“It isn’t the name any decent people would give to a girl… common or not…. It’s giving girls names like that,” said Buggins, “that nine times out of ten makes ‘em go wrong. It unsettles ‘em. Euphemia indeed! What next? ….If ever I was to have a girl, if ever I was to have a dozen girls, I’d call ‘em all Jane.”

(H. G. Wells, Kipps, 1905


Jane hated her name. She didn’t just not like it. She knew that most people didn’t like their names. This was different. Hers she really hated. ….. It was repulsive and repugnant. It was an abomination. It was also easy to rhyme.

….Ever since she was small and people had asked, “What’s your name, dear?” she had noticed their eyes glaze over immediately she told them. When she replied, “Jane” they practically yawned in her face. They sometimes tried to make amends by saying quickly, “That’s a good, sensible name.”

Whoever wanted a sensible name?

(Theresa Breslin, Name Games, Mammoth, 1997)


If I wanted a girl to grow up beautiful I’d call her Elizabeth, and if I wanted her to be a good cook, I’d choose something like Mary or Jane.

(George Orwell, Letters)

Names & Naming

I wonder what would please her,
Charlotte, Julia or Louisa?
Ann and Mary, they’re too common;
Joan’s too formal for a woman;
Jane’s a prettier name beside;
But we had a Jane that died.
They would say, if ‘twas Rebecca,
That she was a little Quaker,
Edith’s pretty, but that looks
Better in old English books.
Ellen’s left off long ago:
Blanche is out of fashion now.

None that I have mentioned yet
Are so good as Margaret.
Emily is neat and fine.
What do you think of Caroline?
How I’m puzzled and perplexed
What to choose or think of next!
I am in a little fever
Lest the name that I shall give her
Should disgrace her or defame her.
I will leave Papa to name her.

(Charles Lamb, ‘Naming the Baby’, 1809)


“When I get maids with unsuitable names I call them Jane; they soon get used to it.”

“An excellent plan,” said the aunt of Clovis coldly, “unfortunately I have got used to being called Jane myself. It happens to be my name.”

(Saki, The Chronicles of Clovis, 1911)