Tag Archives: names

Updatey things for a Friday

First of all, I’m sorry to inform you, if you didn’t already know, that Mabel and Dash are not my children’s real names. Maud is also not my real name. I’m very sorry if you feel betrayed in any way by this information, but it is on the About page, so I wasn’t intentionally keeping it from you. If you want to call your children Mabel and Dash, I’m delighted, but you should probably think about cutting me in on the royalties. (What do you mean, children don’t come with royalties? They should.)

Dinner at the table is going well. So long as I am proactive about turning the TV off at exactly 5.59, I have two eager diners sitting up and even demanding to be let set the table one minute later. Three, if their dad is home on time. Enthusiasm for tasting new foods has dimmed a little, but seriously, I’m just happy to have them sitting there seeing new foods being eaten by other people. We have actual dinnertime conversation, and I get to tell them not to talk with their mouths full, and it’s just like a real family.

My point with this is not that I think you have to eat dinner at the table too, or that you should do any of the things I do. It’s simply to encourage you by showing that change is possible, even if you think you’ve missed the boat because you didn’t institute whatever rule it was when they were born, or first eating solids, or turned four (five, six, seven…). If you don’t like the way things are, make a change. Or if you’re not ready for that, at least don’t despair, because when you are ready for it, you can do it.

We went to get Mabel’s American passport renewed yesterday. Previous passports (they have two each and the Irish baby one got renewed at 3 years) have been cause for photo-related hilarity and/or gnashing of teeth, but I was hopeful that this would be a straight shot. Mabel wasn’t great about holding her head up for the nice lady, but the nice lady was very canny and left the room while I wielded the camera, and I caught her in an accidental smile.

Mabel's photo

(We got to keep the second print. Which is nice because all the photos in my wallet were at least three years old.)

Alexander is his middle name, after all

Poor Dash had a bad day.

There was a substitute teacher at school, so he didn’t get to advance to a three-star math general, as he had been hoping he would. (The sub still knew about the spelling test they were due, though.) They didn’t get to do their usual Fun Friday activities, and recess was cancelled becuase it was 99 degrees outside. (Really? I mean, it’s 92 right now but I’d be surprised if it had been all the way up to 99 today.)

He also fell off his chair and hit another one with his cheek on the way down, which I’m sure was entirely not his fault and nothing to do with leaning back in a way not officially sanctioned by either his regular teacher or the sub, I bet.

Now I tell him that it’s the nursery school picnic tonight but instead of my usual lemon scones (which he loves) I cruelly made rhubarb snacking cake, even though I know he won’t eat any of that. (The fact that there will be plenty of cookies and/or cake that he will like is not holding much sway here.)

But the worst thing, from my point of view at least, was that at around 2pm I was getting Mabel a piece of toast, and thinking as I opened the new loaf bag that I hadn’t seen a slice of bread yet today. Which meant maybe I hadn’t made Dash’s lunch. A quick consultation with his father revealed that neither did he. Usually one or other of us does, or it’s realised and thrown together at the last moment before they walk out the door. Today the shock of Dash being ready to leave the house in good time apparently discombobulated us both so much that we forgot to think of lunch.

“Are you going to move to Australia?” I asked him, after apologizing for the oversight and hearing about all the other terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things that happened today.

“No. They say it happens there too.”

This crazy kid can’t hold a grump for long. He just discovered that his top tooth is a tiny bit wobbly. He also has a lower tooth that’s a tiny bit wobbly.

“I bet I’m the first person ever to have two teeth wobbly! This is the BEST DAY EVER!”

Happy seven-year old boy
I tried to get a grumpy picture, but it didn’t work

Be the hokey (Irish names)

In honour of the day that’s in it, or almost in it, I thought I would provide some oft-needed information. Here’s a quick run-down on some popular Irish names, and “Irish” names, that you might encounter.

Irish names that people in Ireland actually give their children


Pronounced “Ashling”. Means a dream, but not just any old dream. Specifically, the dream of Ireland personified as a beautiful woman.

Pronounced “Eve-Ann”. Means beautiful.

Pronounced “Ee-fah”.

Pronounced “Kweeva” or sometimes “Keeva”.

Pronounced “Keera”. If you want to pronounce it “Kee-ara”, then spell it Chiara and call it Italian. If you want to pronounce it “Sierra”, you’re probably some sort of pop princess.

(Or Eimear.) Pronounced Ee-mer, not eh-mer like United Arab Emirates.

Pronounced “Graw-nya”. Irish form of Grace.

(Or even Maedb, for the purists.) Pronounced Maeve. Could also be spelled Maebh or simple Maeve.

Pronounced “Neev” or, more correctly, “Nee-uv” with two syllables.

(Or Sadhbh.) Pronounced “Sive” to rhyme with five.

Pronounced “Seersha”. Means freedom.

Pronounced “Shiv-awn”.


