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Do you go for the ever popular Emily, Amelia, Oliver or Jack, or the celeb style North West? The debate over choosing a baby name

10 January, 2016 - 09:45
Elliot and Adelaide

Elliot and Adelaide


Ipswich dad, Elliot Furniss, proud father of baby Adelaide, looks at what is really in a name.

Adelaide's mother Sophie as a baby, in the arms of her great-grandmother, Amy Adelaide LanceAdelaide's mother Sophie as a baby, in the arms of her great-grandmother, Amy Adelaide Lance

In a year of great change, there were many decisions to make – but one that we absolutely had to get right, he writes.

So much so that we wrote long-lists, short-lists, revised the short-lists and then fine-tuned it down to an even shorter short-list.

We procrastinated, debated, argued, reconciled, talked it over and referred back to our lists (long and short).

Then after a chance discovery we scrapped the lists altogether and made a pretty straightforward decision, sticking to it without wavering for the next six months before even telling anyone about our final selection.

Adelaide FurnissAdelaide Furniss

And as it turns out I’m really happy with the name we picked for our daughter, and the feedback has been rather positive all round.

Adelaide Mary Anne Furniss was born on September 16.

But why did we chose that name – and how does anyone chose a name that will help forge their offspring’s identity from the earliest moments of their life? My wife Sophie and I picked Adelaide somewhat spontaneously, after many months (and, if I’m honest really, several years) of discussions as we’ve always known that we wanted childen.

As we cleared out the spare room in anticipation of it becoming the new nursery one day last summer, we stumbled on Sophie’s grandfather’s birth certificate.

Adelaide FurnissAdelaide Furniss

It revealed his mother’s name to be Amy Adelaide Lance – and the spark of inspiration began to burn brightly.

It just seemed right – Adelaide after her great, great, grandmother; Mary is my mother’s middle name and Sophie’s grandma’s middle name, while Anne is my mother-in-law’s middle name.

Today the name Adelaide is synonymous with the South Australia city – which neither of us have visited – and the country’s capital is so called in honour of the (apparently) much-loved queen consort of William IV, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen.

She was, according to my Wikipedia research for this article, graceful, devoted to her husband and “beloved” by the nation. A tough act to follow for my little girl, but I’m sure she’ll do her best.

The name instantly seemed to be the ideal combination of a family name, old-fashioned but not too stuffy, unusual but not ridiculous. And she suits it perfectly.

We quickly discovered that once you pick a name, if it’s got more than two syllables people then instantly want to shorten it in some way.

“So what will you actually call her then?” we were asked several times.

Would it be Ada? Adele?

None of these, thanks. We’ll be sticking with Adelaide, in full. After all, Elliot, while hardly a tongue-twister, hasn’t seen much shortening over my 35 years, although a few do call me Ell, among other things.

Unfortunately there are no such inspirational names likely to fall from our now entwined family trees for any future babies, so we’ll have to go back to the lists (long and short) and take a more regular approach to the selection process.

I certainly won’t be following in the footsteps of the Australian couple who called their daughter Lanesra – Arsenal backwards – or such celebrity offerings as North West.

And while we are all told stories about silly names and read about them in the media, more so than ever before it seems we’re becoming a nation that doesn’t stray too far from the tried and tested when it comes to picking a moniker for our little bundles of joy.

In the newly published list of the most popular baby names for girls in 2015, the top five names have stayed the same from the previous year, albeit in a different order.

2014’s number one for girls – Sophia – has dropped to just one place to two, overtaken at the top by Olivia, which had previously been in fourth placed.

Lily, Emily and Amelia again complete the top five.

Completing the top 10 are Chloe, Isabelle, Sophie, Ella and Isabella – Ava and Isla have dropped out to 11th and 12th places.

New entries in the top 100 include Martha (no doubt inspired by Bake-off contestant), Penelope (coincidentally a Kardashian offspring name), Sara, Eloise and old favourites Lauren and Nicole.

For boys the top five names – Muhammad, Oliver, Jack, Noah and Jacob – have remained the same as in 2014, in the same order, while Harry and Charlie have simply swapped seventh and sixth places respectively.

Ethan, James and Thomas complete the countdown, again simply swapping slots within the top 10 from 2014.

They’re all fine names, don’t get me wrong, and will stand the test of time well, but you only get one chance to help give your child that start at telling the world who they are and what they’re all about.

Being in the byline business, in the past decade since getting my name in print I’ve become rather pleased that my parents (well, my mum really) picked me out a (then very) unusual Christian name.

The names of my brothers – Joel and Harvey – both remain uncommon, and although Elliot was the 53rd most popular name in the UK last year, I was certainly the only one at any of the schools I went to.

My sister’s name – Chloe – is placed sixth on the most popular girls’ names list and has been a mainstay of the top 10 for a while now, but back in the early 1980s it was quite a rarity and I think we all like our names.

Our mother being a teacher, she was keen to select names for us that could not be connected with any of the many children she had taught over the years, a line of thinking that was shared by my wife, also a teacher.

I just hope that, as the first decision we made for her, she’s happy with our choice. Only time will tell.


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