Why I wish my parents had spent £22,000 on naming me | Life and style

I spend an extraordinary amount of time trying to get the names of the characters in my novels right. So devoted am I to this task that I wander through my local cemetery with a notebook collecting promising examples (I am still toying with the possibilities suggested by the latest addition to my collection, a man evocatively memorialised as “Roger Mycock”).
But this is not just a literary concern. Naming your children correctly is even more crucial than christening fictional characters. The process of naming is, in a strange sense, magical or, at least, powerful. Unfortunately, as the naming of people takes place when they are unborn or only just born, you don’t have any character to match the name to.
This being the case, most rely on tradition (Muhammad or Patrick), family history (all my children have some family element to their first and second names – grandparents’ names, etc), class aspiration (one can hardly imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg naming his son Wayne instead of Sixtus ) and desperately hoped-for “originality” ( Gravity , Zowie , Heavenly Hiraani ).
Perhaps character partially coalesces around a name (I cannot help believing this of the late Mr Mycock, even though I have no evidence).

I have no idea why my parents called me Timothy, but I have never stopped wishing they hadn’t. As Will Self (was ever a name more evocative of its owner?) has gleefully pointed out, literary Tims never seem to make it into the top rank . Sorry, Messrs Winton, Pears and Parks – you are all fine writers, but you are simply not as likely to make it into the canon as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie or F Scott Fitzgerald. (Phoenicia Hebebe Dobson-Mouawad, who wrote in this newspaper about her difficulties with her unwieldy name , should seriously consider a career in writing.)
For reasons I could never fathom, I always wanted to be called Frank. But you are stuck with what you have, and I am stuck in a canyon of forgettability and implied mediocrity.

Worse still, Tim has not only been tedious but straightforwardly mockable since Harry Enfield came up with his character Tim Nice-But-Dim.
My parents didn’t know it was going to be this way.

They thought Timothy was “nice”. But that’s the point. When choosing names for children, avoiding ones that are easy to take the rise out of is very tricky. Of my four daughters, one has a first name that rhymes with an unpleasant disease, another with a mammary gland and a third that means weak or crybaby.
Apparently, there is a Swiss company that charges £22,000 to find the perfect name for your baby . They employ 14 names experts, four historians and 12 translators, who spend more than 100 hours creating a list of 15 to 25 potential names before helping to whittle them down to one. Pricey, but I would have been grateful to my parents for making such an investment.
Getting it wrong can be bad – calling a kid who ends up with a weight problem Nelly is unlikely to work out well – although there is wrong and really wrong.

Last year, for instance, a woman in Wales was legally prevented from calling her child Cyanide . Actually, thinking about Cyanide (or Sixtus, for that matter), perhaps Tim isn’t so bad. It could have been worse, particularly with my surname. Noah, Costa, Jamaica and Lancer spring to mind.
I would still have preferred Frank – but even then I wouldn’t have been safe. My desire is to be the Frank conjured by Tom Waits in Frank’s Wild Years – louche, cool and dissolute.

But with my luck – and propensity for falling over, bumping into things and breaking valuable gewgaws – the association in people’s minds would almost certainly have ended up as Frank Spencer.
timlottwriter.

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