When I was born, the midwife handed me to my parents – their first born – and said, “It’s a girl! What are you going to call her?”
“Counceletta,” they replied.
“What?!”, exclaimed the midwife. “You can’t call a child that! I am not giving you your baby until you change your mind.”
This is the tale I have grown up being told and eventually begun to relate myself.
I am sure she was joking. But they did change their minds and I am not called Counceletta.
Only, they did still give me an unusual name.
Whenever I am introduced to people, have to give my name, or hand over identification documents, it is almost always commented on.
I have never had to follow up my name with an initial or precede it with an adjective to distinguish me from the others.
At junior school I was a little bit resentful of my name. I don’t remember ever really wanting to be called something else. But I sometimes wished it didn’t invite so much attention, unfortunate rhyming attempts and, well, name-calling.
But by the time I was 11 I had learned to fully embrace my name. Although I mostly chose to shorten it, I was no longer embarrassed of it, in any of its forms.
I even went as far as to tell my parents that I had decided our surname was incredibly dull and that the moment I turned 18 I fully intended to change mine to ‘Rainbow’.
I honestly was not as obnoxious a child as that might make me sound. But I hope it serves to illustrate that I was no wallflower.
I was not the star of the school plays, the head girl, the queen bee of the cool kids or the class hotty. But I am relatively confident and outgoing, and I believe I owe part of that to my name.
I suppose it is something I feel I have to live up to.
And so when it came to choosing a name for my daughter, it was important that I pass that challenge on to her.
By contrast, her father hates his name. He thinks it is boring and overused and has bad associations.
It is a name often given to the ‘regular guy’ in TV adverts, and always pops up in reality shows.
So it was really important for him that we give our child a name that was unique and interesting.
At the same time, we did not want to brand our daughter for life with a name that says, “My parents are pretentious bores and I will pay the price for their attempt to be ‘quirky’ for the rest of my life.”
It is an extremely tightly-run gauntlet between picking a name that makes you stand out from the crowd, yet still holds gravitas.
We chose a traditional Edwardian name that has fallen out of fashion, which we think is pretty, elegant, and just unusual enough to be character-building.
It was to our horror that we realised Edwardian girls’ names are having a revival, and so our attempt to be different could easily have backfired. But we have been relieved to see that our daughter’s name has been absent from every Top 100 Baby Names list so far. And she has two middle names as back up…
I am not trying to do down the Williams and Kates of this world. Nor the Olivers and Olivias – as the Top Baby Names of 2016 turned out to be.
They have all got just as much chance of turning out to be brilliant and changing the world if they want to, and some of them will.
But having worked hard to be more than just an unusual name, I believe I am giving my daughter a good start in life.
And if she is a wallflower… she will still smell just as sweet.