"So how do you feel that he got the ‘better name’?”
This was my response when I first met my partner, Stuart, an identical twin, who told me his twin’s name was Rowan.
It’s been over a year and apparently, I’m still an arsehole.
According to families with twins, there is no ‘better name’ in multiples. It’s not a thing. It’s not some known concept where if you’re born second, that means that you were given the name with the least preference. Apparently it doesn’t work like that.
How does it work then?
When you think of parents who name twins, triplets and other multiples, you probably think that the naming process is no different or more difficult than any other expectants'. You just read a book of names on your oversized pregnant belly and tick and cross by alphabetical order until you’ve narrowed it down to the main contender. Right? Either that, or take my father’s approach and argue for the eighth time that ‘Erasmus Verass’ is the perfect name for a child who definitely won’t get teased in the playground or miss out on job opportunities by having it on their CV.
Naming twins requires a whole other naming framework. Not only do you have double the challenge of agreeing on a name with your co-parent, but you also need to take into account the life-long pairing the twins will have. If the two names don’t roll off the tongue, “X & Y, get over here right now!”, with ease, parenthood could be even more challenging than manoeuvring a double-stroller.
I heard from the parents of twins and the double-trouble they had naming a duo.
Lee, mum of Rowan & Stuart
“Choosing names for twins is not an easy process. Finding 8 different names that both parents like and different combinations of names that go together is quite a lengthy task. However, I remember it being more fun than onerous. I’ve always like boy’s name combinations, so that’s probably why.
My husband and I picked Rowan & Stuart because we liked them, and the other reason being that we didn’t really want your standard John-Peter-David type names, or those Phoenix-Arizona-Mexico type names that are a bit too wild and colourful. So to us, Rowan & Stuart were moderate names that we both enjoyed. From what I remember, we didn’t have any issues agreeing on names. We both liked the same things so thankfully that wasn’t an issue.
Two names that sounded good together was an important factor in the process. They had to have individuality, so no two names with the same letter or the same sound. And they had to be balanced, one wasn’t going to be called ‘John’ and the other ‘Orlando’, for example. But just by default, with no intention, we ended up with two Scottish names.
There was going to be two babies and I had two names, there was nothing out-of-the-box about it and I liked them both equally. There wasn’t anything magical or special, just the first born would be Rowan and the second would be Stuart. It would be the same if we had girls, you come up with one for one and one for the other.
What is quite special is that a few years ago, our family in Bougainville had some relatives in a neighbouring village who were pregnant with twins. My sister-in-law told the father, a relative of her husband’s, about the twins in her family back in Australia. Because family and connection is so important to the people of Bougainville, the parents named their twin boys Rowan & Stuart after our sons, their distant relatives. I also think they wanted to make a significant connection between the family in Bougainville and the family in Australia, but also highlight this ‘specialness’ of twins. They even deliberately named the first born Rowan and the second born Stuart. In 2009, Rowan & Stuart visited the family in Bougainville. Sadly, little Stuart died as a baby, but it was still very important for there to be a connection between the two boys. So, our Stuart was taken to the child’s grave where a relationship could still be made, while the two Rowans spent time together.”
Susan, mum of James & Lily
“My partner and I had difficulty making a decision on one name, let alone two. We were so ill-prepared and we didn’t even have sufficient combinations of two boy names, two girl names or two boy and girl names when we went to the hospital.
James and Lily were the only individual names that my partner and I could agree on, and it was only because we both liked them, rather than fitting a ‘certain criteria’. For example, James is such a common name for a white, Western boy, and we didn’t necessarily want that, but it was definitely a name that we both liked. Same with Lily. We didn’t want a name that you could spell about 20 different ways, but again, it was the only girl’s name that we could agree on.
The only thing we did do, is ensure that the two names didn’t sound too similar, like Brendan and Brenda or Phil and Lil. We wanted them to sound different.
We didn’t know we were having boy-girl twins. We should have picked a boy-boy and girl-girl names as well, but going into the hospital, we only had James and Lily… and we hadn’t even properly decided on those!
I guess it was all getting too hard for us. When you start to factor in the complexities of syllables and all those little things that you read about what names ‘need to be’ or ‘need not to be’, it was all getting too difficult. Until one day we got stuck and thought, ‘let’s just do it when the kids are born, so we know what we have and we can see them’.
