The name given to our children is a legacy which is carried forward to the next generation.
We are given names at birth which usually stay with us for a lifetime.
They may only change when we marry or choose different names by a legal arrangement such as a Deed Poll or part of a government protection programme.
Names are important for identity, identification and registration.
We spend a lifetime filling out forms and telling people who we are.
The most important documents we will have with our names recorded on it are Passport, Driving Licence, National Identity Card, Medical Card, Property Ownership document, Bank statement or Insurance Policy.
For simplicity, we should at least have a first name and a last name and to avoid confusion, they should not be too similar or exactly the same.
I have, however, met people in my life who were called Adam Adams and David David.
Long names are nearly always shortened. Take Alexander/Alexandra for example. Al or Alex are common abbreviations of that name.
The family name is considered very important and that is usually the last name in western countries.
The family or last name follows the head of the family who is normally the man as a matter of rule rather than law. A new wife will usually (but not always) take the surname of her husband on marriage.
In Spain, the wife quite possibly may have three family names, adding her husbands surname to that of her Mother and Father.
First names are often called Christian names and Family names called Surnames.
It is quite common for a child to be given two or even three Christian names.
Let us look at someone called ‘Christopher Edward Roy Hudson’.
Christopher is a popular name of the time. Edward is the name of the Mother’s Father. Roy is the name of the childs paternal Grandfather.
If I am not mistaken, George Foreman, the famous American heavyweight boxing champion, has many sons and they are all called George.
Lewis Hamilton is the world motor racing champion. He was born in 1985 and was named after the American athlete Carl Lewis who won gold medals at the Olympic Games a year before.
It has not been unheard of that a fanatic has named his child after the entire first team players of his favourite football club.
That would take some remembering when it came the time for that child to take his or her marriage vows!
But why do we choose the names we do?
Names go in and out of fashion and vogue like the wind.
It is a good idea to keep names as simple as possible.
If the names are too long, they may not fit onto any registration forms.
If they are too long or difficult to pronounce, the child may expend more effort than he or she should to spell it to whoever is asking and that can be very tiring over time.
Yes, we name our children after famous sporting or musical superstars or follow a trend when a royal baby is born.
So parents adopt a way of thinking that a set of first and last names are just for officialdom while a nickname serves an everyday purpose and the child is comfortable with being called that nickname.
We cannot think it correct that a child should ever be called ‘Pumpkin’ or ‘Sprog’ but ‘Angel’ is commonly used and Bob Geldof, the Irish musician, I recall, called one of his children ‘Peaches’.
There is often a conflict for people from a different culture such as in south east asia and the islamic world whether to call their children with traditional handed-down names or a name from the west – or a mix of both.
Nowadays, teachers in Indonesia will meet children who are named Mohammed Kevin or Mohammed Justin, as weird as it may sound.
The only logical reasons for this put forward is that it becomes easier for the teacher in the classroom to connect with the child while later in life it may make it potentially more smoother for travelling to western countries.
We adopt a lot of nicknames for fun and sometimes they ‘stick’.
Donald Duck, Peter Parker, Peter Piper, Peter Pan, Simple Simon, Charlie Chaplin, Roger Rabbit, Willy Wonker and Betty Boo are tautogrammatical examples of this but there are many many more.
(Remember a tautogram are two words which begin with the same letter)
Ultimately, a lot of factors influence the choice of the name of a child. Religion, location, family connections and legacy, simplicity, originality.
The name-game goes on.