It's official. A study has discovered that the name you bestow on your newborn can affect its future. Who would have thought? You mean to say twins called Benson and Hedges might stand out from their peers - and not in a good way? So inventing names, mangling spellings and inserting random apostrophes are inadvisable? Gosh, we learn something new every day.

Most new parents appear to fall into one of two camps. There are the traditionalists who want a nice, normal name that no one will bat an eyelid at. Hello Sarah, Elizabeth, William and Jack. Then there are the people determined to be original and stand out from the crowd. Like television characters Kath and Kim, they consider "unusual" to be a desirable attribute.

"Oh, yes, that's noice, different, unusual," they say about Sativa-Rochee, KleeShay and Qba (names I encountered on Trade Me's Parenting message-board).

I must belong to the first group because the simplicity of a regular name appeals to me. I'm not inclined to inflict a child with a lifelong need to clarify the spelling - or worse, the pronunciation - of their name. Don't think I'm deriding cultural names or prized family names here; it's the creation of one-of-a-kind, plucked-out-of-thin-air names to which I am drawing attention.


The morning I went into labour our baby was going to be either Ella or Tom and there was no room for debate. But somehow during those mind-numbing hours in the delivery room we ended up discarding Ella in favour of Katie - a name we considered possibly less fashionable, less of the moment. (Our instincts were correct: according to Statistics NZ that year 302 babies were named Ella while 93 were called Katie.) I'd have loved to have spelled it "Katy" (slightly cuter) but we opted for the standard form so it was as user-friendly as possible.

Middle names are funny things. Kind of invisible and somewhat redundant, they seem to emerge mainly when a person appears in court for some offence or other and most of us don't wish that on our offspring. A guy I worked with years ago once wondered aloud if my middle name was Olivia. It took me a few minutes to realise this was a clever insult rather than a genuine inquiry.

We gave our daughter the middle name of Rose. We thought it complemented her first name and wasn't too predictable. Little did we know that a lot of new parents were thinking the same thing. From the birth notices in the newspaper it seemed that every second little girl born in 2003 might have been given this middle name. We fool ourselves that we're choosing arbitrarily when really we're all responding to the same set of social stimuli in the same time and place so we independently reach the same conclusions.

Last year Liam and Ruby were the most popular names for newborn boys and girls respectively. Congratulations to these babies on their gorgeous names. No doubt they're destined to spend their school years being differentiated by the first initial of their surname. It seems there's a price to be paid for popularity and being in vogue. Perhaps those aficionados of unusual names are on to something after all.