A father’s guide to baby naming

When you’re expecting a second child (as my wife and I are at the moment), gone are the whimsical “I wonder what colour hair it will have” and “I cant wait to buy it all those cute clothes” discussions.

You’re more likely to be asking “which toys should we siphon off for the new one?” and “what sort of discount will the nursery offer if we send them both there?”

One of the most important conversations is still, however, the one about naming your new addition. These can, in my experience, sometimes get a little heated…

Pregnant woman in dressing gown and face mask (a hypothetical one, not my wife of course):

“I have decided that we are going to call our daughter Winifred. It was the name of my best friend’s piano teacher. She was a bit of a bitch by the sound of things but none of our friends have come up with the name Winifred yet.”

Caught off guard man (Father, not me) on sofa: “Erm, I thought we had agreed to name our first daughter after my late Grandmother, as it would mean a lot to my family.’

Write down the initials on a piece of paper before you commit. There is always the risk that they could spell something untoward.

M: “When YOU have carried another human being around in YOUR womb, not slept properly for almost a year, been banned from smoking and drinking, having back spasms and a bladder that feels the size of a walnut, then YOU can chose the name.”

F: “But…”

M: “Ok, FINE. If it really means THAT much to you, it can be the fourth middle name. After Beyoncé. I have just downloaded her new album and its fantastic”.

Then, in a last act of defiance, spurred on by his team losing on Match of the Day:

F: “Well, I am naming the dog”

M: “We can’t afford a dog”

F: “Cat?”

M: “I hate cats”

F: “Hamster?”

M: “Not a proper pet”

F: “Sea Monkey?’

M: “Eurgh, I’m going to bed. It’s impossible to have a serious conversation with you.”

Naming a child is one of the most personal and important (and potentially difficult) things for a couple to do. There are no rules, unfortunately, but there are a few things worth considering:

What’s in an acronym?

Write down the initials on a piece of paper before you commit. There is always the risk that they could spell something untoward. Timothy William Alexander Thompson stood out, somewhat, on school lists

Sleep on it

Yes, Tiny Dancer happened to be playing on the radio the minute your baby was born, but do you really think anyone can get through life being called ‘Elton’? Or Reginald, for that matter. Have a sleep and let the dust settle before committing.

Short but sweet?

If you prefer the shorter version of a name, there is no reason why you cant put that on the birth certificate. However, maybe make the full version the official name – just in case. Bilbo is rather cute, but he may prefer William when he is running for Chancellor of the Exchequer. On the flip side, be prepared to have any name longer than four letters shortened by teachers, colleagues and pretty much everyone they meet. Thomas will become Tom. Michael will become Mike. John will be come Johnny (oh, hang on…)

Keep mum, Mum

Possibly run the name past one or two good friends/relations in confidence as a sounding board, but don’t tell everyone who asks. Undoubtedly you will be told about the class bully who happened to have your daughter’s dream name and it will be ruined forever.


Put yourself in the mind-set of a 12 year old boy and work out any rhyming combination, or similar, of the name that they may come up with. I often think of Homer Simpson when naming his son (after he rejects other names for boys based on rhyming nicknames)

“Marge: What about Bart?

Homer: Let’s see. Bart, cart, dart, e-art. Nope can’t see any problems with that.”

Look to the end

If you have a long surname, maybe a short first name is sensible: just think of the minutes of their lives wasted signing documents. Think of the whole name and bear in mind the shorting of the first name (I don’t think Michael Hunt’s or Richard Head’s parents did that…)

Say it out loud

While some parents are superstitious about not referring to foetus by its name until it is born, others like to practice the name and use it to refer to the baby with each other, to see how it feels. Try the whole name in various accents and at various speeds. I was at University with a girl called Jennifer Tell, known as Jenny, and when said quickly…

Heir and spare

Know you’re having a son and have two names you love? Use one now and bank the second, rather than wasting it as a middle name. If you have another boy, or if it’s a gender-neutral name, you’re all set (plus if the second name isn’t one you agree on, one of you has time to convince the other…)

Middle ground

Need to keep a family member happy? Chuck their name (or surname) in the middle.

“How do you spell that?”

Giving your baby a ‘unique’ name may be ‘cool’ and ‘quirky’, but do you really want your child to spend their life constantly correcting people’s pronunciation and being asked is that spelt with a Z or and X…?


Matilda Meg Potter Parker Bowles arrived safely last week. Meg is the grandmother of Sam’s wife Louisa and Potter is his mother’s maiden name.



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