My daughter’s name has been listed in the top ten most hated baby names. Apparently Gertrude is considered too ‘ugly’. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise to me – there are members of my own family who refuse to speak her name and insist on calling her Trudie. Even we parents originally conceived the name as a joke when I was pregnant to match her brother’s old-fashioned name (Stanley). But then she was born – after a wonderful home birth – and suddenly she was there. And she was definitely Gertrude.
My great Auntie Gert was born in November 1902 (when Gertrude was at number 27 in the popular girl’s names list). She died in 1998, when I was 21. My memories of her as I was growing up are all biscuits in the pantry and 50 pence pieces pressed into my palm. She was a maiden aunt, but had a way with children. Despite being 75 years older than me she was never scary or dull in that way old people can be to young children. She was warm and funny and was very loved by my grandmother and my father. To name my daughter after her gives me a sense of belonging to the past and of keeping it alive. I love the thought that even when everyone who knew the original Gert is long gone, my Gertie will still know who she was. My grandma has already shown me a necklace that Aunty Gert was given by her brother for her 21st birthday. It’s earmarked for my Gertie’s 21st birthday and I very much hope my grandma will be there to give it to her in person (she’ll be 99). It’s feasible Gertie will talk to her grandchildren about Aunty Gert 150 years after she was born. For me, this makes the name beautiful.
But even without this provenence I still think Gertrude has a lovely tone about it – I like the harsh Germanic sound of Gert and Gertie is about as cute as any name you can give a baby. I have heard that fashions for baby names skip two generations at a time. So people having children in their 20s and 30s now recoil in horror at the Lindas, Patricias and Barbaras of their mother’s generation (likewise the Raymonds, Terrys or Brians of their father’s). They like their grandparents’ names better (Joyce, Ken, Jean and Roland in my case), but it is the great-grand ancestors they really love (Gertrude and Stanley). It explains why grandparents often disapprove of name choices – I wouldn’t be too keen on a Steve or Diane for my grandchild.
I hope that Gertie will love her name, and if she happens across people who don’t, will have the strength not to mind. Of course she will have to tolerate being dirty, flirty Gertie, but things could be worse – her dad’s name is Bevis!