DURING one Simpsons episode, Lisa briefly meets the schoolboy of her dreams. Unfortunately, he has a bizarre first name. She commiserates, but he’s quite sanguine about it, declaring that: "The esoteric appeal is worth the beatings."
I wish I could remember what Lisa’s beau was called, but I can’t, mainly because I’m overwhelmed by esoteric name problems of my own. Beloved Husband and I have been discussing what to call our imminent offspring for several months now, but negotiations are going very badly indeed.
We’d come to a happy consensus on a girl’s name long ago, so finding out we were having a boy really put the cat among the pigeons. After weeks of bargaining, arguing and extravagant use of parental veto, we’re still nowhere near a decision.
All the names I like best feature prominently in the top ten most popular names lists, which Beloved despises as being far too ordinary.
Not only does he want something unusual, but he also (even worse) has a favourite name that he will not drop, however much I forbid, beg, plead and just plain rant.
He thinks this name is great; I don’t think its esoteric appeal will be worth the beatings.
Nobody I’ve told likes it. Nobody. Most people start laughing, until they realise it’s serious. Not even my mother, who thinks her son-in-law is the Second Coming, could manage anything more positive than: "Gosh, how interesting." I still can’t quite get my head around it, but the fact is... that Beloved wants to call our son... Godred.
A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but a child is not a flower. If we call him Godred, we can resign ourselves to spending the first few years of his school career in A&E.
A Godred in the classroom may as well have "Punch Me Now" tattooed across his forehead. Kids are cruel and he’s bound to be teased about something, so why give the playground bullies any additional ammunition?
Unfortunately, the name Godred means a lot to Beloved. The most famous Godred was a Viking king, who ruled vast lands including parts of Scotland and the Isle of Man, and founded the world’s oldest continuously running parliament, the Manx Tynwald. Great stuff, and symbolic of an ancient heritage of which Beloved is hugely proud, but I defy anybody to explain all that while they’re being hammered to a pulp.
To help his case, Beloved searched the internet for impressive, Godred-related stuff and found a real, live Godred teaching electrical engineering at the University of Aberdeen. "Look," beamed Beloved. "Ancient Godreds might have been great warriors and statesmen, but modern Godreds are also bright, accomplished and useful to society."
I sighed: "Congratulations. In the last thousand years, you’ve found one single Godred who has successfully made it to adulthood. Who knows how many others perished in the playground - cut down in their prime by gangs of vindictive Jasons, Kevins and Darrens?"
"Thomas the Tank Engine has a friend called Godred the Mountain Engine."
"I refuse to name my child after a fictional mode of transport. Godred already sounds like a reject from The Lord of the Rings. Can we stop this now?"
But the battle goes on. I do understand his wish to choose a name that really means something, but there’s a difference between wanting your kid to be individual and wanting him to suffer for it.
Having said that, Barry Humphries once admitted that he called his son Oscar Valentine because, with a name like that, he’d have to grow up tough. Oscar survived, so maybe Godred would, too. But he won’t be mixing with celebrity brats, who will be cool about unusual names like Apple, Dweezil or being called after the place where they were conceived. I’m not saying that Craig, Prince of Denmark, would have had an easier time than Hamlet, or that Keith and Juliet would have had a trouble-free courtship, but sometimes, it’s easier to blend in. I deliberately restrained myself from suggesting Napoleon for this very reason.
The bottom line is I simply can’t see myself ever saying: "Godred! Tea’s ready, Godred!" nor "Godred, stop that pillaging, it’s bedtime." Godred - the very word sounds like a rock hitting damp soil.
I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow. Somehow, we must compromise - maybe by using Godred as a middle name, or trying out several different options to see what suits him. And if Junior can learn to talk quickly enough, he’s welcome to name himself.
Only one thing is definite. I will be accompanying Beloved to register the birth. So long as he’s mad about Godred, there’s no way I can trust him to name this child alone.