How not to name twins

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 Photo: Getty Images

Call me boring, but I don't think that when it comes to choosing my twins' names is the right time to use a good pun.

Yes, it can be a bit tempting to give twins rhyming or connected names. But they'll probably have enough to deal with being mixed up that I don't want burden them with silly names.

I believe that names should be actual names. And by that I mean no countries, cities, grape varieties, other alcoholic beverages, fantasy creatures, directions (yes, I mean North) and creative letter accumulations that might remind you of some other name, like Alyzzabeth, Jayceson or Elyviya.

It actually turns out that the names we give them can have quite an influence on their lives.

Apparently, according to a study by a study by David N. Figlio, boys with names that are usually given to girls, such as Ashley or Stacey, tend to turn into little troublemakers at school. The same study found that in contrast, girls with classically feminine names are less interested in science and maths once they're in high school.

On top of that, this research shows that names perceived as "lower status" – mainly those with unusual spellings or pronunciations – result in the children scoring three to five per cent lower in exams than those with names spelled more traditionally.

As late as the 18th Century, it wasn't uncommon for parents to give their children the same name - two Johns for different grandfathers for example.

But that's not entirely a thing of the past. Boxing legend and famous grill salesman George Foreman named all of his sons after himself: George Jr, George III, George IV, George V, and George VI.

"If you're going to get hit as many times as I've been hit by Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and Evander Holyfield, you're not going to remember many names," he's quoted as saying.

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Of course, most parents haven't had their brain pulped by Muhammad Ali and want to express themselves by choosing increasingly unique names or name spellings. In her book Narcissism Epidemic, psychologist Jean Twenge points out that Jasmine now rubs shoulders with Jazmine, Jazmyne, Jazzmin, Jazzmine, Jasmina, Jazmyn, Jasmin, and Jasmyn in name lists.

A recipe for failure? Maybe not. Dalton Conley, a sociologist at New York University, says that children with unusual names may learn because they may be teased or get used to people asking about their names.

"They actually benefit from that experience by learning to control their emotions or their impulses, which is of course a great skill for success."

In the end, the effect of a name rarely weighs more than being raised by  parents who would choose such a name, he says.

Twenge agrees, saying, "So it ends up building on itself. The type of parent who would give a really unusual name is often going to parent differently from a parent who says 'I want to give my child a name so they fit in'."

So whatever names we give our children will have some influence on their lives. And with twins I like to think we've a bit more responsibility.

Then there are also the general rules you should use when choosing names for your little darlings.

  • Make sure that their initials don't spell anything rude or silly like Patricia Olivia Olsen and Stanley Herbert Ian Thompson.
  • The judge test: if one of my little bubbas decides to become a judge later in life, how would their name sound? Some names are adorable for a baby, but just don't work as well for grown ups. (Use this baby name tester for more thought starters.)
  • Naming your offspring after your favourite tipple can also backfire. Chardonnay or Kahlua don't ring true for the winner of a Nobel prize, and potential employers might immediately put their CV to the side when looking to cull a long list of applicants.
  • Think twice before choosing a long and uniquely spelled name. How often will he or she spend on the phone spelling their name over and over, only to find it messed up on the next form anyway?

So let's get back to the special challenge of naming a double pack. Some parents like to use a theme, like Faith and Charity, Nicholas and Nicole, Mini and Maxi, Heaven and Nevaeh, Luke and Leila. Others like them to rhyme: Alvin and Calvin, Dwayne and Shayne.

I don't think it's a good idea. I think that each name in the pair should be distinct from the other, but should still work well when said together. One shouldn't end up with something really unusual and the other super plain. So basically they should be close in style but sound quite different when you say them.

Our kiddos will have reasonably common names. Being identical twins they'll stick out as it is, so we don't have to lump them with some silly pun names on top of that.

But let's put reason aside for a moment and think about funny twin name combinations like Benson and Hedges, Jesus and Judas, Simon and Garfunkel, Ernie and Bert, Jack and Jill, Thelma and Louise, Ken and Barbie. Those poor kids.

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