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Naming a child

Tuesday 29th March 2005

‘I sometimes wonder what can be said of people when they are young, whether the full expression of their personalities is truly discernible. Do we offer hints? Do murderers seem like murderers at eighteen? Do stockbrokers? Waiters? Millionaires? An egg hatches. What will emerge – a cygnet? A crocodile? A turtle?’

Douglas Coupland, ‘Girlfriend in a Coma.’


In a conversation with my Polish father-in-law, we wonder about Polish names that my son could have been given. He comes up with ‘Miewczyslaw.’

Pronounced ‘My-ech-is-lav’

Meaning ‘Sword-bearer’

That would fox them in an English Primary School! My wife Wanda hated being called ‘Vander’ (The Anglicised pronunciation). Teachers mumbled her surname because they could say Pelczynski. When a supply teacher was doing registration, the class laughed as she approached the letter ‘P.’

We thought had ‘we’ known ‘our’ family history better that the children may have had a Polish middle name such as this, even called Pelczynski.


Zoe Emmeline Pelczynski Vernon
Toby John Myechislav Pelczynski Vernon

But what about the maternal side, my mother’s side or the family, let alone Denise Cremona’s side of the family? So a hearty ‘Geordie, Quaker name from the bible and a Maltese/Italian name too)

Zoe Emmeline Joanna Cremona Pelczynski Vernon
Toby John Myechislav Cremona Pelczynski Vernon

Or would we stick with the Vernon family name and only have Polish, Italian and English first, second and third names?

We thought as much about ease of pronunciation, a desire NOT to have the potential of a pretentious quasi-aristocratic double-barrelled surname nor to have an unnecessarily embarrassing middle name ‘in remembrance of a grandparent, for example

Zoe Emmeline Sheila Barbara Cremona Pelczynski Vernon
Toby John Myechislav Denis Eric Cremona Pelczynski Vernon

I contemplated dropping my surname in favour of my wife’s.

Zoe Emmeline Vernon Pelczynski
Toby John Vernon Pelczynski

Would I have then desired a double-barrelled surname in order to retain my surname in alphabetical order?

Zoe Emmeline Vernon-Pelczynski
Toby John Vernon-Pelczynski

But why did I never consider a combination of maternal surnames?

Zoe Emmeline Wilson Cremona
Toby John Wilson Cremona

And having considered a need or desire to reflect the maternal line, why not extend this back more than one generation. On my mother’s side, I’d need to add:

Wilson, Hogg, Pig ….. mmmmm
On my father’s mother’s side, I’d need to add Alder and Ferguson

As for my mother-in-law or father-in-law?

I can’t even start to think of the complexity of adding names of relations from Poland and the Ukraine on one side and from Italy and Malta on the other.

Perhaps our children should be numbered, a barcode would say more about the nature of this random bundle of DNA we have brought into the world, that we created mid-evening on the 8th September 1995 desiring conception, desiring a child and then again, give or take the shift in menstrual cycles, around the 8th September 1997. See. We’re not even teachers but we follow more closely the Academic Year than we do the seasons or the Calendar.


I learn from a recent article in the press that they have discovered that parts of the DNA string are passed through generations; is this such a revelation to any observant parent?

A child is more than simply mum and dad’s DNA combined, two strings unzipped and combined.

There have to be residual strings from his and her parents and their grandparents that get passed on and show in both PHYSICAL and MENTAL traits.

He has the nose
She has the ears
He has the chin
She has the legs
He has the interests in construction
She has the photographic memory
He has an artistic bent
She’s into cuddly toys, dogs, ponies and lots of children …
He can draw
She can’t
He can catch and throw a ball
She can dance and swim
He can hit
She can wrestle
He is compulsive, impulsive and obsessive and accepting
She is quizzical and questioning, early to read, never needs to learn to spell or add,
He can fix a computer or TV age three and defeat Vertingetorix in Rome: Total War.


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