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So what’s in a name? You’d be surprised

As some children with unusual names are being rejected by would-be adopters, Jane Hardy asks local parents if they’ve concerns about their interesting choices.

Well, what’s in a name? Does it matter if you’ve got an exotic moniker as opposed to something traditional like Catherine or John. It certainly does if you’re a child up for adoption in certain parts of Great Britain as it’s reported that children with unusual Christian names like Chrystal and Chardonnay are being rejected by would-be parents.

And looking at the Top 10 babies’ Christian names in Northern Ireland, it’s clear tradition rules here too, although while Katie and Jack came top in a recent Northern Irish popular names round-up, there were some Rhiannas, the occasional Miley and at least one Maggie May.

But can whatever your mum and dad put down on your birth certificate really influence your fate? The jury is out, although when celeb offspring reject their wacky names, it suggests it can.

The Geldof girls — Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches and Pixie — seem happy to remain media babes and Peaches’ new son, Astala Dylan Willow Cohen-Geldof is carrying on the tradition. It’s a reasonable guess that Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and Harper Seven Beckham will keep their Beckham brand names, although David Bowie’s son Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones morphed into straightforward film director Duncan Jones. George Harrison’s son Rhani appears happy to share his dad’s interest in Eastern philosophy (and hippie names), while Paul McCartney’s kids were just given ordinary Christian names.

My nephew is oh so English Henry and his daughters are Coco (as in Chanel) and Juno (as in the goddess). One colleague said the girls would probably end up in PR. Even if they are civil servants, you’ll remember their names.

Cathy Martin (38) is director of Belfast FashionWeek and Cathy Martin PR. She lives with her husband Julian Jourdan, their 17-week-old daughter, Valentina, and stepchildren Sasha (17), Lisa (13) and Johnny (11). She says:

“I used to live in Italy for a couple of years in the mid-90s and spent time in Milan and Rome. While I was there, I knew a girl called Valentina, and although I haven’t kept in touch, I really liked the name. And other people do too, New Look were so keen on it, they named a dress after her.

Valentina doesn’t have a middle name, so that’s it. If we’d had a boy, he would have been called Leo, also slightly unusual but it’s after my dad. We also toyed with Coco and Savanna. I remember when I was young I always wanted to be Jennifer because of Jennifer Hart in Hart to Hart. Stefanie Powers was so glamorous. And one of my best friends was Jennifer, so it depends on who you know.

My stepkids go to Methodist College in Belfast and there’s a Summer and a Savanna there, unusual names but in a way that’s normal.

My husband Julian and I do like unusual names but my baby daughter who died was called Rosie, which is really normal.

The story about Chardonnays and Chrystals not being adopted could, perhaps, be to do with the fact that these Christian names emerged from popular culture and TV so they won’t suit people who don’t like that culture. I suppose if the child to be adopted was a baby they could change the name.”

Joan Burney Keatings (37), CEO of Cinemagic, is married to Jonathan (36) and they live in Moira with their daughters, Zara (3) and Savanna (4 months). She says:

“I went through every baby name in the book, but I’m quite a spiritual person and wanted something significant with both girls’ names.

Zara means princess and Savanna means the open plains, so God’s will can operate. If I’m honest, I’m not keen on the unisex names and prefer a wee girl’s name to be girly, a boy’s name to be masculine.

Although I think it’s good to have an unusual name, I love being Joan. Zara’s second name is Kate, after a lady called Kathleen who lived near us that we called Nanny Finnegan and who was special. Savanna’s middle name is Joan, unsurprisingly.

Although I work in film, I wouldn’t have chosen film names. I think it’s really sad these parents are rejecting certain Christian names. Having a child is a gift and it’s unfair if you choose them because of a name. It’s about the person and what they’ll grow into.”

Pete Snodden (31) presents the Breakfast Show on Cool FM and is married to Julia (31), they live with their daughter Ivana (14 months) in Belfast. He says:

“Our daughter Ivana is Ivana Shannon and her second name is after her maternal grandmother’s maiden name. She was Annie Shannon. It sounds Irish but that was unintentional.

We consulted a baby names book for inspiration and finished up with a list of 10 names for a girl, two for a boy, so she obviously had to be a girl. My wife had a pretty rough time during the birth and afterwards when the baby was born, we discovered that Ivana means ‘God is gracious’, which was appropriate.

We haven’t had any ‘hmmm’ reactions, the majority of people love it although I suppose we get a lot of questions about how it’s spelt. Some people think it should be Evanna, but we chose it, it’s Italian, and that’s how it should be spelt. People have also mentioned that the other person with the name is Ivana Trump but no, no, no it wasn’t anything to do with her.

In terms of having a one-off name, it’s probably an advantage. Julia said she was the only one in her class and liked it. All my friends were Andrews and Jonathans, and I’m Peter, so we were fairly conventional. There is a generation now of American names, the Dylans and the Zacs, after the High School Musical star. But if you’re named after somebody like Rory McIlroy and you grow up admiring his achievements and feeling proud, that’s a pretty cool thing.

Recently we had an 11-year-old — Ivana — on the show and I said: ‘Nice name’. In my personal view, it’s sad that adoptive parents aren’t selecting the Chardonnays. We don’t choose to come into this world or what we’re called, and it should be all about potential, not the name.”

