The one about names.
N: Were you one of those people who always knew what you’d name your kid?
C: Not at all. I flirted briefly with keeping a list on my phone, but I was 23 and my interest in it quickly faded and then died when I traded my blackberry for an iPhone - so 2010! You?
N: I always had this weird obsession with bible names (hello, Catholic schooling). Maybe because I’d grown up with an unconventional, gender non-conforming name? But same, I think I let that go pretty early on. But then, I met SK, and we started travelling often to Germany, and I learned of Die Biene Maja, a completely adorable cartoon bee, and I had my girls name solved.
N: It’s a pretty weird thing to have to do: name someone for life. And, to boot, you guys have a double-barrelled surname. Does Mont have a middle name, too?
C: She does! She is officially Monty Emma so it's a mouthful. The middle name was the hardest part actually - my family does middle names but RKS' doesn't so we both were attached to our way of doing things. He said he'd be happy with a middle name as long as it was a name he loved. And then we landed on Emma. And Valo?
N: V does: Sebastian. We ended up there in a rather roundabout way. Germany has this strict (awesome) law that prevents you making up your kid’s name (I’m looking at you, Nevaeh) or, naming them something offensive, and everything has to be gender-specific. And, cause we got so desperate coming up with Valo that we broke the first rule, we went for tried and true in the middle name so that his passport application wouldn’t be rejected.
C: Wow! I never knew that! Way to go Germany. Did having a unique name yourself affect your process when it came to naming Baby V?
N: We were so undecided on a boy’s name. I really gravitated towards anything German, but, having grown up there, SK had too many childhood associations that were becoming super hard to get past. So, we agreed some rules: short, bilingual, likely ending in O, inability to be abbreviated.
N: Monty is super adorable, but, I imagine you’re copping shit for its boyness (welcome to my world, Mont). How did you decide?
C: It sounds dumb but we kinda just 'knew'. I'd always love it as a boy's name and then when we found out she was a girl it was like a switch flicked. We'd been spitballing names for a while and after that ultrasound where they told us she was a girl we both just agreed. It's insane how many people chastise me for giving her a boy's name - and then dressing her in colours other than pink - but, and maybe I'm biased, I think it's actually a name that works both ways. I'm glad she'll grow up with her mum's cool friend Neall who can help her with the nuff nuffs who want to comment on her name!
N: We just knew, too, but it was still up in the air, right down to the day. We opted for waiting ‘til V arrived to find out his gender, which meant MONTHS of speculating. We ended up with a bit of a shortlist: well, I did. I had about 8 names scrawled in sharpie that I taped to SK’s desk, in the hope he’d just agree to one. Then, one day, he came home and told me of his lightbulb moment: in Germany, Valentine is shortened to Vallo. We dropped an L and it was love: Valo our (potential) little boy would be.
N: Did your parents have any thoughts on Monty?
C: We played a fun game with my family actually - they wanted to know the named we'd picked so we gave them a few clues to help them guess. We told them it was traditionally a boys name and there was something in their pantry with the same name but different spelling. It took them weeks of insane guessing (who names their kid Tabasco?!) but eventually my mum guessed, while eating a Monte Carlo. They instantly loved it and everyone started referring to her by her name, as if she was already here. Given how awful my pregnancy was, and how we all struggled through it, it really helped everyone bond with her in a way we couldn't otherwise.
N: That’s so funny. SK’s mum (even though she vehemently denies this) accidentally told someone that his name was Velo (which means bike in German), so everyone back home in his small town walked around for a couple of weeks thinking that his odd Australian wife had named his son bike.
C: Do other kids that V meets have trouble pronouncing his name? Or adults for that matter!
N: So far, most kids call him Arlo. But, I imagine he’s going to get all sorts when he goes to school. We did get one kind email from a concerned colleague asking for the precise pronunciation so he could put the speculation to rest (FYI: Valo like Frida Kahlo).
C: My friend gave her kid an Irish name with an insane amount of letters that don't look like they belong together. She recently accepted that there will be an Irish pronunciation and an Australian one - both every different.
N: It’s too true. I think that’s why we wanted an O: it was an automatic nickname that couldn’t be bastardised.
N: Have you ever looked up what Monty means?
C: It's from the French Montague meaning Mountain. I'm not sure how I'm going to work that into something meaningful and inspirational for her, but I've probably got a few years before she asks!
N: Do you think your name shapes you? So often, you meet someone and say ‘He’s such a Roland’. I reckon there’s something in the character of a name that influences your personality. Here’s looking at you, Elon Musk.
N: Growing up, I hated my name. I hated it being so different. But now I think, what else could I have been? Definitely not a Katie, or a Lisa. Maybe a Beth? Who can say.
C: I think it's as much about having a regular name as it could be about having a weird one - like if you were one of seven Lauren's in your class at school that would definitely mess with your sense of identity. I think it's one of those situations where something that's difficult for you (or your parents) as a child is actually a massive WIN when you're an adult. My mum always says she picked my name partly because it was feminine without being massively girly. Which is kinda how I'd describe my personality - so I think there's probably more to it than we realise.
C: I also think how you feel about your own name gets really tied up in how you name your children. I recently read about a woman who posted on Mumsnet asking whether it was insane to want to change her five year olds name because she'd recently started kindergarten and there was another girl in her class with the same name. She'd picked that particular name because it was 'rare' but now it's become 'common'. She said she had a very common name herself and had been one of at least ten girls in her class with that name. The whole thing smacks of unresolved issues on the mother's part - leave the poor girl out of it. I have no issue with mum's changing their minds weeks or months after baby is born - you've gotta feel good screaming that name out in public for a few years, after all. But once the kid is old enough to know their name is their name you gotta suck it up I think. Unless the kid wants to change it, then call up a deed poll.
N: So true. My mum picked my name after resentfully being burdened with Ang and Angie her entire life: she was so adamant that you wouldn’t be able to shorten my name.
N: Now that you’ve got Monty, have you thought about what you’d name a sibling? There seem to be themes in names.
C: To be frank, I'm way too traumatised from my pregnancy to even think about ever having another baby. But I think I'd want something that was the same balance of original but normal - and didn't sound too samesie. I don't really like theme naming but do really respect it when it's done right.
C: What about you? Is there a little Velo in the future?
N: Oh god, same! (Though maybe not quite as viscerally as you are). If we have a girl, we’re set (Maja, my little bee), but I think we’d stick to a similar formula for another boy. If not, there’s always ‘Bike’z
C: Is Maja pronounced Maya?
C: I like that.