What’s in a name?

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Our B2 What’s in a name is a listening exercise set at a B2 level of English. It discusses the use of names and why people choose them at an Upper-intermediate level.

what's in a name

B2 What’s in a name?


Presenter 1: Today we are going to talk about names, particularly fashions in names, you know, the kind of names famous people use for their children. You’ve been looking into this recently, haven’t you Finn?
Presenter 2: I have indeed and it’s a fascinating topic. The US leads here with new names and we in Britain follow sometimes, but we tend to go for the more traditional names. So, the big trend is using nouns as names.
Presenter 1: Nouns, what sort of nouns?
Presenter 2: Well they can be abstract qualities like Honor or Passion. There’s a long tradition of this kind of name, like Faith or Charity, which used to be common names. A new name is Haven, that’s growing in popularity. And similar names like Shelter, Harbor and Bay also convey feelings of safety and warmth.
Presenter 1: Mmm. I suppose Passion is used to mean ‘extreme enthusiasm’ nowadays, and people use the word a lot, so maybe it’s a good choice for a modern name. Haven has a nice, safe feel to it.
Presenter 2: OK, then there are names which come from nature or animals, although with some of these it’s hard to know whether they come from nature or a surname – that’s another trend. Here we have Frost, Wolf, Fox, Bear, for boys, of course. And a new name: Ridge.
Presenter 1: Ridge, like a mountain ridge? The top of a mountain range?
Presenter 2: Yes, weird, huh? It’s seen as a tough, outdoorsy name for a boy. OK, then there are musical names. Harmony and Melody have been around for ages, but Lyric is a new one.
Presenter 1: Lyric, wow!
Presenter 2: Yes, it came in at number 325 in the US a couple of years ago. That doesn’t sound very popular, but there are so many different names being used at the moment that it means it isn’t so unusual. Other noun categories are months – May, June and April are common, but January is uncommon and November very unusual. And then you have colours. Beyoncé and Jay-Z called their daughter Blue Ivy – a very distinctive name, a colour plus the name of a plant. Blue is very popular for girls right now, and Red or Grey for boys.
Presenter 1: I’ve just thought of another category. Food names, like Olive or Clementine.
Presenter 2: Yes, that’s another one. Flower names are pretty common, but food names are unusual. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their daughter Apple, of course.
Presenter 1: Yes, poor child.
Presenter 2: Actually, Apple is becoming more and more popular, although people think that’s because of the technology connection, not the fruit. New names always seem strange at first, but you quickly get used to them, like all the names from places or jobs. Chelsea and Brooklyn seem like normal names now; they were strange when they were first used. Taylor, Mason, Cooper are all first names from jobs.
Presenter 1: And they are also surnames, I think that’s how they started.
Presenter 2: You’re probably right there.
Presenter 1: What about the Beckhams’ daughter, Harper?
Presenter 2: She was named after Harper Lee, the American novelist who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. That’s another trend, naming children after famous writers, musicians – the British band One Direction have had an effect on names – or fictional characters, like Bella or Edward from the Twilight series, or Hermione from Harry Potter.
Presenter 1: Sorry, can I just interrupt there. I’ve just had a message passed on by the producer. A listener has just phoned in with a very strange story about a family in Holland with six children. Their names are all anagrams of the letters: A, E, L and X.
Presenter 2: Ah yes, I’ve heard about this. This family are famous in the world of bloggers on names. Let me see if I remember the names … Alex and Axel … and Lexa – they’re the easy ones – Xela (‘Zela’) and Xael (‘Zay-el’) and the last one is Xeal (‘Zeal’) – I’m guessing about the pronunciations, by the way.
Presenter 1: You mean there are names X-E-L-A and X-A-E-L?
Presenter 2: Yes, but they are very unusual. I think the Dutch family are stopping at six children, but there are about eighteen more possible anagrams they could use.
Presenter 1: Nooo, you’re kidding!
Presenter 2: All seem horrible to me, but all are possible names. This is similar to another trend of giving children names all starting with the same letter, like the Kardashian family, all beginning with K, Kim, Kourtney and so on.
Presenter 1:The Kardashians have had enough publicity, let’s not talk about them. What about your name? Finn, that sounds like a good Irish name …

Especially helpful are exercises that are focussed on a theme or topic as these provide word retention practice so you can be confident to read, write, speak and listen successfully.

Customs and Traditions explores how we celebrate our cultural identity across the globe.

Entertainment and Leisure explores how we spent our free time.

Environment and Nature explores the way humans and animals live, adapt and change on our planet.

Exploring how different societies create roles for people to develop their skills and knowledge.

Exploring how we learn and adjust to the world around us. .

Exploring how we experience the world through our life journeys

The more words you encounter and understand, the broader your day-to-day vocabulary will become. Our word games and puzzles are an excellent way to help to reinforce spellings in your mind.
We add reading and writing exercises on a regular basis. Why not bookmark our site, so you can come back to practice anywhere or at any time of the day?

For this part, you practice how to understand the details of a text, including opinions and attitudes.

For this part, you practice how to understand the structure and follow the development of a text.

For this part, you practice how to find specific information in a text or texts.

In addition, we add listening and speaking exercises in order to practise for this part of the B2 First Exam.

In this part you talk to the examiner about yourself and your life, e.g. your name, school, interests and future plans.

In this part, you talk about two photos on your own which you have to compare for about 1 minute. After you have finished, your partner will be asked a short question about your photo. When your partner has spoken about their photos for about 1 minute, you will be asked a question about their photos.

In this part you express ideas with your partner by looking at a discussion point that the examiner gives you.

This will be available soon.

In this part, you focus on general aspects of a topic with the examiner or you may involve your partner.

This will be available soon.

In this part, you will hear people talking in eight different situations.

In this part, you will hear five people talking about different things.

In this part, you will hear an interview.

Cambridge English Examinations:

Cambridge English exams are designed for learners at all levels from the pre-intermediate level Cambridge English: Key (KET) to the very advanced level Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE). These exams give candidates proof of their ability to use English in a wide variety of contexts, relevant to work, study and leisure activities.

A2 Key | B1 Preliminary | B2 First