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Why We Chose The Name Alice

Sarah and Alice

I was eighteen weeks pregnant when a friend suggested we name the baby Alice.

"It's [my teenaged daughter's] middle name," she said.

I was sure Steve wouldn't like it. I was sure Steve didn't like it. I was sure Steve had actually told me he didn't like it.

So I gave it no more thought.

* * *

In fact, it was a while until Steve and I gave the second baby's name much thought at all.

First time around, choosing a name was great fun. We scoured the end credits of TV shows and movies. We considered the names of favourite characters. We got lost in loops on the Nameberry website. 

We scribbled down suggestions. He scored out anything too flowery; I scored out anything which sounded like a vampire ("This is a real person who will have to go to real job interviews, you know").

We had screeds and screeds of girl names which we struggled to narrow down; we had a handful of boy names which we supposed would do, at a push.

Second time around, we were so busy dealing with a two year old, we simply didn't have the same focus.

* * *

I told my book group we were outsourcing the naming of our child to them and, all credit to them, not a meeting went by at which they didn't present me with a list of suggestions. 

One member downloaded an app which was basically Tinder for baby names - swipe right if you like the name; swipe left if you don't. I swiped left and left and left. Who would give their child a name which means "sorrow" or "grief"? 

They googled for literary names and they googled for feminist names. Their favoured option was Policarpa-Jacquotte, although I'm 99% certain they weren't serious. 

In amongst their increasingly ludicrous suggestions, though, was Alice. 

"Matilda and Alice," they said, "two good names from children's books."

* * *

"They suggested Policarpa," I told Steve, over dinner. "Jacquotte. Taramasalata. Saffron. Alice."

The next day, Matilda started talking about, "My baby sister, Alice."

To my surprise, Steve turned out to like it, too. Even more so when I told him its meaning is "noble".

* * *

Still, I resisted. 

Alice was the 46th most popular girls' name in Scotland last year and a part of me still hasn't grown out of that adolescent horror of liking the same things other people do

It also sounds similar to the names of some of Matilda's friends. Would Alex's parents or Alastair's feel like we muscling in on their moniker?

* * *

I started spending idle moments clicking through name websites, hunting for something which sounded nice, had a strong meaning and didn't clash with "Matilda". 

I had thought that it would be easier this time because at least we knew we were having a girl. 

I was wrong. 

We had considered so many names for Matilda that everything we paused at felt like a hand-me-down. We didn't want our second child starting her life with something we had deemed "not good enough" for her big sister.

But we had never considered Alice.

* * *

I asked more friends for suggestions, feeling horribly negative as I batted away each idea:

"Old manager."
"Thatcher."
"Makes me think 'Puddleduck'."
"Family member."
"CBeebies character."
"That's a cheese spread, not a child."

I liked the idea of a wintry name for our November/December baby, but had similar problems:

Holly: "Dad's cat."
Ivy: "We spent a whole week killing the stuff."
Robin: "I'm getting angry about How I Met Your Mother all over again."

Eventually, everyone would come up with the name Alice, and I would murmur, "Maybe..."

* * *

"I'm already thinking of her as Alice," Steve told me, when I groaned that the kid was going to end up with Don't Know Rooftops on her birth certificate.

"Me, too," I admitted. "But I want to know that we've ruled out all the other options properly."

And so we started to make a list of other names we liked. 

And then we started to veto them.

I scored out his suggestions; he scored out my suggestions; we both scored out Policarpa-Jacquotte (sorry, book group buddies).

And we were left with two names: Alice and a name which started with S.

We didn't want her to have an S name. We have S names; we wanted her to have an initial of her own.

So the S name became the middle name. 

And we called our baby Alice, knowing deep down that she could never have been anything else.



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