My sibling has a better name than me

And I’ll always be a bit bitter about it


Getting a sibling is a formative moment. Your world realigns, slightly – perhaps you were an only child, perhaps you are now the eldest of two, or three, or four. Perhaps the arrival of a squalling tot means you are now a middle child, and you suddenly – overnight – have acquired a hefty inferiority complex and a tottering pile of emotional baggage.

Once the dust settles – your mother returns home, and Dad stops panicking and taking you to McDonald’s for every meal because he can’t pour cereal into a bowl/soup into a pan/beans onto toast without shaking (though he managed to pour whisky into his glass with a relatively steady hand, you note) – you get on with the frantic, quarrelsome, and periodically fun, part of being a sibling.

Unless, of course, your sibling has a better name than you. In which case you will always feel a little disgruntled.

When I was eight, my little sister was born. When I first met her I reckoned she was alright, I guess. She was sort of cute in a squishy way. Didn’t like it when she cried, quite liked how she had a soft face. But I really didn’t like it when my parents decided, after a day of deliberation, that they were going to call her Georgia.

Just squeezing her to death so I can have her name

Just squeezing her to death so I can have her name

Georgia is clearly a better name than Phoebe. Georgia is cool. My Mum told me that she landed upon Georgia after the model Jerry Hall called her daughter Georgia May. Georgia May is also the daughter of Rolling Stone roue Mick Jagger, and Georgia May Jagger is now a model. Clearly making money off being smoking hot was predetermined by her having a really cool name.

On the other hand, she named me after a character in a novel. And that doesn’t matter, because everyone thinks she named me after that shrill and ditzy character in Friends.

Georgia gets nicknamed G. I get Phoebs, which is quite lame. It sounds a bit like Feeble, which is what my Dad calls me sometimes, when he’s not calling me PJ (middle name: Johanna). Georgia is a sunny name – someone who totes a Red Stripe at parties (though she’d better not, as she’s 17) while Phoebe is the sort of person who has a knitting blog. Also, Phoebe has become really common – literally, it’s the 22nd most common name in the UK. Georgia is more elusive (at number 48).

When my Mum told me my sister’s name, I sulked for two weeks. No one noticed because there was a less-than-two-week-old baby in the house, but sulk I did. I assumed – because I was eight – that it indicated that they loved the new baby more than me. Clearly, this is the logic of a small child. So as I aged, my dissatisfaction shifted its focus – now I’m just annoyed that my parents didn’t think of Georgia before they thought of Phoebe.

Sometimes I imagine what my life would be like if I were called Georgia. I mean, obviously, I’d be fitter. Sure, I know that I would have exactly the same genes, but it’s just a feeling I have. I’d probably have more friends. I would definitely have a better nickname. Fewer people would misspell my name (Pheobe, on the lease of my current house; Phebe, all the way up through school).

What’s in a name? Just my whole identity.