don't want to dwell on question one, because I start to despair, so I shall turn to question three. This is, unfortunately, a contentious issue in our household. My son (who is called Jamie MacColl) thinks the baby should be called Ron. I can see the advantages: we don't know any other Rons, so at least it would be original, daring even. But then I might always think of Ronald Reagan when I looked at the baby Ron, and that would be a pity.

My husband (who is called Neill MacColl) is equally convinced that this baby is a boy, and has come up with some equally unacceptable names for it. These are his suggestions: Evan, Dylan, or Ryan. He is especially keen on Ryan, after Ryan Giggs, the footballer. I have pointed out to him that there will be thousands of other Manchester United supporters who will be naming their baby boys Ryan this year; call out the name Ryan in a playground in three years' time, and dozens of little boys will come running. It will be as popular as Kylie a few years ago, or Wayne in the Sixties (there were five in my year at school alone). As for Evan, what kind of name is that? And Dylan? Dylan MacColl?? Talk about entering the Celtic twilight zone.

Speaking as someone who has a rather peculiar name, I know the importance of not landing your child with anything embarrassing. Until I was 18 or so, I thought that being called Justine Picardie was a terrible burden. I wanted to be called Juliet Linden. I don't know why, exactly, it just came to me out of the blue.

So what about this baby? Ellen Ruth MacColl if it's a girl; but I'm not sure if it's a boy. Something sensible, if I have my way. I have, in fact, been browsing through a slim book called Naming Baby, by Eugene Stone. This was published in 1954, which may explain certain confusing entries, like the one for Eric, which apparently means 'ever king' in Norse and is 'now only just recovering from the effects of the publication of Eric, or Little by Little, by Dean Farrar'. Who or what was this Eric? What did he do that made his name so socially unacceptable? And while we're on the subject of Eric, is my husband suddenly going to be inspired by Eric Cantona as a namesake for his second child? Ryan Eric Dylan Cantona MacColl . . . I'm not surprised this baby is refusing to come out.

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