June 21, 2009
On top of the name game
By Teo Cheng Wee
It takes nine months to make a baby but if that process includes coming up with a name, it'll probably take nine years.
The awful truth struck when the topic came up during a recent dinner after a friend broke the good news that a baby boy is on the way.
Naturally, one of us asked if she had thought of a name.
She told us her husband likes Shane because it was a name he had always used in school compositions and it brought back nice memories.
She, on the other hand, thinks Shane sounds like a playboy.
She likes Aiden because it sounds nice. But neither of them are too hot on the name's meaning, which is 'fire' in Celtic.
In other words, no result after a few months of grappling. I'm amazed couples are able to settle on any name at all.
This got me thinking because I have occasionally thought of what I would name my child - I don't know why, I just do, even though I'm nowhere close to having one.
But whenever the idea pops into my head, I go through the same sequence as when I ponder the meaning of life: I think, my brain gets overwhelmed, I fall asleep.
If this is really going to take nine years, I figured I'd better get started.
Since there are so many things one needs to consider when thinking of a name, I thought it'd be a good idea to consult my friends, to find out what they went through before deciding on a name for their child.
Here's what they told me.
Tip No. 1: No names of irritating or obnoxious people that you know since those will trigger bad memories.
Cross out even good friends that you don't want to see your child turn into because they are party animals/playboys/slackers.
That makes a lot of sense, I said, as I mentally stored this advice.
Tip No. 2: However tempting, do not ever, ever give them a famous name. No kid will be able to live down being called Ronaldo Tan.
One friend was tempted to toy around with her husband's surname Kan, and came up with names like Oliver and Imran, but thankfully she changed her mind.
Tip No. 3: It also cannot be unpronounceable. Although I must say, how pronounceable a name is, is quite debatable.
Even having a famous TV character's name doesn't help. That much I learnt after someone once called my office looking for my colleague Fobo (her name is Phoebe).
Tip No. 4: No embarrassing names. This sounds obvious but is, in fact, very tricky.
It's easy enough when a name is just asking for trouble (Dick, Fanny) but, if you're as creative as some parents-to-be are, there is so much potential for abuse.
The wife of one friend actually rejected Zachary because it could potentially turn into 'jiak curry' (Hokkien for 'eat curry').
I'm afraid that my inferior linguistic abilities here are going to haunt me forever. ('My classmates ask me to eat curry every day. It's all your fault.')
My friend and his wife eventually settled for Kayla, which they think, at worse, will degenerate into 'Okay lah' - another possibility I would never have thought of.
Tip No. 5: Pick an old-fashioned English name.
My aunt used to say that one should never name a boy John, Michael or Peter, because everyone was called John, Michael or Peter.
Then again, she made that comment in the early 1980s.
These days, you'll be hard pressed to find a John, Michael or Peter.
Everyone must be Jason or Brendan. Or worse, some grotesque combination that looks like it came from squashing the two names together, like Brenson or Jaydan.
'No need to make them Lebron or whatever. They can be outstanding characters in their own right, without the help of outlandish names,' said a friend of mine.
But as I was compiling all this - and getting mildly sleepy again - it struck me that I should think closer to home as well. What did my parents do when they were coming up with my name?
That brings me to the most enlightening tip of them all.
Tip No. 6: Save your trouble. You don't really need an English name.