On March 5, 2014 by Kunle Barker pele


It’s difficult to know what influence a name has on a person’s life. Would Elton John have been less successful if he had performed under his real name, Reginald Dwight? Would Pele still be considered the best footballer of all time if the back of his shirt had been embossed with Edson Arantes do Nascimento? The answer is that I have no idea and in the case of Pele, other than the difficulty the embroiders would have had fitting the name on his shirts, I can think of no reason why playing the ‘great game’ under his real name would have caused any problems.

So why do we place so much importance on a name? Why, in the absence of any empirical evidence, do we think that a name can dictate the future success, happiness and even popularity of our child? Does a name really make a person? Although I do have to concede that there is probably a good reason why there has never been a prime minister called Trevor; I just cant imagine Prime Minister Trevor brokering a Middle East peace deal. I apologise in advance to anyone called Trevor but I had to pick a name to make this point, and yours stuck out like a sore thumb.

When it came to choosing a name for Kidney Bean I had no real preferences other than I wanted her to have a pretty name. I also thought that it might be nice for Kidney Bean to have an unusual name, but I did have my reservations as I have a very unusual African name and as a result have spent most of my life correcting people’s pronunciation, spelling, or explaining its origin. Did I want to subject Kidney Bean to this?



As a child I hated having such an unusual name. At 11 years old I had just joined a new all boys private school and wanted to be like everybody else, I just wanted to fit in. However, as the years progressed and I hit my teens, being slightly different didn’t seem to be such a problem. As we grew into young men, we no longer wanted to conform, or to be like everybody else, we wanted to be individuals. In order to attain this goal some chose to listen to obscure music, others wore earrings, and one chap even took to wearing make-up. However, I did not feel the urge to listen to punk rock, mutilate my body or imitate Boy George, and by my late teens I had realised that I loved my name, and not just because it was unusual, I loved it because it was my name.

In earnest we begin the process of deciding on a name for Kidney Bean, my first suggestion is ‘Kidney Bean’. Mummy Bean laughs, but I’m not joking. I’ve been calling her Kidney Bean for months and at the moment that is her name. Mummy Bean is emphatic, there is no way we are calling our daughter Kidney Bean, it’s not even up for discussion. Realising I’m fighting a losing battle (and let’s be frank, a ridiculous one), I agree to discount any notion of calling our baby Kidney Bean once she has left the womb.

The first stage of name selection is quite good fun as we begin by discounting names that we definitely don’t like, and so the names of past lovers, reality TV stars and one particularly cruel head mistress are consigned to the “I am not calling my kid that” graveyard. We continue to whittle down names by discounting trendy names and very soon realise that we have got absolutely nowhere. It seems we may have adopted the wrong tactic and perhaps should have spent the last few hours discussing names we actually like.



Mummy Bean suggests that we wait until Kidney Bean is born to, ‘see what name she looks like.’ Immediately my spidey sense starts to tingle as I know that this route will mean that poor Kidney Bean will be without a name for the first few months of her life. On top of that I’ve never really understood the logic behind people saying that you look or don’t look like your name, it makes no sense. If that were true and considering that everybody basically looks different then we should all have different names, there should almost be as many names in existence as there are people, and come to think of it that would mean that all identical twins would all have the same name. If this line of reasoning were correct then you would also expect that a lot of people would change their names at least once in their lives. I can see it now, I’m walking through Covent Garden and bump into an old friend from School;



Hello Paul, how you doing? I’ve not seen you for years.


Mate, I’m called Peter now, I changed my name.


You changed your name from Paul to Peter? Why would you do that?


I didn’t have a choice really, I looked like a Paul when I was born, but I’ve noticed that since I left school I look more like a Peter.


Are you joking? You look pretty much the same.


Really do you think so? Do you think I look more like a Paul?


No, I think you are Paul, and I don’t really understand what you are talking about. So, I’m going to go, but it was nice to see you again.


OK mate, see you soon.


Let’s just hope you don’t look like an Ethel next time we meet.

Anyway I digress. Mummy Bean and myself decide that it’s best to give Kidney Bean a name at birth and so employ the tried and trusted black ball method of selection, we both hold 3 black balls and can nominate 5 names each. The black ball has the power to unilaterally reject a name without consultation or argument. My normal tactic in situations such as these is to suggest 3 ridiculous names in order to use up Mummy Bean’s black balls thus ensuring that my 2 favorite names make it to the final process. The plan does not work and Mummy Bean smells a rat as she does not believe that I want to call my first-born daughter, Deloris-Horseshoe, Sky-Apple or Pixie-Wick-Jezebel.



In the end we just sit down and discuss what is important to us when naming our daughter and eventually reach a consensus. We would like Kidney Bean to have an unusual and pretty name that somehow reflects the traits that we would like her to have. I would also like a name that is easily abbreviated giving her the obligatory cute, ‘daddy’s little girl’ nickname. So together we trawl through a list of names until eventually we reach a decision. Kidney Bean will be called Artemis or ‘Arte’ for short. Named after the Greek goddess of the hunt and daughter of Zeus I am sure she will have an adventurous, brave and generous spirit, but part of me does worry that we have given her a lot to live up to; what if she is meek, timid and stingy? Well I guess that’s what deed-poll is for.

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