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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 13:09 GMT
What's in a name?
Jack and Chloe are the most popular names in the UK for the fifth year running.

According to the Office of National Statistics, traditional names are the most common, but parents are increasingly influenced by actors, singers and politicians when deciding what to call their children.

Many babies are being named after Tony Blair's son Leo, Madonna's son Rocco and Russell Crowe's character in the film "Gladiator" - Maximus.

In many parts of the world, it is believed that a name can shape a person's character and behaviour.

In Nigeria, for example, a mother has fled from her home with her new-born son because her husband decided to name him after Osama bin Laden.

Does your name dictate your personality? How was your name chosen? What are the most exotic or unusual names you've come across?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

We chose good solid English names that had honourable antecedents - a good, gentlemanly king and a good, gentlemanly cricketer (both by repute, at least) and which could not easily be abbreviated and, finally, were neither run-of-the-mill nor gimmicky. (This was in '73 and '74.) Result: Arthur, abbreviated to "Art", Colin to "Col" and both, particularly while at school, asking me why the we hadn't called them David or John. Or Jack. You can't win, honest.
Julia Taylor, England

Although Eden is a biblical name, my family is not religious - my father got my name off a building! (I was supposed to be a boy named Jason, and my parents didn't have a plan B.) While I do spend a lot of time repeating it, spelling, it, and explaining it to people who have never met me before, once they get it, they never forget me. I know there are other Edens out there, but I've never met one. I like having a unique name. I think anything that makes you stand out a little is a good thing. Why would anybody want to be the same as everybody else, and have the same name as half their friends?
Eden Alvernaz, USA

I can't imagine wanting unique names

Kathy Willsea, USA
I gave my kids names normal, sturdy names that would never embarrass them, mostly family names from early this last century. I can't imagine wanting unique names - what a pain, having to explain yourself everywhere you went to school or every time you met someone. I'm a fourth generation Katherine, my daughter is the fifth. I hope she is like my great grandmother, whose birthday she shares. Her brothers have family names too. They're named for people I love and respect. I'd never invent something goofy that meant nothing, that had no history, that gave them no roots and sense of belonging.
Kathy Willsea, USA

My name is quite unusual for my country and though quite shy when young I always loved having a "strange" name. It took me ages to concoct a name for my daughter whom I called Andalus. This is the Arabic name for Spain when it was a Muslim country. As far as I know nobody has been called this before. If I have more kids I hope to call them all unique, but beautiful names.
Sophie, Sudan

I am almost universally known as Rod (or occasionally Roddy) rather than my full name. Why? Because it is spelt "Roderic" - notice the lack of a "K" at the end. If I ever give my full name I immediately have to spell it to people. Having said that, I much prefer it to those poor unfortunate German men in their late 50's called Aldolf. Osama-philes beware!
Roderic Maxwell, Scotland

If you want to use your imagination to create cute names, give them to your dog or cat

Mike, Malaysia
Never give a child a name that can be abbreviated. My name is Michael but only my close family calls me that. I hate the abbreviation! In the USA a policeman looked at my driving licence and then said, "Well, Mike".A bit presumptuous, I thought, particularly as he was about to give me a ticket and was definitely not a friend! And if you want to use your imagination to create cute names, give them to your dog or cat. They won't mind.
Mike (unfortunately), Malaysia

I was reading the latest copy of the Sheffield Star when I was last at my grandparents. I saw in the birth column that there was a boy named after a sportswear company, Nike! What a ridiculous name.
Helen, UK

My four-year-old tells me that I spell his name incorrectly. He says it should be Marc nor Mark.
David Proudfoot, London, UK

I'm very proud of my name which comes from a valley in Himachal Pradesh, North India. I have since learned that it is also a common Nigerian name and the name of a village in Turkey. Some ignorant people have tried to make jokes about it over the years but I can't say it has bothered me one iota. The opinion of anyone so small minded as to try to ridicule your name is not worth worrying about.
Kulu, UK

In Nigeria a child's name is a reflection of good tidings to come, so most people in the country, do not see Osama as a terrorist but as a hero who has been able to bring the attention of the world to issues the rest of the world have ignored over the last fifty years. Therefore naming a child after such a hero is a sign that this same child will remind the rest of the world in fifty years time of issues they have ignored.
Musama Mukhtar, Nigeria

A child's name says more about the parents than the child. My girlfriend's name is Rhianna, named after the Celtic goddess of transformation and wisdom. Her parents are ex-hippies in the West Country so it makes sense.
James Newman, UK

They never sold any bedroom door stickers saying "Ewen's Room". That used to annoy me.
Ewen Setti, UK

We were named after the couple in the US show Bewitched - Samantha and Darren - how sad is that?

