It is when teachers match the names on the roll-book with the new faces trooping into their classrooms.
It’s also when teachers make assumptions about whether a child is likely to be studious, cheeky, calm, or disruptive, based on their name.
Fair? Hardly. But true, says social commentator and author, Katie Hopkins.
Hopkins, a former star of the UK’s The Apprentice,, is in the news for her acerbic one-liners and mockery of parents’ choices of names.
Hopkins has released a downloadable book — The Class Book of Baby Names — giving her summary of the characteristics she says go hand-in-hand with popular names.
Hopkins has been condemned for her withering analysis of names such as Tyler and Chardonnay.
She has been labelled a snob for refusing to allow her children to become friends with the ‘wrong’ names. But she says she is adamant about a child’s name revealing so much about their personality, their clothes and their parents’ attitude to time-keeping, uniforms and even parking regulations.
“A child’s name is the first impression you have. That impression is usually validated by the mother standing behind it. It isn’t just the child’s name, is it? It is the manner in which its mother yells it across the playground,” she says.
Hopkins is scathing about the name Ashlee: “Show me an Ashlee. I will show you a large mum in leggings and with a Primark bag twice the size of her latest baby. ”
A child’s name is indicative of the parent, says Hopkins. “And I have noticed that parents of children called Tyrone, Dylan or Tyler, or Skye or Summer, tend to do less to ensure their children achieve,” says Hopkins, whose own daughters are called India and Poppy (takeaway curry and a bowl of mashed spud, anyone?)
Parents of children with these names send their children to school in messy uniforms, often arrive late to collect them, and park on the double yellow lines outside, says Hopkins.
Hopkins provoked huge reaction when she detailed her quick-fire summing-up of personalities and destinies, on Britain’s This Morning show in July.
Given her abrasive and inflammatory opinions, is Hopkins nervous about facing mums at the school gates?
Not at all. “I’ve had lots of emails from parents, and even teachers, who agree with what I’ve said. I’ve had a lot of support,” she says.
Teachers’ quick-fire judgements could impact on children with the ‘right’ names, too, as she says teachers pair a child who has a good name with a potentially bold child, in the hope the calm child will have a positive effect — often jeopardising the good child’s school career.
Hopkins has a quick answer for her critics: anyone who disagrees with her probably wears PJs on the school run, parks on the kerb outside school, and has a child who will never do well in school.
Is she a misguided snob or is she saying what so many parents or teachers think?
A few teachers interviewed for this piece declined to be named, but said they had preconceptions about names. Many of the names they listed as potential troublemakers were altered spellings of more typical names. Poor Kacee, Brandii and Ashlee may be lovely girls, but they have to work extra hard to prove it to some teachers.
You can send a child to school with his county colours on his schoolbag or pencil case, but if you call him Tyrone, he’ll find himself sitting up front, where teacher can keep an eye on him.
When pressed further, these teachers said they feared that parents who broke with tradition in naming their children would also bend rules on drop-off times, neatness and homework.
This will result in a child who will end up in the dock rather than in the judge’s chair, says Hopkins.
Whether you dismiss such snobbery or whether you jump to instant conclusions when you see names, such as Chardonnay or Chantelle or Harold or Hyacinth, written down, the notion that one’s name denotes your character, or even your future, has been around for a long time.
The Latin maxim, ‘nomen est omen’, literally means ‘a name is a sign/portent’, so it seems the Romans also subscribed to the view.
Hopkins’ controversial pronouncements aren’t limited to people’s names – she has also come under for fire for saying she would find it difficult to love a ‘ginger’ baby.
She was also amused to hear of the Redhead Convention in Cork.
“Is that true, you really celebrate gingers? No way. Is it like the Gay Pride festival with less photogenic people?’’ she enquired.
But if you feel it’s your name that is holding you back you could always change it by deed poll, which sounds surprisingly easy to do.
Call, in person, to the Deed Poll Section, Central Office, the Four Courts (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am to 12.30pm) with your birth certificate and photo id, or get your solicitor to do the deed poll for you.
Many of the names which Hopkins features in her book just don’t feature widely here in Ireland. Or some just don’t have the same connotations as in Britain. So we asked Hopkins about some popular – and lovely – Irish names.
Caoimhe: “Oh God no. So many children are nauseous in school or in the car, why would you call your child something that sounds like ‘queasy’?
Saoirse: “I need a meaning for this one – what does it mean? Freedom or Liberty? Then I would think they are the type of parents who would also call their child Summer or Skye or River.”
Óisín: “Uh-Sheen? What kind of name is that? I’m thinking shiny, fast cars here. It’s like people also call their child ‘Hummer’ – you know, like the military car, Humvee.”
Fionn: “Sounds a bit like ‘frooom’ – the sound of something going very fast. I would say a Fionn moves incredibly fast – and probably is trouble.”