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Lucy Mangan: ‘I Wasn’t Allowed To Choose My Baby’s Name’

Deciding what to call your child requires consideration, as Lucy Mangan found out

I was barred from having any say in our child’s name when I revealed that if it was a girl I wanted to call her Milly-Molly-Mandy because a) she was an early heroine and b) Milly-Molly-Mandy Mangan
would make me laugh every time I said it. (I didn’t know then, of course, that the last thing you want once your pelvic floor’s been battered is something that makes you laugh every time you say it. Anyway, I had a boy in the end, so bullet dodged.)

'You want something not too common, not too posh; not too odd, not too boring'

In truth, I was glad to be relieved of the responsibility. Names are a minefield. You want something not too common, not too posh; not too odd, not too boring. A name that marks your child’s individuality but doesn’t make him/her the target of bullies for four counties. And a name that honours favourite family members, enshrines your love and will sound right when s/he grows up to be president of ICI/the world/our first space colony and beyond.

Then there’s fashion. At the moment, according to research by and Netmums, we are in the middle of two trends. One is the rejection of traditional names – Gertrude and Cecil are extinct, while Ethel and Norman are on the endangered list.

The other is the embracing of medieval-style names, prompted by Game Of Thrones rather than a resurgence of interest in Anglo-Saxon studies. So, although classrooms are not filling with Aethelreds and Egfriths, there is still, as PG Wodehouse said, some increasingly rum work being pulled at the font.

I would suggest that the parents of, for example, the 146 babies born in 2012 named Khaleesi should have them removed from their care instantly, but I can feel Millicent Margaret Amanda Mangan looking askance at me, so I shall hold my tongue.

'When she arrived she was so fat and red that I had to call her Rosie'

And then there’s the problem of what your baby actually looks like when he arrives. I have one friend who wanted to call her daughter Daisy, ‘but when she arrived she was so fat and red that I had to call her Rosie’, and another who binned Matthew because it sounded too calm for ‘a thing that kept crying all the time’.

Of course, he’s turned out to be a smiley dream of a child and she now feels the name she chose (withheld to protect the innocent) ‘has too much bite to it’. She could still change it. One of my nicest and most well-adjusted friends went through four names before he was seven because first his mother and then he, as he got older, kept changing their minds. He’s Henry now. But I haven’t seen him for a couple of months, so who knows?

For Lucy Mangan's monthly column, subscribe to Mother & Baby magazine here

Lucy’s new book Charlie's Chocolate Factory: the Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket and Roald Dahl's Greatest Creation is out on September 4th. 

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