Darren Cox, Cambridge, UK
I have a twin sister and we were named after the couple in the US show Bewitched - Samantha and Darren! How sad is that? My middle name comes from Neil Amstrong, the first man on the moon.
Darren Cox, Cambridge, UK

Having been blessed with a daughter, Molly, and with another baby on the way, names have been a talking point in our house for some time. The conclusion my wife and I came to is that trendy names are a bad idea as by their nature trends are short-lived. Molly is a pet name of Mary, my wife's twin sister who did not make it to even a week old. It was our way of remembering.
Pete, Wales

We have some wonderful names in the US - where else could you meet a 6' 8" guy named Dominique?

Andrew Crane, US (ex-UK)
We have some wonderful names in the US. If you have a daughter, chances are you'll name her: Morgan, Madison, Chelsea, Brittany (Brittney if you can't spell), Ashton, Trevor, Kendall, Robin, Bailey or Mackenzie. Basketball players often have great first names. Where else could you meet a 6' 8" guy named Dominique?
Andrew Crane, US (ex-UK)

In most south Asian countries there is an existing practice of consulting astrologists when a child is born. According to the time of the birth, letters or sounds are given to the parents on which to base a name, which would definitely then bear its personality.
Angela Sendapperuma, Canada

I heard on the radio in 1998 that the most popular girl's name in the African-American community was Propecia. This was the name of the country's leading men's hair restorative drug so I guess people don't just get inspired by movie stars!
Jo Robertson, UK

I was one of five girls called Nicola in a class at secondary school - a good 70s name! However much I liked the name Jack or Chloe now, I'd want my child to feel more of an individual.
Nikki, UK

It can represent my love to give my children a significant name

Shu-Yi Huang, Taipei Taiwan
In my country, the name of a child may be decided by many factors. The parents can decide, the grandfather and grandmother can decide, the parents may ask fortune-tellers, and it can follow the family tree. I think I will give my child his name with two meaningful, easily pronounced and easily written characters. I think it can represent my love to give my children a significant name.
Shu-Yi Huang, Taipei Taiwan

I certainly hope it does! I'm in the process of changing mine to Simon Irresistible Billionaire I'll let you know how I get on.
Simon Watson, UK

I heard a story of a woman calling her daughter Ampersand. She'd heard it somewhere and thought it was nice, but didn't know what it meant.
Karen, UK

You all think YOU'VE got problems!

Harry Potter, Surrey, UK
You all think YOU'VE got problems!
Harry Potter, Surrey, UK

At least there are different sets of names for males and females. How would personalities be affected if we removed this distinction?
Conor, UK

My parents wanted a name that couldn't be altered, so they called my Ian, as it's short and sweet. All my friends now call me "E".
Ian, UK

My name is really annoying because I have a bad back.
Eillen Forward , UK

I am getting victimised by my friends and at work after the Harry Potter film came out. They all call me Muggle, which isn't very nice, but I'm very proud of my name so I'm not going to change it.
Richard Mugglestone, UK

People with surnames beginning earlier in the alphabet receive attention first in job applications

Jon Cooper, UK
I read somewhere that people with surnames beginning with letters earlier in the alphabet do better because they receive attention first in job applications etc. At my recent university graduation an amazing 68% had surnames beginning with letters A-M. Is there anything in this or is it coincidence?
Jon Cooper, UK

Angel is not a completely unheard-of name in the US - I knew another Angel in high school, and my brother's current girlfriend is also named Angel. I got teased a lot for it in school ("Devil" was a favourite), but I got used to it as I got older. Now, in this country, I get nothing but nice comments about it and people have no trouble remembering who I am. A unique name can help to set someone apart from the crowd.
Angel, England (originally US)

I don't want anyone in the world to have the same name

Albert P'Rayan, Indian in Rwanda
I want my name to be unique. I don't want anyone in the world to have the same name. Though my first name, Albert, is very common, my surname, P'Rayan, is quite unique. Some years ago I decided to have a name that is quite different from others and got my name original name changed to Albert P'Rayan. I'm going to have a baby in the first week of March and I'm contemplating what name I can give her. Definitely it is going to be a unique one. Name matters a lot to me.
Albert P'Rayan, Indian in Rwanda

