You could call it the Epponnee-Rae effect.
The study into middle-class naming practices was carried out by Professor Jo Lindsay of Monash University and Associate Professor Deborah Dempsey of Swinburne University of Technology. One married mum, Elizabeth, explained why she chose “traditional” names for her children.
“We didn’t like the idea of one of those wacky names that are very cute on a three-year-old but you can’t imagine [them on an older person], or a name that labelled you as someone who worked in the checkout at Coles, as opposed to somebody to be taken seriously. So we ended up with very conservative names, but that’s okay,” she said.
“You can’t see your child sitting on the bench at the High Court of Australia being called Poppy or something. My daughter has a friend called Dakota which, to me, that jumps up and screams, ‘I was born in the late ’90s, my mother didn’t have an imagination or my mother didn’t think forward.’”
Meanwhile, a lawyer called Brigid said she chose names that meant her children would be able to mix comfortably with “middle, upper-class, private school” kids. She said her partner, who used to work for the Department of Human Services, saw a lot of people who had given their children “creative” spellings of names.
“It just seemed to be this element of society that did that. That’s not where we come from and that’s not something I wanted to inflict on a child.”
Brigid and several of the other parents interviewed brought up the example of Epponnee-Rae, the name given to the baby on TV series Kath & Kim. It seems that middle-class people love watching bogans on TV, but they don’t want their child to be mistaken for one.
“Bogan names”, “DHS names”, “checkout operator names”, “childcare worker names”… this was how they described the names that they were keen to avoid.
If this sounds a lot like class prejudice, that’s because it is.
“We were really very surprised to hear these kind of class judgements come out of people’s mouths, because in Australia we really like to emphasise how egalitarian we are and how open we are,” Professor Lindsay tells Mamamia. “But in fact, when you start talking about something that seems quite innocuous, like the name that you give your kid, then this stuff does emerge.”
So when exactly did people start becoming so judgemental about “made-up” names or those with “creative” spellings?