Every time a celebrity gives their child an unusual name, people have opinions.
When a famous family like the Kardashian-Wests (with North, Chicago and Saint), the Olivers (with Poppy Honey Rosie, Daisy Boo Pamela, Petal Blossom Rainbow, Buddy Bear Maurice and River Rocket Blue Dallas) the Beckhams (Brooklyn, Romeo, Cruz and Harper) or the Jolie-Pitts (Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne) add to their brood, there’s a bit of head-shaking.
“Bear Payne?” people mutter, looking at pictures of Liam Payne and Cheryl’s offspring, “Whatever happened to normal names?”
Firstly, Bear Payne is an incredibly cool name and everyone involved in its choosing should be very proud of themselves. Secondly, it raises the question – what do we mean by “a normal name”? There’s a tendency in this country to use the word “normal” to mean “white, Anglo-Saxon”, which is not cool.
We live in a multicultural society. Not everyone’s going to be called Ian, and that is a wonderful thing. Parents are more likely to have travelled, to have been exposed to (and influenced by) other cultures, than their parents, and as such might not make the same choices when choosing names.
I have a “normal” name, Michael, a good old-fashioned British name, one that gets a nod of approval from the type of people who splutter when the Olivers give another cheerfully bonkers name to a kid. Except it’s not British, is it? It’s a Hebrew name that, due to a saint and archangel in the Bible, became popular in Ireland – popular enough to occasionally be used, in a shortened form, as an anti-Irish slur – and ended up being the name of about a fifth of English boys born in the 1980s. It’s not British in the slightest.
When I was very young, there were only 10 different boys’ names in my (very white, very Anglo-Saxon) school. Michaels, Stephens, Williams and Davids constituted half the male population. At one point I was one of four Michaels in my class. Spare a…