Whatever happened to Janet and John?

I have a friend called John. I’m thinking of having him stuffed.

There aren’t many Johns left. They have gone the way of war-time austerity, single-channel TV and the waltz.

Other endangered species are David, Joan and Mary; all being swallowed alive by migrants — from another solar system, I think — with names like Shavonn, Raylene and Dwayne. It was bound to happen, what with genetic engineering and chemicals in the food chain.

Don’t get me wrong. I know Shavonn. Personally. Nice lady. Apart from that business when she killed her parents with an axe. Well, you would, wouldn’t you; if they called you Shavonn?

Until she was old enough to wear a dress no one knew if she were male, female, or a jet going by.

I suppose we should be pleased people have this creative freedom over names. There was time when the clergy, oblivious to Biblical peculiarities like Methusalah and Beezlebub, would refuse to christen a child if it wasn’t called Horace or Doreen (which proves that not all change is bad).

But it’s not their own names people are creative with; it’s those of their kids! Picking names out of a bag of Scrabble letters could scar a child for life.

I know a bloke who called his daughter Chelsea because he was a devoted fan of the English soccer team of that name. She was one of the lucky ones. One day she’ll be offering silent prayers that he wasn’t a Crocodiles devotee.

Some may argue that it makes a name more meaningful to hang it on such pegs as favourite teams, but it’s a bit rough if you parents are committed members of the Townsville Bowls Club.

The American Indians have been doing it for years, of course, with names like He Who Walks Like John Cleese.

And I have some sympathy (although I smirk) for the child whose mother writes on the birth certificate: threw up for half a year and it wasn’t worth it.

You could use the initial letters and call her TUFHAYAIWWI. We live in an age of acronyms, after all, and it’s no sillier than GBRMPA (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority).

But because my mum was an All Blacks fan doesn’t mean I want to advertise the fact, any more than I want to be called mushrooms on toast because she loved them.

I am probably being unfair. Hust as Arthur and Martha belong to an era of Ford Prefects and candlewick bedspreads, so Juanita and Jarrod are the offspring of badly plucked guitar chords and nose rings.

Maybe the answer is to let the kids pick their own names. Eventually.

I know a woman, Anne, who reached adulthood and changed her name to Shivani, which almost brings us back to Shavonn. But at least it is her own idea and she has no one to blame but herself.

And when she gets tired of it (surely she will?) she can always change it back.

What a bloody nerve, I hear you say, criticising other people’s names!

But when you’ve got one that means ‘bore’ and ‘prick’, what else do you expect?