Erikka Askeland: Name pain I share with little Hashtag

A mother caused controversy by naming her newborn baby 'Hashtag'. Picture: Getty
A mother caused controversy by naming her newborn baby 'Hashtag'. Picture: Getty
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Who would name their baby “Hashtag”, after the social media tool used on Twitter to share comments on similar topics? What is this world coming to?

We don’t know, because there is little information beyond the announcement of the arrival of little Hashtag Jameson – on another social media site, Facebook. It may or may not have been a joke. But the worry about what wee Hashtag might face in the playground as she grows up is universal. Will she be called “Hash” for short, thus starting her hurtling down the road of, in what is known as a nominative determinism, becoming a drug dealer?

Or, if her nickname is Tag, how confusing will it be when playing tig, everyone is shouting that she is it? But the upside is she might be able to fashion her signature, not unlike the artist formerly known as Prince, as a simple, time-saving “#”.

There is a tricky balance parents strike in choosing a name for their little bundles of joy. The trend is to choose something a bit different, but traditional – Enoch, or perhaps Aphra – but not setting them up to be pummelled relentlessly by a bully named Joe or Emily.

There have always been people who have decided to use the naming of their children, not as a solemn rite, but as a reason to have a good giggle. Some of my favourites came from old friends of the family, the Rabbits, who decided to take a Beatrix Potter line with their son, Peter, and then deepen the laughs with the arrival of their daughter, Bunny.

Slebs have taken the creation of silly names to a degree that few plebs have been able to muster. Think of Zowie Bowie, the son of glam rocker, David, who by the time he was enrolled at Gordonstoun, had changed his name to Duncan Jones.

But the first, and probably most out-there, decision on child naming was by the legendary American singer song writer, Frank Zappa. I remember being stunned as a child when it was revealed he had children named Dweezil and Moon Unit. Immediately, to call someone a “Dweezil” became the best put-down in the playground. But their influence would be even more devastating than that.

At the same time, the 14-year old Moon Unit had released a song with her dad called Valley Girl, which was meant to satirise the way young women in the San Fernando Valley spoke. Little did I know then, but the song would ruin my life – we spent so much time emulating the example of Val-speak on the record, “like, you know, gag me with a spoon” that to this day I have trouble getting rid of a “like, you know” verbal tick and I struggle not to make declarative statements that finish with a rising intonation.

You might have noticed that my own name is a little unusual. According to the brilliant England and Wales baby names website, my unusual spelling doesn’t even figure. According to the searchable site (there is not one for names of babies born in Scotland yet), Erica was the 387th most popular name, with Erika coming behind at 593rd. But I get to flummox people with the surprise extra “k”.

The story behind the variation goes that, after it became clear that I wasn’t an Erik, the decision was taken to add a feminising “a” to the end of my name and be done with it. But then someone in the family fondly recalled great aunt Rikka, and the homage to my ancestors was duly noted in the register.

For years I was desperately unhappy that I was deprived of being able to buy gift shop tat with my name already printed on it. You know the sort of thing – nameplates, coasters – that little Tom and Sarah were able to take for granted that they would get from clueless relatives on holiday in Perth.

On the days when I wasn’t pretending to be a boy, or Wonder Woman, I fervently wished my name was Cherry. Not that this would have opened up the world of personalised giftware to me – it wasn’t until later than I developed sufficient thinking skills to work that out.

But once I did I had rather grown to like being the only Erikka outside of Norway. With the vast majority of my friends being named Claire/Clare, I am at the forefront of the zeitgeist. Which isn’t to say that I don’t feel for poor baby Hashtag.

She might have an easier time of it if she changes her name to Tom.