Saturday, 6 July 2013

The Name of the Game

Katie Hopkins seems to have caused quite a storm in a teacup, hasn't she. Her unabashed announcement that she judges her children's friends' social status by their Christian names and would never let them play with anyone called Chardonnay, Charmaine or Tyler in case they 'dragged them down' was outright snobbery and I'm sure that her children will be short of  party invites for some time! I had never heard of Katie Hopkins before, not really being a fan of The Apprentice, but she has certainly ignited a right row about the British tendency to make judgements based entirely on social class.

I hope my children are capable of choosing their own friends on the only fair and sensible basis - that of character. I do think though that sometimes parents saddle a child with a name that must hinder their chances of being taken seriously.  If you are not the child of celebrity parents it must be very difficult to pull off a name like Peaches or Apple. North West is sort of amusing, I suppose, but I sincerely hope that Blanket chooses a more adult moniker for himself and that Moon Unit Zappa considers something more earth bound!

It's often only when a child starts school that a name causes problems. I imagine that when Woody Allen and Mia Farrow's son, Satchel, started his education it would not have been a happy experience and it's not surprising that he changed to being known by his middle name, Ronan, as soon as he could. When I started school I had a friend with the very plain name, Alison Plant, which doesn't seem that funny but we all found it hilarious when she was referred to as A Plant! When S started school we were living near Glastonbury and her class mates sounded more like the cast for A Midsummer's Nights Dream with names like Aurora, Raven and Titania.

As a teacher I often come across unusual names and sometimes I've been guilty  of making unfair assumptions about a child or their family before meeting them. In my years of teaching I have come across a Promise, a Blue, a Thursday and a Taome - which I thought must be an ethnic variation until her parents enlightened me by explaining that this stood for 'The Apple Of My Eye'. Then there are the weird spellings to deal with - Leesah (Lisa) and Mykel (Michael) not to mention the dyslexic nightmare of Celtish names such as Siobhan or Niamh or Ruairidh.  Don't get me wrong though, I like all of these names, well maybe not Promise so much, especially as her promises to behave were endlessly broken!

It's tricky this naming business.  I remember with our firstborn that not everyone was enamoured with our choice of name, feeling it was very old-fashioned and we faced criticism again when we gave a French first name to our youngest. Names do tend to reveal your age and the influences of the time. I rarely meet another Helen who isn't around my age and I wonder how many boys currently are called Gale or Peeta or girls called Primrose or Katniss. Of course, sometimes well-intentioned first names are given that only become funny through marriage; I'm thinking of an ex colleague called Beverley who then married and became, would you believe, Beverley Hill!  

Names should have, I feel, some importance or significance even if it's just that you've always liked it. So I guess if you want to call your daughter after your favourite grape variety or your son after the place of conception then that's your prerogative. It is easy to change the name you are given, even if not officially, why else would so many forms have a 'known as' box. What isn't so easy to change is the abhorrent attitude of Katie Hopkins - stubborn prejudice and narrow-mindedness seem all too common.

Joining in with The Monday Club hosted by Hello Wall and Diary of the Dad.



  1. Great post Helen, I didn't see the interview but heard about it afterwards, apparently she also said it was ridiculous to name children after a place, but her first child is called India?!! My husband believes we should be like some countries where there is a list of acceptable names to be chosen, it would save some poor children living with names that their parents found amusing - when I worked in London we had clients called Dwayne Pipe and Russel Sprout!! Julie x

    1. Dwayne Pipe and Russel Sprout are hilarious! But find it sad indeed that someone would choose such ridiculous names! Poor kids indeed.

  2. Our son's name is Blackburn and I remember how much a lot of our family hated this when he was first born. We still have the occasional people who think we say Blackbird as opposed to Blackburn.

    1. It sounds like a very strong name to me - makes me think of a character from a Bronte novel - a romantic hero!

  3. I got a lot of grief for calling my daughter Hermione. No, not after Harry Potter, but because I am a lover of Shakespeare and always loved it. I love Harry Potter too though!

    I agree that some names are given to children selfishly, almost like cracking a joke. A colleague gave his son the middle names 'arthur guiness' with the tag line 'I can't wait til his wedding!' That is just selfish, mean and well, pretty much summed up what he was like actually.

    I heard about this Katie Hopkins stuff too but didn't see it. She sounds vile and in it for her extra 3 mins of fame.

  4. Great post and I agree with you about choosing names being something of a minefield!

    We thought long and hard about the things that our two may get called as a result of the names we gave them but kids will always find a way of being mean if they're determined to do so.

    It's so-called adults like Katie Hopkins who are the real problem; hopefully people will start ignoring her continued attention-seeking behaviour on Twitter. Remember everyone, don't feed the troll!

  5. I didn't watch the interview and have decided to boycott it purely so as not to give her the satisfaction! I think parents should be entitled to call their children whatever they like and not be judged by others - although this is extremely hard to do when you come across an 'Apple'!

  6. Hmmm... Got to say I dislike 'misspelt' names (i.e. Chelsey for Chelsea etc), and I suspect that Katie Hopkins is far from being the only person who makes value judgements based on the names children are given, however loathe some might be to admit it. The simple fact is that certain names do seem more commonly used (and misspelt) on sink estates than in more privileged environments, and while that doesn't necessarily mean the kids will be badly behaved or unintelligent etc it is more likely that they will have had fewer opportunities to realise their full potential, and perhaps been exposed to less desirable role models. That's not snobbery (believe me, I've nothing to be snobby about, Kahnsil estate mongrel that I am!) - it's just an acknowledgement of the realities of poverty and our class / social system.

    I wouldn't dismiss any child - or adult - out of hand on the basis of a name, but I think the underlying prejudice Katie Hopkins writes about is far more common than many would care to admit, and that some of those denouncing her (but not anyone posting here, of course!) might be guilty of a degree of hypocrisy... :D