Ludicrous names are the curse of a teacher's calling

20th May 2011 at 01:00

"The naming of cats", according to TS Eliot, "is a difficult matter", which is true if you give a thought to what you want to be shouting outside your kitchen door last thing at night when you want the little beggar to come back in. Ditto other pets. When my friend's budgie escaped from its cage, she was mortified when neighbours heard her calling piteously, "Mr Darcy! Mr Darcy! Come back, Mr Darcy!"

Equally, we need to think carefully about the name we give our offspring - about its spelling, compatability with surname and possible unfortunate resulting acronym.

School can be hostile enough without being saddled with an "unusual" first name. I have noticed that calling the class register has turned from a simple five-minute exercise to a fraught tongue-twister as I try to decipher a list of ever-more ludicrous nomenclature. Working in South Wales, this is made worse by the tendency to use traditional Welsh names. Owain seems innocent enough, but can be pronounced Owen, Owhine or Owane and you can bet that I will choose the wrong pronunciation to the huge delight of the class, who can't wait to correct my oh-so-hilarious mistake. How I long for a class of Tom, Dick and Harrys.

Sadly, over the years I've also noticed my preference for certain names has been soured by some of the little dears who bear them. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" but not if Rose has been caught launching spitballs and thumping the poor kid sitting next to her. I could now never consider Rose a name for my own daughter; especially having acquired, via marriage, the surname "West".

Similarly, I used to dream of naming my son Tristan (after the tragic medieval hero), until I encountered several evil little brutes that made the name seem synonymous with "spawn of Satan".

Never assume a child will live up to their name. I knew a Sunny who was more of a thundercloud, and a whole treasure trove of Rubies, Jades and Emeralds who were all less than gem-like. And there are those poor children whose parents couldn't be bothered to find out the correct spelling for their child's chosen moniker. A Kaite I knew confided that her mother had been drunk when registering her birth and the "i" was put before the "t" instead of after it, robbing her daughter of an extra syllable. One of my friends - her own name a lifelong tribute to her mother's obsession with Dr Zhivago - named her daughter Shevon. Unrepentant, Lara said, "Well at least people will know how to say it."

There are always a flurry of babies named after celebrities and celebrities' children but I wish people would think past the privacy of the carry-cot. A three-month-old Apple or Peaches may seem cute, but not so great as a hulking 12-year-old hurtling around the playground. I have met many Kylies and Jordans bearing the brunt of their parents' relationship with Hello! magazine.

An unusual name for a child can be a great gift, but it can also be a huge burden. Usually sane and loving parents can perpetrate the most casual act of cruelty on their child simply by naming it.

Jo West is a supply teacher based in Cardiff.

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