Behind the Name: Leila McKinnon reveals why she named her kids Ted and Gwen

Photo: Instagram / Leila McKinnon
Photo: Instagram / Leila McKinnon 

I'm no angel. If your shoes are ugly I'll pass judgement. If you chew gum with vigour, or spit in the street, I'll look sideways. But when it comes to baby names the sky's the limit. Go for your life.

When I was in the hospital after having my son Ted, one of the nurses told me they'd just had a baby in the ward called Awesome. Well, why not? It's a lot to live up to kid - but you had your mum and dad convinced from day one. 

The thing about baby names is that they mean something different to everyone who hears them. I live in the Northern Rivers of New South Wales, and trust me it's peak weird baby name territory, I've heard them all.

But no matter how strange they are, the kids own them. And the more you hear them shouted in the playground the less strange they seem. 


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My husband wanted to call our son Ted. At the time I thought it was a bit inconsequential, maybe even too friendly, it was also the name of an inappropriate sweary bear movie star.

I liked grander names. Not posh names, but monikers with a little gravitas. So we went for Ted with the much more important sounding Edmund as his "real" name. 

You might think that's a mouldy old name, but it makes me think of one of my heroes, Edmund Hillary, a kiwi like me, who achieved an incredible feat, unlike me, by climbing Mount Everest and living with that fame with inspiring humility. It's also the name of the first Prime Minister of my favourite country in the world, Australia (although he was popularly known as Toby, don't ask me why).


I have a friend called Deb Darby and I love the alliteration of that name. I never call her Deb, I always call her Deb Darby. So when I had my daughter I wanted a hard G name to go with her surname.

For five minutes I thought about Gertie, I pictured her as a reporter in a hectic war zone as the newsreader crossed to her saying "we go now to Gertie Gyngell who's on the scene in Kandahar, Gertie are the bombs still raining down where you are?" I chickened out. 


Mitochondrial DNA situation

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One style of names I'd always liked was the clunky duchess genre, you know, Edith, Agatha, Florence and friends. And that's how I arrived at Gwendolen.

It's also the name of two of my favourite characters in literature. Gwendolen Grandcourt, the glamorous gambler who gets revenge on her heartless husband in the best way. And Gwendolen Fairfax, who never travels without her diary because "one should always have something sensational to read on the train".

My mum and my mother-in-law were not convinced. But as my obstetrician told me, they had their turn. 

So here I am with a Ted, and a Gwen, and If you're not wearing crocs I'm not judging you. 

Leila McKinnon is a Channel 9 presenter and reporter.