Category: Anglo-American baby names
I love my job. Each September, I joyfully copy my second graders’ appellations onto name tags and into grade books – and then stand back to admire them. As I do so, I am often struck by the differences between parents’ choices here and in my own country. For their first homework assignment, I always ask my students to find out more about why their parents chose their name, and then to share this information with the class. As a name fanatic, I can’t help but devour these “name stories” and amaze at the naming differences on this side of the pond.
Move to a different country, you’ll encounter the unfamiliar – new culture, customs, food, weather and attitudes. I was prepared for that when I left America to live in Britain. Even the language –notionally the same in both nations – had its variants: biccy for cookie, jumper for sweater, lift for elevator and the English tendency to jam a silent ‘u’ into the middle of perfectly ordinary words. All of this was to be expected. The one difference I hadn’t anticipated, and that took me by surprise, was in the way British name their children, and the coded meaning of those names.
For obvious reasons, baby names are still THE topic of the day in Britain, following the much anticipated birth and naming announcements of Baby Cambridge. To everyone’s surprise, the string of names was shortened from four to three, beginning with the consistent front-runner George, followed by the somewhat less expected Alexander and Louis.
But despite the diminished thickness of the royal baby’s name sandwich, the whole package will be distilled down to a single nickname. This nickname will be very affectionate. It may also be a little goofy, because that is what the upper classes do in Britain: they give a child a long line of important, reverent names, dripping with heritage, and then reduce them to one irreverent tag.