Alice Jones: Being outlandish is the name of the game

Outlandish names are no longer confined to the celebrity sphere

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These are high times for silly names. Peaches Geldof has given
birth to a son – Astala Dylan Willow Cohen-Geldof. Her father, Bob,
has been quick to poke fun, admitting on television this week that
he doesn't know how to pronounce his grandson's name. "I haven't
said it yet – I can't bring myself to," he said. This follows his
thoughtful comments last week where he branded Astala a "girl's
name", adding, "Yuck! What's he going to be called in school? Ass?
Stella?" He will be now. Thanks, Grandpa Bob!

It's a bit rich coming from Geldof, who famously named his children Fifi Trixibelle, Little Pixie and, deep breath, Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa. For her part, Peaches has previously claimed: "My weird name has haunted me all my life." When it came to her own bundle of joy, though, genetics kicked in and Geldof Jr found herself repeating the sins of the father.

You can't blame Geldof for wanting to give her son a name as unique as her own, to distinguish him in a world of Apples, Brooklyns and Blue Ivys. Except, does it really work like that? If you call your daughter Belle, will she grow up to be beautiful? It's nonsense to assume that you can shape someone's character or future with a label but plenty of people do.

Outlandish names are no longer confined to the celebrity sphere. According to the Office of National Statistics, the number of new names has gone up by nearly 50 per cent in 15 years. With hundreds of Brooklyns and Roccos scampering around, the search for "uniqueness" has become ever more febrile. Nevaeh – or heaven, backwards – is now one of the fastest-rising girl's names.

What, though, of those cursed with unwieldy, lumpen names? Take Benedict Cumberbatch, a man whose name, by his own admission, "sounds like a fart in a bath". At the start of his career, he acted under the name Ben Carlton, following the lead of his actor father, Timothy. Last week, in a report about the US viewing figures for Sherlock, The Washington Post referred to the actor as "Bandersnatch Cummerbund". The typo caused much hilarity before the newspaper responded saying that it had been a deliberate snark. Intentional or not, America is talking about Benedict Cumberbatch. Which, let's face it, would never have happened to Ben Carlton.

* High Priestess. Now there's a job title that looks good on a business card. There she was – resplendent in white pleats like an Ionic pillar, raising the "Archaic Pot" to the heavens, kneeling reverently before the sun-kindled flame and wafting a gnarled olive branch as she lit the Olympic torch. It was been disappointing to discover that this celestial conduit is in fact a jobbing actress from Athens called Ino Menegaki, pictured. According to her online CV, Menegaki is a specialist in Ancient Tragedy, who has been cast in the torch ceremonies since 1996, climbing the ranks to cauldron-bearer in Beijing and Vancouver and now, hallelujah, High Priestess. She also turns out to be a qualified sporting bureaucrat, holding a Masters in "Olympic Studies, Olympic Education, Organisation and Management of Olympic events."

* I've often wondered who the strange types who "drink in" at Starbucks are. Now I know. Working out of the office for two days in Brighton, I found myself drawn by promises of caffeine and free wi-fi. It seems there is a name for people like me – "coffee shop conquerors", who set up shop in the window seat, trailing laptop wires and trying not to swipe skinny soy foam across their iPads while making one cappuccino last for as long as it takes to write the next Pulitzer/ Booker/Oscar winner.

A new report has now branded such behaviour antisocial, claiming that it discourages other customers who are simply looking to relax over a hot drink. This is unnecessary meddling. High street cafes and office-less workers have reached a perfect agreement. They give us free internet. In return, we have to drink their appalling coffee.

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