Is a name just a name?

Following celebrity couple Molly Mae Hague and Tommy Fury’s choice of name for their child it’s certainly reignited the debate about baby naming. The nation seems to be divided for and against their decision. Some saying that names are both subjective and personal and Bambi is great because it’s their choice with others getting quite heated about the long term effect of a Disney name on a child with their whole life ahead of them. 

An image from the disney film bambi - a deer and bunny rabbit in a forest

But is a name just a name, or does it have deeper connotations for the individual who carries it?

Whilst parents tend to agonise over what to call their children because they view their choice as an expression of their own creativity and personality, research also shows that children’s names could play a major role in shaping how others see them and  in turn, what sort of person they become. 

If they like their name, then all good.  But according to a study from the 2000s led by US psychologist Jean Twenge, people who didn’t like their own name were found to have a poorer psychological adjustment.  This was either because their lack of confidence and self-esteem caused them to dislike their name or disliking their name contributed to their lack of confidence – “the name becomes a symbol of the self”, Twenge and her co-author wrote. 

New born baby feet

So on this basis, the name choice for your child may be more important than you think, and importantly a choice that shouldn’t just be about you. 

But is there anything that you can do to help them improve their chances in life with a name choice?

First and foremost, it’s important to bear in mind that while you as an adult may accept and even celebrate your individuality, freedom of expression and quirkiness, remember that the world over, kids just want to fit in.  Common, traditional names, on this basis are a safe bet.

Your child will, in most cases, ‘wear’ their name for life.  So, it will need to suit them both as a child as well as an adult.  Many on social media are saying that while Bambi might be a great name for a baby/toddler how might such a name impact them when they start school?  And could there be a possibility (as some say on social media) that when your child is up for a high level job against more traditionally named competitors could a Disney name even work against them?

A pregnant lady sat on a sofa writing out a list of baby names

How will the name work with your surname – does it flow well in terms of sound and the number of syllables? While rhyming first names and surnames might be cute, (Zowie Bowie, Harry Barry) could they cause a wave of laughter in the classroom when they start their first day at school?’

Naming after celebs could backfire.  So its best to avoid it.  Remember Gary Glitter?   Rockstar one day, disgraced paedophile the next. 

How will the name you choose work as a nickname?  Even if you’re intent on not shortening your child’s name, you won’t be able to stop others from doing so.  If it has the possibility of any connotations that might give your child’s peers reason to ridicule them, perhaps think again. 

Unusual names can become the bain of one’s life in terms of pronunciation, spelling and understanding.  A member of the Hippychick team, whose name, Heloise, is fancifully spelt with an ‘H’ mute and no ‘u’ struggles horribly when making introducing herself and particularly when making appointments over the phone. She believes she has wasted a ridiculous number of hours of her life spelling out her name, and is thus often tempted to change her name by deed poll to Helen.

Scrabble pieces spelling out baby

And talking of pronunciation, this is also a major consideration.  There’s a wonderful story circulating the internet on this subject from a woman who named her child ‘Axel’.  And while her own child was able to pronounce his own name fluently, when he started at school, the other children couldn’t get their tongues around ‘x’, pronouncing it as a sibilant ‘s’.  The result was her child being referred to as ‘asshole’ through primary school, much to the amusement of his teachers.

Consider the initials.  Does the first, middle and surname spell out an acronym that might become a label for your child and cause embarrassment– Farrah Ann Twidale or Polly Imogen Grace Young for instance.  Imagine those initials.

Don’t be afraid to ditch a second name that doesn’t flow with the first name or surname.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no compulsion for middle names and without one, form filling becomes a good deal easier. 

Strong family names which are already part of your family’s identity, not only make great middle names but will also keep the family line going as well as the family peace. 


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