Today on MSN, editor Lucy Mapstone runs through a list of 27 ‘out there’ names chosen by celebrities for their children. Ignore this I couldn’t – my name is Plum.
I wasn’t actually christened ‘Plum’, but that’s what I’ve been called since before my memory kicked in as an infant. I’m told that I was less than an hour old when my parents began referring to me as Plum, the reasons for which are two: one, the name they chose for me is Victoria. At the time, Angela Rippon’s florid fairy character, no other than Victoria-Plum, adorned every young girl’s bedroom in the form of books, upholstery, bed linen and other surplus household items.
Two, with the above in mind, I’m led to believe that they were impressed by my newborn resemblance to the fruit itself. So it the deal was done, albeit initially with affectionate humour, but the deal was lifelong – 28 years so far.
Although ‘Plum’ doesn’t appear on my birth certificate, it’s slowly creeped its way into semi-official nomination: HMRC appear to recognise the extra insertion, thanks to previous employers’ use of it in my title. The only institution that has a bit of a problem with the nominal word is my bank, and that’s only because the woman I did face-to-face dealings with couldn’t take it on board, so it’s more of a personal thing where they’re concerned. Oh, and there was one teacher at school – just one out of scores – who refused to refer to me as ‘Plum’. Instead she called me ‘Vicki’ (that’s how she wrote it), which, if you know me, is tantamount to referring to someone as ‘Washing Machine’. Yes, it’s back-handed, but ‘Vicki’ is far weirder to me than ‘Plum’ could ever be.
I’ve been known as ‘Plum’ my entire life. My entire family call me that as do all my friends. I’ve had all manner of ‘proper’ job, and at no point did any of my previous colleagues or employers ever refer to me as anything else. In fact, one such employer (I worked in TV at the time) insisted I never let on my real name was ‘Victoria’ as long as I worked for her: she explained it was a hook, a memorable mind flag when dealing with associates. It’s how I introduce myself to new people and it’s the reference I identify with. Say ‘Victoria’ at me and I’ll take a few beats to register who you’re alluding to. My Facebook profile doesn’t have ‘Victoria’ anywhere on it, as nobody – except a few people – know that that’s my official title.
Indeed, my name is the subject of much conversation, particularly when it comes to introductions. I haven’t met one person in my life who hasn’t passed comment on it. As it goes, it serves as a terrific ice-breaker. Yet, so unusual is it, I guess, to meet someone named after a piece of fruit, that it frequently fails to slot into the compartment labelled ‘Names’ in people’s brains: registering my title as a bit unorthodox and irregular, I’m fascinated by a curious name-morphing phenomena that happens around 50% of the time when I meet someone new. Without exception, there are three alternative names that others will project onto me if ‘Plum’ hasn’t quite clicked. They are, in descending order of reappropriation, Ruby, Poppy and Polly. What’s even more curious is that this reappropriation always happens following an in-depth discussion about the strangeness of my name, ‘Plum’. I don’t understand it.
Of course, there are drawbacks living with my name. The colloquialisation of a certain part of the male anatomy, for instance, or the cockney prod for an idiot. I attended university in London, as it goes, so it was quite a challenge being nominally accepted.
There’s only one other person I know of who officially refers to herself as ‘Plum’: Plum Sykes, novelist and an editor at Vogue. I’d imagine nobody’s dared to down-do her name (Anna Wintour’s protegé getting dissed? I think not…) but I wonder also how she’s weathered the sea of identity. In my case, there are three possible assumptions other people make when they learn what I’m called, none of which are true: I’m probably fright’fly, fright’fly posh; I’m possibly a witch; or I’m an out-and-out hippie, born to left field parents who danced under the moonlight and sat up all night hallucinating. I’m pretty sure they didn’t. My mum’s an artist, though, which appears to be ticket enough for the pigeon-holing.
A couple of years ago, I was visiting my mum. One morning over coffee, we were flipping through the latest editions of Vanity Fair and Elle magazine together. In one of them, Peaches Geldof was being photographed and interviewed in her luxurious apartment, discussing the trials and tribulations of personal relationships and what have you. Mum wasn’t impressed by the article, dismissing Peaches as a bit of a celeb-progeny casualty. “Anyway, who calls their daughter ‘Peaches’ for heaven’s sake?” she flurried. It only took a look from me to highlight the hilarity of her remark: “Ah. Yes. I take that back.” Looking sheepishly at me for a few seconds, she returned to the Peaches Geldof article with less judgement.
With the exception, perhaps of the young Geldof and Hutchence tribe, and indeed Gwynny and Chris’s first born, I think MSN’s list of out there celeb baby names are all really quite regular. Contrary to their comment about having never met anyone called ‘Kai’, I’ve in fact met at least four people bearing that name. I do draw the line at ‘Jermajesity’, however…