What did you do at kinder today?” I asked my three-year-old son on the drive home. “Trains with Roy,” came the reply from the backseat.
This answer left me strangely elated, not because I’m a huge railway enthusiast, but because of the name of my son’s latest playmate. You don’t come across many kids these days called “Roy”.
Taking my boys to the playground, I’ll encounter Luna, Peyton and Aaliyah, plus a shit-ton of Noahs and Alfies. Parker and Savannah will be playing on the roundabout with Bodie giving them a push.
And there’s nothing wrong with any of these names. They’re expressive monikers with a touch of colour without being too pretentious or overblown.
“Roy” however is a throwback to a different era. Solid and no-nonsense, it’s almost wilfully unfashionable because it doesn’t have any look-at-me aspirations. By contemporary standards, Roy is a remarkably unremarkable name and all the more refreshing for that. Sure, I don’t necessarily love it, but I find it weirdly reassuring nonetheless. You can guarantee this kid was named after a beloved grandparent – some kindly grey-haired fellow from a simpler time. You can’t say the same about “Jaxtyn”.
Naming your kids is, of course, a highly personal business and one that’s increasingly fraught. But if you’re struggling with this momentous decision, follow these fail-safe rules.
Don’t get too creative
Your child’s name is like your car numberplate. It’s not the place for creative expression. We understand that you’re an innovative free-thinker who boldly flouts traditional restrictions. But you don’t have to demonstrate your maverick flair when it comes to naming your kid.
Making up a name is a bad idea, as is taking liberties with conventional spellings. In fact, the basic rule is this: if a name requires additional explanation in terms of pronunciation or indeed any clarification full-stop, then it could possibly do with a re-think. After all, life is short and you’re busy.
If you’re feeling creatively repressed then how about you finish that screenplay or start playing the guitar again. You poor child doesn’t need to bear the brunt of your frustrations. Remember this isn’t about you.
Make it a blank canvas
Imagine you had to wear the same piece of clothing every day for the rest of your life. What exactly would that be? Yes, I’m sure you looking sharp in that three-piece suit, while that leather jacket conveys the rebel swagger that’s still there despite your job in middle-management.
But this get-up has to work in every life scenario. Formal, casual, serious, fun – it needs to be sufficiently versatile to meet any circumstance with ease. That’s why the smart money here is on something unobtrusive and classic – like a pair of jeans you can always dress up or down.
Channel this same mindset when naming your child. After all, they might grow up to be a boxer or a banker, a lifeguard or a politician. Irrespective of what precisely their future holds, their name should work with whatever environment they eventually surface in. That means the name should be sufficiently neutral that it doesn’t spark immediate preconceptions. It’s a blank canvas they get to fill themselves.
Consider the entirety
Ideally, a first name should offer a deft counterpoint to the last. Got a flamboyant surname with multiple syllables? Consider anchoring it down with something short and sweet up front (Luke Skywalker).
The corollary also serves true. If you’ve got a stolid but dull surname to play with then you have a lot more scope to cut loose (Indiana Jones).
Research also suggests that “monogrammic determinism” is an actual thing. The Journal of Psychosomatic Research published the results of a study based on analysis of thousands of California death certificates between 1969 and 1995. People whose initials spelled positive monograms (e.g., ACE or VIP) lived significantly longer than those with negative initials (e.g., PIG or DIE).
This is the clincher that no one tells you. I always thought naming my children would be a fun little exercise. I didn’t realise it’d quickly degenerate turn into a long and torturous battle with my wife.
In our case, we couldn’t agree on anything. Cleverly, my wife exploited the fact that she used to work with dangerous criminals by dismissing most of my suggestions with made-up excuses. (“Oh no, we couldn’t possibly name him, Jake – I dealt with a serial rapist called Jake…”) Naturally, I countered by inventing similar objections to her weird ideas (the best ploy here was to bring up fictitious ex-girlfriends).
Eventually things played out in the same way that Canberra became the Australian capital partially to assuage the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. The result: a compromise that pleased no one.
Both our sons’ names were concessions that thrilled neither of us but which, at least, neither of us actively despised. What we eventually came up with rated as solid 6/10s. For the record they’re called Joe and Marc Benedictus with their middle names diplomatically chosen to appease various family loyalties.
The name game ended in a hard-fought draw with some pride salvaged on both sides. Was this the most fulfilling result? Possibly not. But at least neither of our sons answer to Jaxtyn.