by CHRIS HARRISON
Some parents get so stressed about finding a name for their newborn they end up calling each other names.
During the prenatal marathon of ultrasounds, blood tests and checkups, medical teams call the baby “Baby”, which certainly keeps things simple. “How is Baby doing?” they ask. “Oh, he’s beaut thanks. But Parent is having a cow of a time thinking up a more permanent name.”
Before my traumatic turn came around, I thought choosing a name was the fun part of parenting, apart from watching them win Wimbledon and what have you. I’d scoffed at friends who’d taken weeks after the birth of their baby to settle on its signifier. A mate of mine’s daughter was called TBC for over a month!
Other parents, the lucky ones, know their child’s name before it’s even been conceived and stick to it once. He or She arrives to fill their hearts and empty their wallets.
I thought I was one of them.
But marrying a foreigner made an already tough process more tricky because you need to factor in how the name will sound when mispronounced. During my five years in Italy I was called Crris, Crristian and Crrisi. I was only called Chris when talking to myself, a sure sign that the problem drove me mad.
I’m sure my lament sounds pedantic but until experienced first hand it’s impossible to know how unnerving it is to have your name reliably minced, even if it is just a letter here and there.
I once heard my Ukrainian mother, Taisa, grow so tired of people’s botched attempts to pronounce her name that she declared: “Oh f**k it, call me Nancy!” Which wouldn’t have alarmed me if she wasn’t talking to Dad.
My wife was under enormous pressure to produce a boy. Italians are obsessed with male heirs. To wish someone well in Italy, regardless of whether they’re pregnant or not, you say: auguri e figli maschi: all the best and may you have male children. A “friend” even dropped by to tell us the correct sexual positions to conceive a boy, but I’ll spare you his stab in the dark theories, if you’ll pardon the expression.
We didn’t know if it was a boy or not. All we knew was it would need a name other than “Baby”. And so the search began…
There are many methods of choosing a title for your tiny tot, and we tried most of them. The first thing to do is thank your lucky stars you’re not a celebrity and thus expected to come up with something über original and finger-clicking cool.
If you’ve got Women’s Day bashing your door down for a scoop you can’t call the diminutive dignitary Nigel or Bob. Should you find yourself in this predicament, I’d suggest you consult the Bob Geldof and Paula Yates child-naming manual. Or give David Beckham a yell.
If, to your good fortune, you are not a celebrity and your baby is just a regular Tom, Dick or Harry … well, already you’ve narrowed it down to three.
You could name your baby after where it was conceived – Siena, Paris, Holiday Inn Townsville … Believe it or not this is illegal in Italy, presumably so as not to confuse the pen-pushers at Births, Deaths and Marriages. A friend of ours called his daughter Asia and still worries each time the postman arrives. Fortunately for him that doesn’t happen often.
You could also name Bubs after a place you remember fondly. Champion West Indian cricketer, Brian Lara, named his daughter Sydney after the city where he scored his first century, though I doubt he would have employed the same system had he scored those runs at the WACA. Less famous than Lara, if more patriotic, a cricket-fanatic friend of my brother’s called his son Max Chase Gibbs, so that his initials spell MCG.
You could frustrate friends and family by hanging around to see who the baby resembles, though I’m not a fan of this method. I’ve never understood the expression: “He looks like a Peter” or “He looks like a Paul”. Wouldn’t all Peters and Pauls look alike if such a scenario were possible? Hold up a photo of Paul Keating alongside a happy-snap of Paul Hogan and you’ll get my drift.
To immortalise someone special, sentimental parents often name their offspring after a grandparent or relative, though this can be a family feud in the making. Fortunately for us, my father’s name is Neville. He begged us not to use it.
Then there’s the old-fashioned method of buying a book of baby names or its modern incarnation of going online to www.babynames.com.au to peruse a ranking of the top 100 names by year. While such websites reveal trends there are also some surprises. Would you believe the most common Christian name in the UK in 2010, taking into account its various spellings, was Mohammed? It begs the question how much longer the term “Christian” name will be politically correct.
With a wise eye on the schoolyard, as important as finding the right name for your child is finding its abbreviation and relationship with your surname. Many fabulous names, when shortened, can turn foul. We’re all on first-name terms with those (hopefully!) mythical men: Richard Rash and Michael Hunt.
After eight-and-a-half months, our list of names was growing as steadily as my wife’s tummy. In fact, almost the only name that hadn’t graced that list at some point (apart from Mohammed) was the one we ended up choosing.
A breakthrough came when we agreed we wanted an Italian name because of the beauty of the language: Joe Green in English is Giuseppe Verdi in Italian. And Bob Matthews is Roberto Di Matteo. Who would you rather be?
Close to becoming those indecisive friends at whom we’d scoffed, I woke from sleep one night (something I’d soon get used to) and declared: “Hey, I’ve got it – Francesco!” It ticked all our boxes. Indeed the only thing we couldn’t agree on is what he’ll cop at school – Fran, Franco, Frank or Fraz.
So, despite the midwife at the hospital trying to talk me out of it, in the end we called him Francesco so that one day we’d find out.
N.B. Certain names have been changed. Took me ages to think of suitable alternatives.
Chris Harrison is a News Limited columnist and award-winning author. He has also discovered a cure for hair. He can be found on his website and you can follow him on Twitter @harrisonwriter
If you have kids, how did you choose their names? How did your parents choose your name?