I like my name because not many people are named Connie, but when I was younger I thought it very old fashioned. But I enjoy having a name that is not common, because everyone knows me and I am not just another statistic.
Constance, England

There is a link between names and behavioural traits

Andrew, United Kingdom
Names seem to be quite regional - I was always amazed that John was supposedly the most popular name, as I never met one my age in Staffordshire. Then I went to university, and all the lads from the south of England were called John. As teachers, my colleagues and I are convinced that there is a link between names and behavioural traits, although, of course, this could be linked to home circumstances. Last year our student teacher wanted to do her project on the link between names and school performance, but was told that she couldn't because it would be too controversial!
Andrew, United Kingdom

My name has always been a source of inquisition and amusement to people. Any time I meet someone new, they are extremely interested as to where it came from and ask stupid questions like "Where did you get a name like that?" Well - duh - my parents! I don't really think your name has too much influence but with a name like mine it certainly gets you talking.
Shivas Lindsay, Scotland

When people use my full name it takes me back to when I was unpopular and bullied at primary school

Abi, UK
My name definitely affects my personality. I was named Abigail by my parents, but I haven't used that name since I was eleven. Now, at 21, I always introduce myself as Abi, and make it clear that I don't like being called Abigail. When people use my full name, it takes me back to when I was unpopular and bullied at primary school. Shortening it to Abi gave me more confidence, made me more outgoing, and makes me feel like a different person altogether, because it doesn't have any bad associations for me. My 'new' name makes so much of a difference for me that I've seriously considered getting it legally changed. My parents aren't too impressed that I don't like the name they chose for me though!
Abi, UK

Mine is quite an amusing story. Because my father was so hooked on the film Gandhi and I was born virtually the same time as the film was due out, my father gave me the middle name Gandhi. I have no Indian in my blood whatsoever but am always asked the question if I attend an interview or if anyone finds out my full name!
Adrian Spicer, Essex, England

The names Edward and James have been used in my family for the past 250 years.

Michael, Dublin, Ireland
The names Edward and James have been used in my family for the past 250 years. It seems that the eldest son of the eldest son always gets the name Edward, while James gets reserved for the youngest. I believe that this tradition will continue for a good many generations.
Michael, Dublin, Ireland

My eldest daughter is called Karita and my youngest is Alana. I believe the latter to be unusual but the former to be almost non-existent. Anyone know of another Karita? (I think I heard of one, a Russian Opera singer but I'm not sure).
Kenneth Nesbitt, Scotland

My middle name is John named after John Lennon as he was a rather big celebrity at the time of my birth so I thought I would return the favour to my child who was born proudly on December 15th. I called him Rudolph after Rudolph Giuliani as I think he has done a wonderful job in these difficult times in New York. Being born around the Christmas period also helped.
Chris Gower, London, England

Parents who give their children weird names should think about why they are doing it. Having grown up with an odd name - which I have long since dumped - I would never inflict such a name on a child of mine. How do you think Rudolph will fare at school especially in December? Kids can be very cruel!
Jane, Scotland

People judged me before they met me

Sarah Vestey, UK
I was named Sharon after the rose bearing that name in the bible. My parents had no idea that it would label me. People judged me before they met me, and expected me to have a particular personality. I once was introduced to a stranger as "This is Sharon, but she's not..." I changed my name to Sarah shortly after (15 years ago), and have never looked back.
Sarah Vestey, UK

Our son was born on August first and, after much consideration we named him Matthew David. This was not for any other reason than both my wife and I really liking the names. Unfortunately his initials are MDF, my mother-in-law was the first to call him Woody - you just can't win.
Richard Ford, GB

My girlfriend's name is Crystal and she was named after her great grandmother's crystal ball that was always gleaming with beauty. I now dread the day if we get married. Her name would be Crystal Holmes and I personally think it sounds like a new housing estate!
Brian Holmes, Liverpool, England

My name is Christopher, and it's completely irrelevant to my personality. My surname is Cowdery however, and years of playground mickey taking have enabled me to develop a thick skin and ability to verbally abuse and upset people at will.
Chris Cowdery, UK

