In which a child by any other name would smell as posh


Printed 18/11/10.
 
Ok, respect to Ed Miliband for calling his baby something normal. To have resisted the urge to christen his second child Le Creuset, Agamemnon or Thor is a feat we should all applaud, I suppose. But honestly, wasn't it the outcome we all expected - Ed using his Family Man Moment to be as un-Cameronish as possible. And basically the only more Joe-Public name than Sam is Dave, understandably vetoed despite hilarity value, he's basically dished up predictable move no.1.

As a Samuel, he joins noble but unglamorous ranks. Dr Samuel Johnson, famous lexicographer. Samuel Pepys, diarist and wig-sporter. Samuel Smith, of the excellent pub chain. One of my ex-boyfriends. I could go on (just).

Plus, you have to wonder. For decades we've reproached parents for giving their children fantastical names under the assumption that the kids will stand out from their classmates, and subsequently be bullied. In my own youth, certainly, this was true. When everyone on the entire register was called Emma, Gemma, Lee and Luke, a Gerronimo or Bodicea would have been prime fodder for a hockey cupboard 'incident'. My own parents' naming decisions were doubly difficult, give that our comedy surname was already going to earn us a monthly kicking. If they'd slipped up and called one of my brothers Johnny, I believe he may have had to be home-schooled. 

But are we really in the same position now? As far as I can tell, one of the greatest human rights advancements of the 21st century has been that we can now title our offspring with reference to the Geldof Dictionary of Modern Ridiculousness, and nobody is allowed to judge. Nowadays people name their kids the way they used to paint their own mugs, as an expression of how creative and interesting they are. Of course, over time mugs will become chipped and tea-stained and eventually be replaced, whereas children will grow up and sue you - but that's by the by.

What's more, while a sturdy, salt-of-the-earth name might serve you well in a sturdy, salt-of-the-earth town, let's remember that baby Miliband is going to grow up in North London. Which is more flimsy, salt-of-the-Waitrose-premium-range. As a resident for the last four years, I'll tell you now - you can't do a morning Starbucks run without falling over a million infants called Tarquin, Simba or Chive. So I can't help but worry that actually, little baby Samuel risks standing out among his friends and being bullied on merit of having a name that doesn't sound like a crockery design in The Conran Shop.

It doesn't have enough vintage panache to count as one of the Victoriana crew - the Arthurs and Ediths and Winstons and what-have-you - but nor is it enigmatically 'foreign', or one of those names invented by jamming together bits of other names – Jashella or Kennethiqua or something. He might try to seek refuge amid the Biblical kids, but frankly, a Samuel is never going to be able to hold his own against a load of Silases and Tituses and Delilahs.

So I wish you well, baby Miliband. May your everyman moniker simultaneously anchor you to the ground and propel you to the stars. But if you want to change your name to Schubert Soya IV, it's ok. We understand.