by Sophie Kihm
Our newest celebrity baby names Q&A:
Author and screenwriter Gemma Burgess and her husband Fox Barry are parents to three sons—Errol Fletcher (age seven), Ned William (age five), and Arthur Noel (age five months). We recently chatted with Gemma about her naming philosophy and what it was like to name three boys.
How did you choose your children’s names?
We found Errol on Nameberry! I was trying to convince my husband to agree to Fletcher – my first choice for a son since I was a little girl, yup, after the Chevy Chase movies – and went down a Nameberry wormhole (as one does). Fletcher led to Fletcher Christian which led to Mutiny on the Bounty which led to Errol Flynn. Fletcher is his middle name, so he can use it later if he wants to.
Ned was incredibly easy, he was Ned from the moment we knew I was pregnant with another boy. I truly don’t even know where Ned came from. It was just in my head, like someone whispered it to me in my sleep.
Arthur we weren’t sure about at all, until we saw his sweet little face. And then it just fit.
At what point during your first pregnancy did you begin to think about baby names?
We started really discussing it after we found out he was a boy, I think, so in Zurich that was when I was about four months pregnant. We were still arguing five months later. We would present lists to each other and then destroy each other’s choices, and then I would bring up Fletcher again and he’d suggest something Irish no one would ever be able to spell or pronounce, and we’d call each other crazy. Ah, marriage.
How did you know you found “the name” for each of your children?
They just gave us that nice thumping-recognition feeling. Like yes, this fits. Cosy and warm and solid. If they’d come out looking like they didn’t suit the name we’d chosen, we would have reconsidered, but that didn’t happen.
What are the most important factors to you when it comes to choosing a baby name?
They have my husband’s last name – Barry. So avoiding rhymes was important. Harry Barry, for example. And alliteration is tough, too. I like Bertie, but Bertie Barry sounds like a Depression-era comic strip.
What qualities were you looking for in a name for Arthur?
I was much, much slower to start even talking about a name for Arthur – I’d had three miscarriages between Ned and Arthur, so it felt like tempting fate. For most of my pregnancy, we just called him ‘Sticky’. Because we really wanted him to stick around.
We thought about ‘Joseph‘ for each of them, as it’s another family name, but then never used it. It just never felt right.
Do you have different requirements for girl and boy names?
We like grandpa and grandma names – ie, our rule of thumb is, would someone have this name in 1919? So in any early conversations we ever had about girls, we both liked Edith or Joan or Pearl or Daisy or Rose. Names like that. But we found out the gender in advance every time, so the girl conversation never really got underway.
What do you know about baby naming now that you didn’t the first time around?
Say it a hundred times, in different accents if you have in-laws or lots of friends living in different places. Don‘t think about how it’s written – think about how it sounds. Errol is hard for some people to pronounce (seriously!). He gets Earl and Harold and Arrow. He loves his name, but I worry about that sometimes.
Do you believe in the idea of sibset naming—that your children’s names should go together—or do you consider each name an independent project?
Hmm. Good question. My sister is named Anika, and Gemma-and-Anika has a nice beat to it. Errol-and-Ned-and-Arthur is a little unwieldy in comparison. I think it’s good that our boys’ names are similar levels of obscurity – growing up, Anika and I never met anyone who had our names, and I don’t know any other Errols or Neds. I know of a couple of Arthurs, but I think Arthur has a strong sense of self, so he’ll be okay.
What names do you love but, for whatever reason, can’t use?
What are the cool names among your friends and fellow parents, and how do you fit into that style?
I think we fit right in the middle of our group – we’re not the most common, not the most traditional, not the most unusual, not the coolest. We’re like baby bear’s bed: we’re just right.