Coolest names I have come across: Cheycara and Wyvonna

Nils, Germany
Choose names by uniqueness (not perceived uniqueness). I don't think a name influences a child's personality much, although a particularly bad name (imagine Osama in Europe, or Adolf in Germany) might result in the kid being picked on, with all that results from this. Making a political or fashion statement is always a bad idea because who knows how those will change within the 100 years of a person's lifetime. Coolest names I have come across: Cheycara and Wyvonna (both American native names). The women bearing them are some of the most intriguing people I had the pleasure to meet.
Nils, Germany

I don't think your name has any bearing on your personality. It is based on other factors like genealogy, upbringing and perception.
Jimmy, UK

I've just named my child Jordan, which means 'Gift from heaven/the skies'. I don't know if a name can influence a child's personality, but I think it is a nice to name a child based on how you feel they entered the world.
Paul Gleave, UK

I think that your name definitely affects the way you behave. For example, everyone I know called Steve is quite outgoing, but all of my friends called Adrian are really timid. Do people think that your name is in any way related to you star sign, which also affects your personality?
Nicola, London, England

My name means 'king' and I've never been a king

My name means 'king' and I've never been a king and never have felt like a king. However choosing a good and nice name is the first duty for parents.

My favourite "exotic" names are the children of the late Frank Zappa, Dweezil and Moon Unit.
Ben, UK

Names definitely do define the type of person that you are. Think of all the Brians, Duncans or Collins you know. They will almost certainly be a bit 'divvy'. Nigels have the image of being boring. A David could be an insurance underwriter, but a Dave is a roofer. As for the new generation of Chelseas growing up - we will not have seen the like since the good old Sharon and Tracy days.
Mathew Edwards, UK

Mine seems to be an ironic statement from my staunchly atheist parents.
Christian Richardson, UK

Danny Baker once compiled this fantastic list of exotic names via his BBC radio show: Aspro Fender ... Mal Peachy ... Jesus of Garston ... Lovett Quartez ... Pierre Pierro ... Wonder Mango ... Maria Rosa Usa-Navy Hernandez ... Poovan Sara-vana Pervana san ... Drew Blood ... Everton Council ... James George Barty-Barty Goldfinch ... Cool Peterson ... Mario Scarro Skipper Scarri Discomprer de Biffa ... Cordelia Delia Wong Chong Chang Po ... Mr. and Mrs. Booneeboompana .
Rhodri Marsden, UK

My dad wanted to name me after the entire 1978 Brazil football team!

Steve, UK
I was quite lucky, my football-mad dad wanted to name me after the entire 1978 Brazil football team! But my Mum put her foot down, and so he settled for naming me after his favourite film star, Steve McQueen. Which was great!
Steve, UK

A name can certainly affect the personality of a person. This is due to the fact that most personality traits are acquired during school years, and if a name sounds like, resembles of can be easily misconstrued, children will pick up on this, and use it as a tool for offence in the playground. Many taunts and jeers made at less popular pupils are based on the persons name. For example, my name Dain - taken from 'The Hobbit', was the king of the Dwarves. Being extremely short for my age did obviously not help, but also the plethora of derivatives caused much discomfort. Pain, stain, rain and drain are just a few that were used to belittle and ridicule.
Dain Givens, UK

Their children's names were, Repent Of Your Sins, Repent Or Burn Forever and Messiah Is Coming

Constanza Fanucchi, Argentina
Your name influences your personality at least to some extent. If you have an unusual name, as mine was in my neighbourhood of New York a decade ago, you will assuredly be made fun of, as Dain Givens has mentioned above (by the way, Dain, I like your name). I grew to be a more introverted person because of that. There are also extreme cases, such as the couple in British Columbia, Canada who wanted to name their baby God's Loving Kindness. Their other children's names were, Repent Of Your Sins, Repent Or Burn Forever and Messiah Is Coming. You wonder how many hours of therapy they've gone through.
Constanza Fanucchi, Argentina

My girl friend is called Elika because her mother saw a wildlife documentary about a Russian polar bear whilst heavily pregnant.
Dominic, UK

When my mother announced my name to her parents shortly after my birth in 1976, they were horrified that I had been given an "old woman's name". A few years later Laura became popular and I certainly don't feel that I have been burdened with an old-fashioned name. It's one of those cyclical names that have gone in and out of fashion for the last 100 years or so.
Laura Devlin, Norfolk, England

See also:

03 Jan 02 | Scotland
Jack and Chloe win the name game
03 Jan 02 | Africa
Osama baby craze hits Nigeria
03 Jan 02 | England
Mother leaves baby at hospital
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