‘Common’ or posh? English or Irish? Names are tricky

Katie Hopkins caused controversy with her opinions on children's names.

Katie Hopkins caused controversy with her opinions on children's names.

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What’s Katie Hopkins’ game? The former Apprentice candidate is a ‘stirrer’ on rent-a-gob chat shows, these days. Her right of Attila the Hun views ensure she’s the perfect ‘guest’. She’s often, for instance, on with Stephen Nolan to up the ante with the public service unions.

You’d think, if she’s as successful as she claims to be, she’d be too busy to go courting controversy. But no, she’s on our airwaves so often, many on this side of the Irish Sea must wonder why should we care what the sneery Englishwoman thinks. When she was missing off the radio for a few days, I thought she must be ill!

Of course you may have noticed that even this column has nothing against courting controversy. Well, I don’t have the distraction of a successful business. But aren’t so-called ‘commentators’ expected to have considered opinions. Katie has no limits. She’ll say anything to get attention. She says, for instance, that ginger babies are, “like a baby, just so much harder to love.”

She may finally have gone too far with her snobby views on “This Morning” with Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield. She said she wouldn’t allow children with certain names to be “playdates” for her little darlings. “The Tylers, the Charmaines, the Chantelles, the Chardonnays” wouldn’t be allowed to be friends with her children.

Katie thinks footballers’ names, celebrities’ names, flower names, seasons’ names or geographical names are infra dig.

Her argument was, however, holed below the waterline when Phillip Schofield pointed out that her own daughters were called Poppy and India.

We have to admit that names are often associated with social class. Not many working class children are called Tarquin or Tristan or even Poppy or India. Katie had missed the real point. It is, Katie, that pretentiousness isn’t attractive in whatever social class it occurs.

It’s pretentious to give children names that claim great distinction, merit, social importance or uniqueness. It’s not a classy thing to do. It’s too obvious. It’s uncool. That’s why names linked with current celebrities, or with a particular social class, or names that nobody has ever heard of are best avoided, as are words not usually used as a name. I recently heard of a girl called, “Lasagne” and a boy called, “Mandalay”. How long before we have someone called “Cappuccino” or “Cornetto” or even “Latte”?

Of course, here in this place, names are often linked with religion and politics as well as with social class. As a guide, however, they’re probably about as reliable as asking someone what school they went to or to pronounce the letter ‘h’. A quick guesstimate as to the distance between people’s eyes is probably more reliable.

In this context an honourable mention must go to Coca Cola who’ve taken to uniting Ireland by putting names on their bottles in an advertising campaign. In areas festooned with flags and bunting for the ‘Twelfth’, where you might meet Nigel or Nicky or pretentious Percival or Penelope you might also meet Séamus and Siobhán if you buy a coke.

Still, it’s unwise to make too hasty assumptions based on people’s names, Katie. There’s even a ‘Norman’ who’s quite different to what people expect!