I mean, that was the plan, but when we went to the hospital, we didn’t know what would happen. I had a cesarean, so I was kind of 'out of it' during the process. When James was born first and the hospital staff literally asked my partner almost immediately, ‘What’s his name?’, and Carl, my partner, was like, ‘Uh… James?’. Even though we said that we would wait and decide, he just got put on the spot even before Lily, who was born one minute later, had even come out. But then the same thing happened when she was born, and suddenly she had a name too. So basically, if another boy followed James, we'd have had no back-up or second boy's name. I don’t know, James and Lily's gender was just… fate in that way, I suppose.”
Tony, dad of Kate & Beth
"The twins’ mum and I made a special pilgrimage to the wineries of Central Victoria to choose both baby names, and had champagne to celebrate the birth.
I was always a believer in simple names, as I went to school with a lot of migrants and had to watch their difficulty as they always had to spell out their names and correct the pronunciation.
We had no idea what sex the twins would be, so we had to choose two girl names and two boy names. I found it easier to find names I liked for girls than boys. We choose Kate and Elizabeth (Beth) as the girl names, in that order. We were, however, prepared to change our minds if the babies didn't seem to suit their chosen names, but fortunately they did!"
Linda, mum of Jamie & Dan
“When you’re pregnant with identical twins, you have scans almost every two weeks because there can be so many complications with babies who share a placenta. You see them all the time, even before they’re born. My husband and I actually assigned names to each twin while they were still in the womb - Jamie on the right side and Dan on the left.
Because of the frequency of getting scans, I found that the babies begin to take on this personality of who was Twin 1 and who was Twin 2 or 'T1' and 'T2', as the doctors referred to them. In our case, ‘T1’ was on the left side who I started to secretly refer to as Dan and 'T2' was Jamie was on the right. However, they pulled Jamie out first, meaning that he was actually ‘Twin 1’, which made it all pretty confusing. Still, I always knew that the right side was Jamie, so that’s what he’s named. You have to make these decisions quickly though, because premmie twins often get rushed to humidicribs and the nurses need their details to put on their cots as an identifier. I remember my husband in the delivery unit saying, ‘so are we sure this one is Jamie?’, and I was like, ‘yeah’, because Jamie had been named for quite some time.
You have to consider names that go together, but also remove the options that take it a step too far. At one point we liked Benjamin and also William, but then realised that they could have potentially made ‘Bill and Ben’ like The Flower Pot Men. So those are definitely things that parents of twins have to make decisions around.
Similarly, my husband was interested in ‘Lucian’, which is a French name. I wasn’t really keen on it anyway, and we had already agreed on Jamie: ‘Lucian & Jamie’ is an example that you really need to choose names that work well together, which they obviously didn't in our case.
But the benefits of naming twins is that you’re more likely to name your child something you really want. I’ve always loved the name Jamie and my husband has always liked Daniel. You both get to choose a name, in theory. You can feel as though you got the name that you really wanted, and maybe might compromise with the other, so the other parent can feel the same. Each name is a favourite in different ways."
For those needing help with pairing names or who are fretting over what sounds good together, the Social Security Administration released their most recent ranking of twin name combinations in 2014. Here is the list of the most shared twin names in the most recent years:
1. Madison & Mason
2. Olivia & Owen
3. Jayda & Jayden
4. Emma & Ethan
5. Isabella & Isaiah
6. Addison & Aiden
7. Emily & Ethan
8. Ava & Aiden
9. Ella & Ethan
10. Jada & Jaden
1. Olivia & Sophia
2. Gabriella & Isabella
3. Ella & Emma
4. Faith & Hope
5. Makayla & Makenzie
6. Heaven & Nevaeh
7. Isabella & Sophia
8. Mackenzie & Madison
9. Hailey & Hannah
10. Abigail & Olivia
1. Daniel & David
2. Jacob & Joshua
3. Isaac & Isaiah
4. Jayden & Jordan
5. Ethan & Evan
6. Elijah & Isaiah
7. Matthew & Michael
8. Jayden & Jaylen
9. Ethan & Nathan
10. Jayden & Kayden
To find out more about twins, catch up on both episodes of Insight's double here | SBS On Demand