Diary of a Dad: Finding a Name that Combines Tradition with Fun

George Berkowski with son Oskar reading their 'Goes to Sleep' book.
By George 
Berkowski, co-founder of 'The Goes to Sleep' book, talks about how he and his wife came up with their son, Oskar's name. Blog post originally written for Baby Names co.uk

In the latest blog in our ‘Diary of’ series, we’ve passed the baton to new dad George (or Jerzy).

He talks about the interesting process him and his wife went through when choosing a baby name, from wanting a name that took inspiration from classic literature but also insisting on an element of fun and originality…

My wife and I have had many conversations about baby names over the 5 years that we’ve been together. It was a bit of a running joke as we knew we’d love to have kids sometime in the future, but for a lot of the conversations, that day was not coming up anytime soon.

Using the history of our names

It was also a joke because both of us had our own peculiar names – to all our friends in the UK we were George and Kasia. Pretty simple, iconic and maybe leaning towards some foreign origins on my wife’s side.

I was born in Poland and moved to Australia as a two-year-old. My birth name was actually Jerzy – which is Polish for George (just like Yuri in Russian). My wife similarly (and only by pure coincidence) was also born in Poland and moved to the UK when she was 3. Her birth name was Katarzyna.

Our Polish names are wonderful, and we use them with family, friends and when we go back to Poland. But we also love George and Kasia, because they’re the names we grew up with in our respective adopted countries and homes.

So that context always hovered in the background as we bandied around names that we thought were fun, cool – or just plain humorous.

Negotiating a name

Fast forward to when we found out that we were having a boy, and we both knew that there would be a bit of negotiating.

While my name is George (or Jerzy), I am actually the third in the line. Nothing regal about it – I think my parents were just inclined to keep a great name going. So, unsurprisingly, I had been planting seeds for a George IV for some time… hoping that the frequency of my little prompts might soften up my wife.

That certainly wasn’t going to be (deep down I knew that – and tried to justify it to myself by rationalising how confusing a family reunion would be with so many Georges floating around).

Choosing a name sooner rather than later

Post our ultrasound, and frankly, for the last few months, we knew we wanted to settle on a name sooner rather than later – and definitely before the little guy scrambled out into the world.

The whole generic use of the name “Baby” had personally freaked us out – “how is Baby doing?”, “Did you feel Baby kick today?”.

Throughout my entire life, it was always “a baby” or “Jenny’s baby” or “the baby I saw in the pram”. This “Baby” with no definite or indefinite article and it just felt weird when it came to our own son.

Finding inspiration from the classics…

My wife is an artist and a keen reader and lover of the classics. My family has a long history of the arts and painting. We wanted to pass a little bit of that onto our little guy. We weren’t super attracted to simple classic names, however. And we’re both quite partial to something a bit different, something that harks back to Eastern Europe – but just a little.

Oscar Wilde was one of our favourite artists – not only his plays, and his novels – but his creativity, his love of France and Paris, his wit and intelligence. But Oscar didn’t quite work for us. We wanted a name that echoed our past and roots – Oskar became our frontrunner.

A slight twist that would fit in with the family – George, Kasia and Oskar.

…But with an added dash of fun

As we navigated conversation after conversation about characters we loved, and people we admired, and reflected on what we thought this little 3-month old yet-to-be would grow up to be like though, we also wanted to have a little fun.

We have a tendency to rely on nicknames heavily in our house – and amongst our friends. A lot of that comes from Australia where pretty much nobody goes by their actual name – it’s always some contraction, derivation or completely different nickname.

Whether it be my lifelong friend “Ben” who was only ever known as “Benno”, or Michael who was only called “Blue” (his hair was red), or a dear friend Simon who even in the office was simply known as “Chook”.

We wanted to set Oskar (now mutually decided as the frontrunning option) apart with a great “parentally-assisted” nickname. My wife is also a fan of classical music and threw Amadeus into the ring – I am not sure Mozart would have survived his school years had he not been a prodigy. And while Mozart did have a lovely ring to it I am not sure anyone would have taken our little guy seriously unless he was to be a musical virtuoso.

Oskar Wolf

But Wolfgang had a rather fun and unique air to it, and upon a bit more reflection, we decided that simply “Wolf” would deliver what we were after – crisp, to-the-point, strong – and still fun.

And so on July 2, 2018 – a screaming, red-faced little man popped into this world – to be called Oskar Wolf. The most common reaction we received in the days after his arrival – and only then did we disclose his gender and name – was “that’s a strong name”.

And indeed it is.

New parents George and Kasia have woven the worlds of illustration and technology together in www.goestosleep.com ~ an award-winning personalised children’s book that helps children go to sleep faster and makes parents happier. It was developed in conjunction with The Children’s Sleep Charity and a number of leading children’s sleep specialists.