Why you may regret giving your kid a 'cool' name

A survey last month found almost a fifth of parents end up regretting the name they give their child. Photo / Getty
A survey last month found almost a fifth of parents end up regretting the name they give their child. Photo / Getty

Lindsey Briston was enjoying an afternoon in the park with her seven-year-old son when the youngster disappeared down a path on his bicycle. Lindsey picked up her pace and started to call his name.

Then she clocked a couple of other mums within earshot and decided against it, instead breaking into a run.

Why? Because her son is called Jediah - after the Jedi in Star Wars - a name Lindsey just doesn't feel comfortable with. "I worry people will wonder what kind of mother would give their child such a name," she says.

And they may well do so. As much as we strive towards an egalitarian society, there is no escaping the fact that a child is still often judged by his or her name - it is even thought to play a part in success later in life.

"The impact a good name has on a child's future has been well researched," says child psychologist Emma Kenny.

An "Eleanor", for example, has been found by statisticians to be 100 times more likely to gain a place at Oxford University than a Shannon or a Jade, with Peters, Simons and Annas similarly favoured.

"Unfortunately, many do judge someone's upbringing, social status and education by their name, and much as you may regret that tattoo you had done during your travelling days, a parent may wake one day and realise that calling your son Moonbeam, for example, wasn't the most sensible decision," says Emma.

A survey last month found almost a fifth of parents end up regretting the name they give their child.

For now Lindsey, 27, a full-time mother from Southampton in the UK, who's engaged to Nick, 32, a student services supervisor, has decided to stick with Jediah and abbreviate it to "Jed" wherever possible.

"I was railroaded into giving him this name by his father," she explains. "We were only young and it was an unplanned pregnancy."

It was only after their son was born, in February 2009, that Josh, her then boyfriend, came up with "Jediah".

"He admitted it was because it sounded like the Jedi from Star Wars. I knew he loved the film - but I hadn't realised he loved it that much," says Lindsey. "I told him it was ridiculous but he persisted, rebuffing my suggestion of Finley, and even before I agreed he started introducing our baby to everyone as Jediah anyway."

Cards congratulating them on the birth of Jediah built the name's momentum, while Josh won unexpected plaudits from Lindsey's parents. "As Christians they loved the Biblical reference (there is a Jedidiah, meaning 'beloved of Jehovah' in the Bible) which made it harder to say no," says Lindsey.

Three weeks after the birth Lindsay relented and registered her son as Jediah. "I was too tired to resist," she says.

Six months later, their relationship was over, torn apart by the harsh realities of life as young parents. "Josh only visited at weekends and I felt resentful I'd let him get his way for nothing. I felt judged enough for being a single mum at baby classes without the name," she says.

Some might consider Lindsey's reaction excessive, not least because nobody has really ever made the Star Wars connection.

Nonetheless, she says: "In parks I'd hover so I didn't have to call his name in front of other mums. Worse, she says, is Jediah's reaction: 'He likes Star Wars, but like all little boys also wants to fit in. A year ago he came home from a friend's house saying "I want a normal name, Mummy. You need to call me Steven."

"I felt horrible and promised I'd only ever call him Jed. I explained it would be too confusing to change it altogether. That's the name on his birth certificate and we've got to deal with it."

My son is embarrassed by his name

Lisa Reid, 40, regrets the "confusing and embarrassing" name with which she has saddled her 13-year-old son.

She and her husband, an office worker, also 40, had been practising Hindus for nine years when their boy was born in the UK. "It seemed obvious to give him a Hindu name," she says, "so we chose Chaitanya, a Sanskrit word meaning 'cosmic intelligence'."

Not everyone was convinced, not least Lisa's 72-year-old father Richard. "He said there was no way he was going to call his grandson by that name - so he chose to address him by his middle name, Harry, and still does," says Lisa. "Friends who weren't Hindu looked at me like I was mad."

You wonder how many had to bite their tongues when, five years later, the couple decided to abandon their religion in favour of a more secular life. "Chanting for an hour at dawn wasn't compatible with being parents. I missed the odd glass of wine and the non-Hindu friends we'd alienated,' she says.

Yet Chaitanya - now at least mercifully abbreviated to Chay - was stuck with a name he felt embarrassed by.

At school he was called everything from Chitty-anya to Janya and once, after winning an award, the headmaster pronounced his name so awkwardly in assembly that Chay didn't realise he'd won.

"He came home asking why he had a strange name. He's shy anyway and didn't like feeling different. I wondered why I'd done something so mean."

"I'd urge parents to think carefully before they name their child - one bad decision could stick with them for life."

She just didn't look like a Marnie. Or did she?

When she found out she was expecting a baby girl, Sara Nash was adamant that her daughter be called Marnie.

But after the birth last August she decided "she just didn't look look like a Marnie," says Sara, 39, a stay-at-home mum, married to Myles, 40, a teacher. "I felt a huge sense of responsibility to get the right name for my baby."

So Sara, who describes herself as "quite picky," set herself the challenge of coming up with a new name. "It needed to go with our four-year old daughter's name, Poppy. It couldn't end with '*' or it wouldn't work with our surname and had to be unusual, but not wacky."

Within hours "Marnie" was renamed Mollie. "But," says Sara, "even as we told family and friends, Mollie didn't feel right. And although people said it was nice, her name didn't seem to spark the gratifying approval of others.

"But I didn't think I could change my mind again."

Mollie was registered at seven weeks old. Still fretting she'd made a mistake, a fortnight later Sara saw a woman called Marnie on TV. "Hearing someone with the same unusual name we'd chosen seemed like a sign," she says.

"I looked at our baby, and realised she did look like a Marnie after all. I told Myles we'd made a terrible mistake and we would regret it if we didn't change it back."

"We replaced the 'Mollie' bracelet my mother-in-law had given us and I re-introduced her as Marnie on Facebook," says Sara. "It was a bit embarrassing but everyone says it suits her and Myles is glad we did it. I'm so happy I wasn't afraid to change my mind."

In New Zealand, there is no list of "banned" names, Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Jeff Montgomery, says. Decisions are made on a name-by-name basis.

The top three reasons for a name being turned down are causing offence, being too long, or resembling a title or rank.

- Daily Mail

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