Pronounced “Dara” with a flat a as in the first of animal, or possibly “Darra” with a less flat a as in star. Some people will claim that Dara is a girl’s name and Daragh (or Darragh) is the boy’s version, but then you’ll walk out of the room and meet one who works it the other way around.

Irish spelling of Owen. (A variant of John, and of course Seán.)

Pronounced “Neesha”. Can work for a boy or a girl.

Pronounced “Usheen”. Like Usher, but with an -een instead. No relation to hoisin sauce.

Pronounced “Paw-drig” or maybe “Paw-rig”. The Irish form of Patrick. Because Patrick isn’t Irish enough, you know.

“Irish” names that people in other countries like to give their children


I have to tread carefully here, as I have a good friend with this name. But many people are unaware that it’s simply a back-formation of Kathleen. The name Kathleen in Irish is spelled Cáitlín, but pronounced Cawt-leen, which sounds a lot more like Kathleen than the pronounciation Americans have given to the spelling. Have you considered Kate-Lynn?
This is the phonetic spelling of the Irish word “cailín”, which means “girl”. It’s no worse than calling your child Nina, I suppose, but really, it’s just a noun. Maybe if you were surprised that she wasn’t a boy.

Erin is the Irish word for Ireland. It’s like calling your daughter America. Again, many people do. I even know native-born Erins in Ireland. But it’s also a brand of tinned foods and ready-made gravy, so you might want to take that into account.

The Shannon is the longest river in Ireland. If you’d quite like to call your daughter Amazon or Mississippi or Danube, but you want an Irish air, then go for it.


It’s a last name. And a shade of green. It’s not a first name in Ireland, for a boy or a girl.

Don’t spell it this way. Spell it Seán or just call him John. Please.

A few real Irish names that travel well

Killian (or Cillian, but then you have to tell people it’s not pronounced Sillian)


Do you have any more to add to my lists? Any mystery names whose pronounciation I can clarify for you? Have I mortally offended any Erins out there?

If you’d like to read more about St Patrick’s day at home and abroad, may I suggest:
Cultural exchange of information


I have opinions about names. You are very much absolutely entitled to your own, possibly different, opinions, but I have mine. They became clear to me when I started looking for names for my children.

For instance, I don’t like alliteration. Now I know some people actively seek it out, and others couldn’t care less whether it happens or not, but personally I don’t want to saddle my child with a Lindsey Loo or Polly Price or whatever it might be. It worked out well for James Joyce, but mostly it just annoys me. (This is part of the reason why I didn’t change my name when I got married. I didn’t want to be alliterative.)

I also dislike rhymes or half rhymes. Assonance is okay, but only just. So if you want to call your kid Polly Dolly or Polly Barry, that’s fine but I wouldn’t do it. Polly Dobson would be okay. I think.

(It bugs me, slightly, that people who don’t know my husband’s name sometimes append my last name to my children’s first names. This would mean Child A was alliterative and Child B was almost rhyming and I Would Never Do That. I’d just like you to know.)

Finally, we went to some lengths to avoid names that had obvious nicknames. Not that I have anything against a nickname, per se, but the last name ends in Y so I didn’t want the kids to have names that would be automatically shortened by their peers to an “-ie” ending.

In some parts of Dublin, the common diminiutive is formed not with “-ie” but instead by shortening the name and adding “-o” or even “-ser”. For some reason this mostly happens with boys. So Monkey, if his cousins feel like it, might be called “Monko” or even “Monkser”. (If his name were Monkey. Which I think you probably know it isn’t. For one thing, it ends with Y so I wouldn’t have done that.) This is strongly – strongly! – discouraged.*

Monkey in a Monkey t-shirt (and Miss)

I don’t quite understand the current trend for naming children with diminuitives and not giving them a “proper” name at all – for instance, if you want to call your cute and fluffy daughter Fifi, by all means do, but please put Fiona (or whatever you want it to be short for) on her birth certificate so that if she becomes a serious political figure she can do so without feeling inadequately named for the job.

(* I recieved a beautifully worded invitation to a grown-up party recently. It said that children were not encouraged. That can be applied to so many situations, don’t you think?)


It’s been a while. I’m not really a mommyblogger. I have a baby: I’m too busy sitting round all day while he falls asleep on me to bother chronicling it for people who aren’t reading. Also, my mother-in-law is visiting.

But I just wanted to register a little list here:

Mister Baby
El Senor Baby
Mister Man
Baby Fish Mouth (when he’s gaping and pecking in a hungry manner)
Mister Fluffy (after a bath)
Mister Baldy Man (now that he’s losing his hair)
Little Squish (when he’s all curled up and asleep and adorable)
Wallace (when he looks like the stop-frame-animation character or like Wallace Shawn, both of whom he can imitate in different moods)
Purple Monkey (when he’s really not happy about things)

What do you mean, we have to pick one and call it a nickname? Can’t we keep them all?