I know I have been quiet for a few days. I am preparing myself for #Blogmas when I shall once again, be blogging every day. December is going to be a very busy month. I have quite a few events happening and of course, I must not forget my daughter’s very important date of the fifth of December which will be her twelfth birthday. At this time of year, I always feel quite nostalgic about the time when I had my daughter. I had a lot of complications in my pregnancy and as a result of this, it was incredibly difficult to get through each day. The plan was to try and get me to 35 weeks of pregnancy. In the end I was proud of myself for making it. But when ‘I’m a Celebrity- Get Me Out Of Here’ returns it reminds me of those last few, tortuous weeks. That’s probably why every year when the programme starts, I celebate with a glass of Bailey’s.
This week in the news, I heard a very disturbing story about parents who were found guilty of being members of a banned Neo-Nazi group, who had named their baby after Adolf Hitler. I do not wish to give this couple anymore publicity, however, it made me think about names and their importance and the names we give our children.
I like my name. It is timeless and I have never felt embarrassed by it. My parents called me Elisabeth with an ‘s’ and Jayne with a ‘y’ – well this was the end of the Sixties! Apparently, I was named after Queen Elizabeth the First, who my Dad greatly admired. My Mother had chosen my elder brother’s name and so it fell to my Dad to choose mine. However, my Mother hated the name ‘Liz’ and she demanded that I be called Elisabeth with an ‘s’ to prevent people from calling me ‘Liz’. I can clearly remember being young and some of my school friends attempting to call me ‘Liz’. ‘Her name is Elisabeth.’ My mother would shout back. So it was drummed into me that being called ‘Liz’ was wrong. To this day, I can not stand it if I introduce myself to someone as ‘Elisabeth’ and they then call me ‘Liz’. It is like a conditioned reflex.
Having the ‘s’ in my name always caused problems when I was younger. I could never buy any ready-made personalised items as the spelling was always incorrect. It still annoys me now if I see my name with a ‘z’. It was a welcome relief when I lived in France for a time as everyone spelt my name correctly. I also went a bit mad for personalised items because finally I could find items spelt with an ‘s’.
When I was little, I was occasionally called ‘Lillibets’ as my brother could not pronounce my name. There was a brief time when I was at school and I was nicknamed Betty. This came about because of a nasty trick we played on our ageing Latin teacher. I went to an all-girls academic school and we would often do some quite awful things to teachers simply to amuse ourselves and because we were frequently bored. Our Latin teacher, Mrs Kerr, seemed to be so old that we thought she had been around during the Roman Empire. We used to have to take part in a drama competition every year and for this we were allowed to raid the school’s costume cupboard. In it we found a brown curly wig which was not unlike the hair Mrs Kerr had. One day I put it on during a lesson and we pretended that I was a new girl named Betty. Mrs Kerr’s eyesight was either so bad or she simply was so weary after teaching naughty schoolgirls for so long, that she failed to recognise me. With that the nickname ‘Betty’ stuck and I was known by this name until I left school.
For most of my life I have been known as Elisabeth but when I met my husband he started to call me Lizzy – but spelt ‘Lissie’. I quite like this name. No one else calls me this and it is more a term of endearment than anything else. Similarly when my husband met my children, I felt very strongly that I didn’t want them to call him ‘Dad’ as they already had their own Dad but they decided to call him the name ‘Jonny’ as a term of endearment and it is a name that they uniquely use. I very rarely call my dad ‘Dad’. We have our own special name for him – JD. This came about in the Seventies, when the American television show,’Dallas’ was popular. One year there was a huge campaign about ‘Who shot JR?’. JR Ewing was a powerful oil magnate in Texas. I can remember saying to my dad, ‘You are not JR. You’re JD’ as those were his initials. The name stuck and even now my children call him ‘Grandad JD’ But woe-betide anyone who is not family who calls him this name.
When it came to naming my children, I wanted them both to have timeless names that would be suitable for when they became adults. We spend most of our lives as adults so I never understand why people name their children with names that are more child-like than adult. When I was pregnant with my son, I could not decide upon a name. I had an idea to call him George or Alexander or James. Yet when he was born and I looked at him, he just looked like a William and so that was what he was named. Now he abbreviates his name to ‘Will’ and all the staff at his school and his friends call him this. But to me, he will always be William.
My daughter’s grandfather is Italian and it is tradition in Italy for a girl to be named after her father’s mother. There was no way I was going to do this as her grandma’s name was hideous. Her name had to be both English and Italian. So I chose the name Sofia. However, I would have loved to have called her ‘Tallulah’ because I was producing a school production of Bugsy Malone at the time and I still believe that name suits her more. When she was born, she had to be placed in intensive care in hospital. I remember being there when the consultants and nurses came round to check on her. She was only hours old and I found it strange that they referred to her as Sofia. It seemed bizarre that something that had been a bump mere hours before, had developed into ‘Sofia’. My mother-in-law at the time asked me what had led to the decision to call her ‘Sofia’. ‘Well, it’s a name that suits a lawyer as well as a stripper.’ I said to her utter shock. But what I was trying to explain was that it was a child’s and a woman’s name.
As a teacher, it is hard when naming your children as you always associate names with particular children and their behaviour. For example; I have come across quite a few Harveys who always seem to be quite over-exuberant. Similarly, my experience of girls named Hannah, is that they are always really good and helpful. As I lost my brother a few years ago and his name was Sean, I always have a fondness for men called this. I can’t help it.
Different eras have their own fashions and trends regarding names. For example how many girls these days do you meet called Mavis or Eunice? Yet these names were very popular in my Grandma’s generation. The seventies brought in names such as Craig and Wayne that you rarely hear these days. In the eighties we had Kylie and nowadays we are seeing a return to many names of the past including Maud, Ivy, Primrose, Alfie and Frankie. There are also names that have unusual spellings such as Jaxon but I am not a fan.
I will leave you now with an amusing anecdote regarding names. I once encountered a girl who had come up with her own unique manner of naming her children. This was when I was pregnant with my son and I was in Worksop hospital maternity department. At thirty-one I was considered a ‘geriatric Mother’. A young girl of eighteen came in who was expecting her fourth child. Her partner was named Kevin. Every one of her four children had been given a derivative of the name Kevin. She had Kevina, Kevinora, Kevy – you get the gist. I wonder if she ever had more children and decided to do something completely different? But more importantly, those children would be adults now, I wonder how they felt about their names?