Brian Edwards Media

Reverse psychology and the art of stopping your children giving your grandchildren truly ghastly names.


‘So have you thought of a name yet?’

‘Not yet, Mum.’

‘Really? No ideas at all?’

‘Well, one or two.’

‘That’s nice, dear. Anything in particular?’

‘Well, Len rather likes Demelza.’


‘Yes. Well, Demelza Angharad actually.’

‘Unusual, dear.’

‘Well yes. Len’s favourite TV programme when he was a kid was Poldark, and he was apparently besotted with the character of Demelza, who was played by an actress called Angharad something-or-other.’

‘And you agree?’

‘Not entirely. I rather favour Incontinentia Buttocks. From The Life of Brian, Mum. Wonderfully funny film. And unforgettable name.’

‘You don’t think… ? Oh never mind.’  

If you’re a grandparent, you’ve definitely been there – the conversation about what to name the latest offspring. I’ve been there 11 times and I’m an expert on the delicate art of steering your children away from Beau Jangles to Alistair John or Chastity Oprah to Margaret Rose.   

The first thing you have to understand is that there is simply no point in trying to reason with your children. They will not hear you when you say that a boy called Peewit will be mocked at school or a girl called Lolita may attract unwelcome attention from elderly men. Their minds are closed.

The worst mistake you can make is to object to chosen name. This will simply have the effect of ensuring that your grandson will be christened Hannibal Lecter Smith and your granddaughter Clarice Starling Smith. Both will develop severe personality disorders.

Reverse Psychology is the answer. The more you hate a name, the more you should praise it.

‘Titewhai Harawira Henderson? I like it. It has a lovely ring to it, doesn’t it. Titewhai Harawira. They’re both really lovely names, aren’t they. And they go together so nicely. No, Titewhai Harawira it is.’

Well, that’s Titewhai Harawira down the gurgler. Grandparental approval is the kiss of death for any proposed baby’s name.

But a word of warning. There is a danger that after you’ve successfully rescued a couple of your grandchildren from being lumbered with Cabbage Patch Johnston  or Dick Tracy Jones, your kids may have caught on to the Reverse Psychology strategy.

‘Look Dad, we know what you’re doing, so just knock it off, won’t  you. Berchtesgaden is a lovely name for a girl and we’re not going to change it.’

Time to employ Reverse Reverse Psychology. Actually say that you hate any name you actually do hate. This will confuse them. They’ll still think you’re using Reverse Psychology, that you really do like the name and that they must therefore abandon it immediately.

Unfortunately neither Paula Yates nor Bob Geldof’s parents were familiar with either Reverse or Reverse Reverse Psychology. Let their grandchildren’s names stand as a warning to us all:

Fifi Trixibelle Geldof

Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof  

Little Pixie Geldof

Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence Geldof


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  1. 1

    Perhaps all a grandparent can do under such circumstances is call the child by a sensible name when the parents are not around and help it fill out the deed poll papers when it comes of age. Mind you, our ancestors were often calling their children hideous names after famous battles or to appease rich relatives, and those children inevitably ended up going by Tom, Dick, or Harry.
    I think a good rule of thumb is to never a lumber a child with a name you wouldn’t be happy with in a Head of State.

  2. I dunno. I think Yikes has quite a lovely ring to it.

  3. A toddler @ the hospital was called over by mum – “Avatar, c’mere”.

  4. “What a lovely baby! What’s his name?” I asked.
    “Oh, er, um, he’s a darling.”
    I kid you not.

  5. Some parents bestow strange spellings on names for their kids and it seems to me that those parents appear to be suffering their own life demons and seem hopeful that a different name for their child will give the child a hope. Aliserbith, Chayne, Krylee, Pansee, Bryaine, Goeseff, Allysoine, Eddword and so on. One look at the kid’s name, a quick look at the parent then duck.

  6. I knew a young man once whose parents christened him with the perfectly reasonable names of Anthony Robert. I sure you would have approved of these Brian except for the fact that their surname was Sole.
    Incidentally I thought there were only four Geldof children. I don’t recognise the fifth name you have listed.

  7. Well said Brian,inflicting these idiotic names on children is condemning them to ridicule from peers and adults alike.I have heard of a Palmerston North (adult) and a Mayzee-Zelda,poor wee girl.

    @ Alwyn – wrong on all counts.

    There are three Geldof girls and the fourth is the Hutchence child.

    Also,the AR Sole is an oldie.

  8. Let’s not forget that sometimes it’s the grandparents who want the unusual names. I know of one grandmother who lobbied passionately for “Verbena” (the parents named the girl “Riley”), and another who wanted “Geordie” (the parents opted for “Jacob”).

    And lastly, there is the grandmother who was much aggrieved when her daughter failed to honour longstanding family tradition and name her first-born girl Phoebe. “But mother,” clucked the exasperated daughter who had named her baby daughter Susan, “I have no problem with the name Phoebe but you know full well my married name is Beeby.” Phoebe Beeby, anyone?

  9. Please spare me the artful apostrophes, as well: Y’vonne, J’aimee …

  10. Spare a thought for the child but also, within five years for a school secretary – she has to manage self control to the nth degree. She has to keep a straight face as she goes through the enrollment process- they deserve medals sometimes.

    Then there are the occasions when you receive a phone call from somebody and there is a need to record the name … “I beg your pardon but I couldn’t quite catch that. Would you mind spelling it for me please?

  11. Oh and the Kerr kid across the road – Wayne. Lovely boy and real big.

  12. A couple of years ago, a stupid couple tried to name their kid “For Real”.

  13. People think I gave my kids dodgy names. They accuse me of all sorts of cruelty until I point out that their names are perfectly normal Gaelic names and the inability to pronounce them shows a lack of education on the inquirer’s part rather than any ruthlessness on mine.

    Still, having gone with a girl called Annette Curtin (whose best mate was called Teresa Green) I can sympathise with the poorly spelled, inadvisedly monickered offspring. After all, how long was Shiloh Pitt at school for before someone started calling her Pile O’Shit?

  14. In my work I deal with many Chinese – They often take on an english first name. Most choose names such as Jade, Crystal, Ringo, Ivy etc, however among my most recent contacts is a “Bacteria”

  15. I remember when Poldark first screened there was a sudden spate of children named Demelza

  16. @ Puggy. I thought that the correct spelling for the child ‘for real’ was actually ‘4 Real. A perfect example of: “and you thought it couldn’t get any worse”.

  17. Apologies for errors in above post. Never rush writing.

  18. A couple of years ago some East Coast parents got knocked back by the Department of Internal Affairs from calling their child “Triple M Rogue”. (MMM = “Mighty Mongrel Mob”.)

    Shame the same DIA official wasn’t on duty the day it allowed some Taranaki parents to name their daughter “Talulah does the hula from Hawaii”. She was later given legal permission to change it to something more normal. (In fairness, almost anything would be more normal than that name!)

  19. True story: my aunt, who used to be a schoolteacher in Jamaica, had a student named Vagina.

    BE: Oh dear!

  20. Yes, apparently her parents thought it a pretty name. heh.
    I thought the names in the film ‘Boy’ were well-observed – I went to school in that part of the country (Opotiki) and I do remember a Dallas and a Dynasty. Also a Kojak and a Terylene.
    Twas ever thus.