Nominative determinism and naming your princess

When Prince Frederik of Denmark told his folks he was dating an Aussie chick he picked up at a Sydney bar during the Olympics, did Queen Margrethe and Prince Henrik exchange horrified glances at the thought of a Princess Shazza joining the family? And how relieved they must have been that their future daughter-in-law’s parents had chosen the understated but elegant Mary instead of Mherryse. Likewise, I wonder would Kate Middleton, soon to be Princess Catherine of Wales, have made the grade from ‘commoner’ (I really dislike that term!) to royal bride had her parents gone for something like, say, Khy-lee, instead of opting for safe, traditional, conservative and, well, royal. After all, Henry VIII married no fewer than three Catherines, and Catherine the Great was the second Russian Empress to have that name.

The wonderful satirical site, Things Bogans Like, has a special section reserved for the sorts of names bogans like to give to their newborns. It’s a bit of a stretch, but basically, any name that is deliberately misspelt or contains an inordinate and usually redundant number of the letters h, j or k, or where i substitutes for y seems to qualify.

Nominative determinism? Sure, Dhakotah, Jorjah or FeeBee may seem like a fun and unique choice (noice, different, un-ewes-ual) at the time, but how is that name going to look with a title in front of it and no surname necessary or on a brass name plate?

The theory applies likewise for boys. Jhett, Jax’n, Jaydin or Jayke might have great futures as FM radio jocks or AFL players, but as justices of the High Court or bona fide princes? Not so much.

I taught in high schools for quite a while before moving into the university system. I’ve seen names of all sorts and all spellings. To my knowledge no one I have taught has made a career out of marrying someone royal (I wonder is this a failing or a success on my part?) but I can tell you that some names are better suited for career success than others. Is it nominative determinism or just that kids who get saddled with names off the Things Bogans Like list come from families where career success, as defined by the admittedly (but unashamedly) narrow criteria of tertiary education and entry to a profession, isn’t necessarily a high priority.

My tips for naming children if you want them to succeed in a profession (or marry royalty):

1. Avoid naming a child after a place unless you have a personal or family connection with that place (and then, please, PLEASE spell it correctly). This means, unless you come from the American Midwest, Dakota should not be an option. Also bear in mind that the state is named for the original custodians of the land, and adding extra letters to make it Dhakota is ignorant and tacky.

2. Along the same line, unless you have Native American heritage, avoid also Cheyenne, Sioux, Cree, Hopi or Navajo

3. Do not name children after consumer items, brands or products. Prada, Xerox, Armani, Linux, Lexus: they are things. If you want to celebrate consumerism, buy something, don’t slap a brand name on your kid.

4. Please spell traditional names traditionally. Yes, I know, dreadfully old-fashioned and boring of me, but this is a plea on behalf of every teacher who has ever written down ‘James’, only to be corrected, ‘No, it’s J-A-Y-M-Z-E’. Traditional names are called traditional for a reason – they are spelt that way.

5. Bear in mind the origins of names that might sound unique and clever (noice, different, un-ewes-ual) might not be what you intend. If you do choose the name Mercedes are you naming your child after a car or honouring the Spanish Catholic ‘mercy’, from which the word comes? Are you choosing Memphis because you’re an Egyptologist or a fan of American jazz and blues? Neither? Refer to point 1.

6. Want to name the kid after one of those cool-sounding books of the Old Testament? Read it first. Leviticus might not be such a good choice after all. And Deuteronomy is a cat.


About Coffee with Ruby

Ruby is a writer, lecturer and thinker who blogs mostly on politics, environment and social philosophy. She has been at the coalface of the political process, but is now strictly an observer. Join Ruby for coffee and musings over whatever is going on at the time ...
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