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How To Name Children*

15/12/2015 5:27 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Some parents get so stressed about finding a name for their newborn they end up calling each other names.

During the prenatal marathon of ultrasounds, blood tests and check-ups, medical peeps call the baby "Baby", which certainly keeps things simple. "How is Baby doing?" they ask. "Oh, beaut thanks. But 'Parent' is having a cow of a time thinking up a more permanent name."

Before my traumatic turn came around, I thought choosing a name would be the fun part of parenting, apart from the construction phase. Although 'trying for a baby' is different from brazen bonking -- there's a job to be done and your performance is judged periodically by whether that second line appears on the pregnancy test. (A friend of mine once remarked that the two lines look a little like prison bars. He has three kids. A life sentence. We only have two, although I woke up at 3 am with cramp the other morning and I'm confident the neighbours thought we were trying for number three.)

Anyway, this column concerns naming them rather than making them, which can be much more challenging.

I'd scoffed at friends who'd taken weeks after the birth of their baby to settle on a signifier. A mate of mine's daughter was called TBC for over a month.

Other parents, the lucky ones, know their child's name before it's even been conceived and stick to it once He or She arrives to fill their hearts and empty their wallets.

I thought I was one of them.

But marrying an Italian made an already tough process more tricky because we needed to factor in how the name would sound when mispronounced. During my five years in Italy I was called Crris, Crristian and Crrisi. I was only called Chris when talking to myself, a sure sign that the problem drove me mad.

Until experienced first-hand it's impossible to know how unnerving it is to have your name reliably minced, even if it is just a letter here and there. I once heard my Ukrainian mother, Taisa, grow so tired of people's botched attempts to pronounce her name that she declared: "Oh f**k it, call me Nancy!" This wouldn't have alarmed me if she wasn't talking to Dad.

My wife was under enormous pressure to produce a boy. Italians are obsessed with male heirs. To wish someone well in Italy, regardless of whether they're pregnant or not, you say: auguri e figli maschi -- all the best and may you have male children. A 'friend' even dropped by to tell us the best sexual positions to conceive a boy. But I'll spare you his stab in the dark theories, if you'll pardon the expression.

We didn't know if it was a boy or not. All we knew was it would need a name other than "Baby". And so the search began...

There are many methods of choosing a title for your tiny tot, and we tried most of them. The first thing to do is thank your lucky stars that you're not a celebrity and expected to come up with something über-original and finger-clicking cool. Thankfully, we're run-of-the-mill. Our only Apple is in the fruit bowl.

If, to your good fortune, you are not a celebrity and your baby is just a regular Tom, Dick or Harry... Well, already you've narrowed it down to three.

You could name your baby after where it was conceived -- Siena, Paris, Holiday Inn Wyong. Or you could name Bubs after a place you remember fondly. West Indian cricketer Brian Lara named his daughter Sydney after the city where he scored his first century, though I doubt he would have employed the same system had he scored those runs at the WACA.

Less famous than Lara, if more patriotic, a cricket-fanatic friend of my brother's called his son Max Chase Gibbs, so that his initials are MCG.

To immortalise someone special, sentimental parents often name their offspring after a grandparent or relative, though this can be a family feud in the making. Fortunately for us, my father's name is Neville. He begged us not to use it.

With a wise eye on the schoolyard, as important as finding the right name for your child is finding its abbreviation and relationship with your surname. Many fabulous names, when shortened, can turn foul. We're all on first-name terms with those (hopefully) mythical men: Richard Rash and Michael Hunt.

Baby naming websites are useful, both with those searching for inspiration and those checking how popular their chosen name is. They are also good for trends. In its top 20 list of baby names in the US for 2015, BabyCenter said that naming children after Instagram filters is becoming trendy. It also announced that celestial names are very much in fashion, with Venus up 68 percent and Jupiter up 50 percent. Not surprisingly, Uranus is lagging behind.

After eight-and-a-half months, our list of names was growing as steadily as my wife's tummy. In fact, almost the only name that hadn't graced that list at some point was the one we ended up choosing.

A breakthrough came when we agreed we wanted an Italian name because of the beauty of the language: Joe Green in English is Giuseppe Verdi in Italian. And Bob Matthews is Roberto Di Matteo. Who would you rather be?

Close to becoming those indecisive friends at whom we'd scoffed, I woke from sleep one night (not with cramp this time) and declared: "Hey, I've got it -- Francesco!" It ticked all our boxes. Indeed the only thing we couldn't agree on is what he'll cop at school -- Frank, Franco, Frankie or Fraz.

So, despite the midwife at the hospital trying to talk me out of it, in the end we called him Francesco so that one day we'd find out.

*Certain names have been changed. Took me ages to think of suitable alternatives.

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