Park Life

There are moments of clarity every now and then as an expat, when you remember suddenly that you are far from home, and that this is your life.

I had one today in the park when it dawned on me that the names all the parents were calling out would sound pretty weird in an Australian or British park – at least, all together like that.





This is not a Jack, Ava, Oliver or Sophie neck of the woods. Here, the longer the name the better. The more syllables, the better. If there’s a chance to roll and R in there somewhere, better still. 

In Peru, I’ve noticed that the monied upper-crust types like these long names, and traditional Spanish names. And among the working classes there’s a trend for western names, but such strange ones – it’s like someone has been selling a 1930s version of a Best English Baby Names book here. Wilbur? Wilmer? Erwin? Who CALLS their kid that?! And then there’s made-up names or renditions with odd spellings – Laydee, Daysy, Jhon.

Across the region there are also examples of political leanings – lots of Lenins and Marxs (my first gym instructor here was a Lenin). And USNavy (ooo-es-navi), MadeinUSA (pronounced maad-en-ussa).




Dare I wade into the minefield of class and ethnic warfare that is naming a child?

I can’t help myself.

Yes, the time has come to choose a name for foetus Max. Poor Lola went nine days without a name because I could not cope with the overwhelming responsibility for picking just the right one for her, and even now I wonder…

Max is Max for the moment because I got tired of calling him Senor X, Dirty Harry or Bruce Lee. And to try to prompt his dad into engaging into this, my favourite pregnancy discussion. Until Rufus suggests something better, I decreed, he shall be Max. Also Max is my friend’s dog’s name, and she helped me come up with this ultimatum. And I don’t want to tell this kid one day that he was named after a Jack Russell called Maximum Maxi-wobble.

What could be better than fantasising about what your future child should be called? What kind of boy will Max be? Rufus apparently thinks there are MANY things more interesting. Angry Birds for example. He is so chilled out, I know he just thinks the right name will present itself when Max himself does. But after Lola, I know better.

So, the list of potentials, to date:

Luca           (My favourite… but does it matter if your kids’ names all start with the same                          letter. Like the Kardashians… they are my definition of a complete waste of                          space. Who ARE those people and WHY does ANYONE care?)

James        (Love, but is common as muck of course, and now the future King of England                      might also be called this, according to the bookies…)

Dante         (Can’t imagine myself in the park yelling “Dante! Dante!” to be perfectly honest)

Fabian        (He will end up being called Fabby)

Hugo          (I love love love and Rufus hates.. also in Latin America he would be “Ugo” and                          people will assume we are raving leftie Hugo Chavez fans)

Sebastian   (I love this, Rufus thinks it’s ok; but more importantly everyone seems to have a                          Sebastian these days. Does it really matter if a name is popular?)

Finn            (Rufus thinks this is just finny because “fin” in Espanol is “the end”. Also that poor                        actor Finn from Glee just died so now this name makes me sad)

Bruno         (I like two-syllable boys names that end with O… they sound kind of cool and                                assured. Maybe Ludo?)

Raphael      (Love this, Rufus is all “meh”. But also last name starts with an R – is alliteration                     a good thing, people? Or bad?)

Felix            (I think this is cute, Rufus not so much)

Darcy          (I like this but can’t get over the Pride and Prejudice association … BBC series,                          Colin Firth striding out of lake all wet and glistening, for those not in the                             know. One of my favourite pieces of TV of alltime, but still, a bit naff to name                         my son after an 18th-century literary hearthrob modelled on a toff)

Gabriel       (Nice but maybe a bit wishy washy?)

Junot          (Grasping at straws but I kind of like)

Jasper        (Kind of cool… but also a wee bit posh twat)

So that’s the current list. Tell me if we are crazy. Other recent input includes Rufus’s dad, who wants him to be called Frank after Sinatra. His half-brother who wants to call him Lars after some heavy metal drummer. And a friend who also has a son with a Latin American just emailed me her thoughts on names that work both ways – ie English-Spanish: Oscar Stefano Dante Mateo Felix Leo Rafael Tiago Valentín Tomás.

So that’s some name possibilities. The politics of naming a child are endless. There was an amusing spat on UK TV recently in which a smug blonde woman attacked people who give their children misspelled (or spelled “orginally”) names. I have to admit I totally agree with her… making up creative spellings of names for your baby is one of my pet hates. It can leave the kid open to a lifetime of spelling out their name or making assumptions about their background (ie, their parents didn’t know how to spell). But then, ALL names say something about the parents, and the parents’ desires or aspirations for their kids. And about their prejudices.

Celebrities call their kids ludicrous things, I think, because they are secure in the knowledge that they are so wealthy and privileged and entitled that their kids will get along just fine, whatever they’re called. It’s like a bit “F*** U” to the rest of us plebs who actually have to wonder if little X Y or Z will be taunted in the playground or bullied or at a disadvantage when they apply for jobs/college/music school. Seriously, who calls their kid Blanket? Was that the first thing he saw when the baby popped out? Maybe I should just stop torturing myself and call him scrubs, or forceps.

Anyway, even though I get her point I just did not like this woman’s tone. She was being a total snob. And the presenter sitting across from her obviously felt the same way because she dealt her a real body blow when the blonde started in on people who name their kids after places: ie Posh and Becks’ Brooklyn, or the Hilton’s Paris, I spose.

“But… your daughter is called India!” the presenter said, incredulous.

Kapow! Fantastic.

Of course, India is actually a really popular slightly posh name in the UK, probably because it references the glorious empire years. Or maybe that blonde is a bit thick and doesn’t realise that India is a place.

There are also cultural and religious reasons for choosing a child’s name, or family reasons – like X junior or little Arabel (After great-great-absolutely-loaded-with-cash aunt Arabel). And who has the right to go barging in with an opinion on anyone’s religion or culture?

I have a lovely child of hippies friend called Honey, which is not really so out-there. And she ended up meeting a lovely child of Welsh hippies guy called something-from-Lord-of-the-Rings (and this was before the movies came out).

What do I aspire to, for Max? I want him to be a happy little vegemite. I want him to have friends. I don’t want him to be teased. When he applies for a job I don’t want people to laugh at his resume. I want the world for him, like most parents do for their kids. Picking the right name is part of that – perhaps it is even the very least part of it.

Only once did I have a boyfriend whose name I particularly liked. I have lots of friends with names I would never choose for my kids. In the end, the person outshines the name, and if it doesn’t, he can always change it, or use a nickname.