parents

Do your kids have names that "go together"?

Yes, there’s a word for it. The ‘sib set’.

The other night at dinner, my daughter told me her new teacher’s first name is Eireen and she has has a sister called Eileen. Eireen and Eileen.

I thought this was funny in a sweet kind of way and asked my family, ‘Why do some people name their kids as a set?’

‘Ask my parents,’ said my husband. His name is Jim and his siblings are John and Judith. In his father’s family there was Jim, John, Judith, Joan and Pat. The Hunters clearly have a thing for J names. Except for Pat. Pat was a lovely lady and I wish she was still with us for many reasons, not least so I  could ask her whether she felt left out , being the only P in a sea of Js?

Kris Jenner and her daughters Kylie, Kim, Kendall, Khloe and Kourtney.

This kind of thematic baby-naming, I’ve discovered, is known as a ‘Sib Set.’ Although it’s been practised by families such as the Hunters for generations, it’s since been celebrated by the Kardashians and perfected (thanks to endless practice) by the Duggars family of Extreme Christianville, USA.

How many of them are there now now? I can never keep up – I believe the current tally is 19 kids with J names. Perhaps it’s 20 by now. I can see the practicality of that – the saving on clothing labels would be significant. Michelle can simply order 10,000 J.Duggar tags and she’s sorted for the year.

I was talking about this ‘naming as a set philosophy’ with my friend Catrina, who said, ‘You don’t want match-matchy names, but they do need to go together. If you have two kids with full-on Gaelic names, like Sinead and Eoin, it would be weird to throw a Gianni in the mix.’

Sure, that makes sense. But the more I threw the topic out there, the more ‘Sib Sets’ surfaced.

The Duggar family’s children all have ‘J’ names.

• An American friend of my sister’s has three girls: Summer, Spring and Autumn. A fourth girl would have been ‘Season’ (Winter sounded too, you know, cold). But (somewhat inconveniently) a boy arrived and they named him ‘Billy’. Surely something else weather-related could have done the job – Storm? Heat-Wave? Blizzard?

Jamie and Jules Oliver went for a botanical theme: Their daughters were Daisy, Poppy and Petal. I was hoping against hope they would name their son ‘Herb’ (Basil?) but they went for the slightly obscure but still in-theme ‘Buddy.’

• My parents in law were friendly with a lady called Echo, whose twin sister was Cooee. I’m serious. My parents knew them too – these ladies would be in their seventies now, so Sib Setting is clearly nothing new. The list goes on …

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• There’s a family of Kellys in Melbourne whose kids are Grace and Ned.

• The Beckhams thought they were very cool and original when they named their firstborn Brooklyn but naming kids after cities is nothing new, and they disappointed me when they went off-theme with Romeo and Cruz. I think that shows a lack of discipline – unlike a teacher I knew who whose daughters were Sydney, Adelaide and Melba.

• I once signed a book a grandmother was buying for ‘Serenity, Divinity and Grace’. Lovely names. For their mother’s sake, I hope they’re lovely girls – it would hard to scream those names over the back fence and be taken seriously. A friend had a neighbour whose kids names yelled beautifully together, ‘Annette! Leanne! Lou-ise! Graaaaay-haaam!’ The perfect mix of punchy consonants and nice long vowels. Well done Mrs Vogel.

• Michael Hutchence said that with sisters Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches and Little Pixie, he and Paula Yates could hardly name their daughter ‘Susan’ could they? So the world welcomed Tigerlily.

It’s interesting to imagine what might happen if a celebrity did go for a Sib Set like Cathy, Carol and Christine. Would we see a resurgence of the kind of names that filled the school rolls in the 60s and 70s?

The whole ‘Sib Set’ thing is endlessly fascinating to me – not that I really care one way or another what anyone chooses to name their babies. I don’t lie awake at night wondering whether somewhere in the world someone’s tucking in little Pacific, Indian and Atlantic.  (Okay, maybe I do, but not for long).

How and why do people go for a Sib Set and how do they choose?

Do people drive through housing estates, look at the street signs and think, ‘That’s it! Let’s go for Australian flora! Banksia, Wattle and Acacia!’

Is it a family unity thing (as in the case of the Duggars), a lack of imagination thing (as in the case of the Hunters) or something else?

Is there a Sib Set in your family?