Ashleigh Devlin (22) lives with her partner Arran McManus and daughter Autumn Skye (1) in Carryduff. She says:

“She’s not an autumn baby as she was born on April 21 but my partner and I both love A names — my family call us the A team! — and we wanted a name that began with A. I really liked the name Autumn, as in the season, and her middle name is Skye. My boyfriend Arran is English, so he knew, but I wasn’t aware when we chose it, that there’s an Autumn in the Royal Family. Princess Ann’s first granddaughter has the same name, and funnily enough, my daughter shares the Queen’s birthday, so there’s something going on.

I’d have preferred a more unusual name for myself and wanted to spell my name Ashlee like in the Simpsons. But I didn’t change it, as it was my mum’s choice.

I think our daughter does look like an Autumn as she has quite dark hair. I think an unusual name is good and people will remember your name.”

Gillian Killen (50), a life coach, lives with her husband and children Andrew (29), Adam (27) and Tory-Anna (15) in Newtownards. She says:

“I always wanted a name that was different, that nobody else had. Andrew and Adam had two fairly straightforward boys’ names, which people sometimes shortened, so I decided on Victoria Anna Sophie.

Originally she was going to be Sophie Anna, but I switched it at the eleventh hour. She’s Victoria-Anna, Tory-Anna. And my husband Ian reacted like a typical male with disinterest.

My mother said it was ridiculous and she wouldn’t be calling her by that name. She was quite judgmental but 15 years on, she’s now quite happy with it.

Tory’s diabetic and if they call her Victoria in hospital, she just doesn’t respond. My daughter says she likes having an individual name that no one else has, and there’s a family tradition now as my son Andrew has called his daughters Lily-anna and Katy-Rose. And my inner name? Venus, after all, we all have a goddess inside.”

Lisa Haycock (34) is an office manager and she lives with her daughter Eden (9) in Belfast. She says:

“Eden is a lovely name and it’s easy to spell. It conjures up nice images but it’s a good thing she’s pretty as it wouldn’t have worked otherwise.

We had lots of different names but I always wanted it to be Molly if it was a girl, Ted for a boy. When she came, and we had been convinced we were having a boy, I said she just doesn’t look like a Molly. I don’t know where it came from, it was obviously in the recesses of my mind.

When people say ‘Eden?’ I go ‘Like the garden...’ and I’ve noticed my mother’s started copying

me and always drops her name into the conversation. The name suits her as she’s a tall, slender child. Most people react saying ‘lovely name’, but my grandmother couldn’t get her head round her name at all, it was a generational thing.

Naming a baby is a massive responsibility, as I tell my pregnant friends. You’re labelling somebody and to call a child Chardonnay would be cruel, although it’s not the worst. I’ve known a child called Wednesday and I’ve heard a woman calling for a child named Ocean. You might just get away with it in a posh area, but some names just don’t lend themselves to a Belfast accent. Eden sometimes says she’d like to change her name to ‘something unusual’ but I know she likes the fact there isn’t another Eden in the class.

Karen Ireland (40) is a PR executive who lives with husband Tom Knox (42) and three sons, Jesse (12), Korey (10) and Teo (8) in Dromore. She says:

“I wanted unusual names for the boys as I was a Karen and I hated it. My next door neighbour was a Karen and I was one of many Karens at school. My middle name was Sarah and I much preferred it, and I always said when I had kids, I didn’t want them to be one of a crowd. Whether they’ll thank me is another matter.

Jesse came from the bible, refers to the son of David and means gift from God. In fact, Jesse loves his name and he kind of looks like a Jesse. He took so long to arrive, I read a book in hospital with the name Jesse in it. And after three days, he felt like a precious gift. Also, my husband liked it.

After a miscarriage, we had Korey, and this time I let Tom choose. He was into ice hockey and one of the Belfast Giants was Kory Karlander. I liked it and it stuck. His second name is William, after my dad and Tom’s dad. He likes being Korey and although there are a few Corys with a C, there aren’t many with a K.

Teo is Vietnamese for Tom and is based on his dad’s name which means ‘A gift and blessing’. He was supposed to be a girl called Mia and after the birth, he was really ill.

I couldn’t bear the thought of him being in Lagan Valley special care unit without a name, so we looked at an old book lying around and looked up Theo, which I liked, and Tom, then found Teo. We looked at each other and chose it.

But in hospital, they didn’t get it and put Ted on his wee cot. Names do affect you and in my working life I’ve stuck to Ireland as it’s different, rather than Knox. My children will definitely be individual.”

Carrie Neely (36) is an arts consultant and lives with her husband Rob Grundy and their daughter Nainsi (9 months) and her sons Jaxon (4) and Marley (3) in Belfast. She says:

“Marley was definitely named after Bob Marley — we were hoping he’d be chilled as Jaxon was hard work. He was a chilled out baby but isn’t such a chilled out three-year-old.

At the time I had my sons, I was living in London, but gave birth in Belfast. The two boys are mixed race and the names suited them. In terms of comments, with Jaxon, you had the odd ‘Wacko Jacko’ type remark. The spelling makes it a bit different, edgier, and was very last minute. With Nainsi, a name I stole from a friend, my husband Rob, who’s English, wanted a Celtic name, so the spelling is the Irish version of Nancy.

My own name is relatively unusual, and I also have brothers and sisters with uncommon names, like my older brother Darragh and little brother Kristin. My mum’s family all had Irish Catholic names but my dad’s sister is Jhonny, although her mother’s name was Myrtle.

In terms of names and destiny, mine has helped me and people remember unusual names. The idea that adoptive parents would reject a child because of a name is horrific and prejudiced.”

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