Written by: Shani Fowler
It’s the one thing we are all given. Our name! We don’t get to choose it, we don’t always like it, but we spend our lives answering to it and announcing ourselves by it. We are often named after others our parents’ have loved or admired, the name might be traditionally handed down through generations, or they simply loved that name. But sometimes our parents pick an unusual name – it makes you stand out from the crowd – is that a good thing?
Having a unique name
Although there are many people now with what could be described as ‘unique’ names, when I was little, breaking the naming boundaries was much rarer. I am quite well equipped to speak about unusual names as I have one! Shani – (pronounced Shaney – though I have had many varying pronunciations over the years) was born from my mother’s love of a singer and dancer called Shani Wallis (see Bill Sykes’ Nancy in the Oliver Reed/Ron Moody musical). I can definitely see both good and bad in having an unusual name and I have would say I had a little roller coaster ride with mine.
Wanting a ‘normal’ name
As a child I would have given absolutely anything to be called Diane, Julie, Sarah or Joanne – anything to be the same as my contemporaries. I cursed my mother’s love of that dancer woman! I dreaded having to give my name at new classes in high school, listening to the gasps of shock as the sound of my name resonated across the classroom. I am sure I heard it echo back to me several times! I’d feel the heat rise in my cheeks announcing myself always believing people were sniggering at my misfortune! I didn’t want to stand out with my unusual name, I simply ached to blend in.
As I got older though, I began to warm a little to it. People would say “what a nice name” and a tiny swell of pride appeared – suddenly I felt a little more blessed. I was remembered at job interviews or pursuits I undertook because I stood out with my name. It was sometimes even a talking point; “is it short for something?” Or, “what does it mean?” And then I realised actually it wasn’t such a bad thing. Another benefit struck me. Name trends come in time batches and you can often age a person by what they are called. If you have a name that didn’t form a trend, it can enable you stay quite timeless.
Being an individual
I think although people might struggle sometimes with having an unusual name, especially in their youth, ultimately (as long as it is not something overly quirky like an A lister might saddle their child with) it is a really good thing. I believe once I had settled into it, my name eventually helped me grow in confidence and accept I was an individual and that you don’t always have to ‘blend in’ to the ‘set boundaries’ to be accepted. That said, being selectively different is always wise – calling a child a name that you feel they may forever have to explain is doing him or her no favours.
As with all life-long decisions, I think we need to be mindful when choosing a name; not only what the name means to us but what how it is going to affect your child and whether they might spend their lives explaining and cringing with it or whether you believe it will stand them in good stead. Though I didn’t choose an unusual name for my son, I don’t believe it was born out of my own experience, moreover me and my husband just liked the name Zak. I thought it sat comfortably with him (he looked like a Zak – another tried and tested method for selecting!) and for me that was enough too.