This week's birth of the Prince of Cambridge has afflicted monarchists and royal-watchers with a bad case of the Goo-Goo Gagas. As Etiquetteer pointed out on his Facebook page, there are an awful lot of people who want to know what to do to celebrate the Royal Birth in terms of gift-giving, celebrating, etc. While Etiquetteer is rarely averse to lifting a glass of Champagne (the most Perfectly Proper beverage with which to celebrate a birth), Etiquetteer is obliged to remind you all that, unless you're already personally acquainted with the Royal Family, and as lovely and kind a family as they are supposed to be, they don't know you and probably won't be paying any attention to anything you happen to send their way, whether a tangible gift or a Lovely Note.
Etiquetteer would like to suggest that those who are not personal friends of the Family, or current Heads of State, acknowledge the Prince of Cambridge's birth by doing something for a newborn in their own community. Plenty of babies come into this world with nothing, including responsible parents. Whether making a donation of money, handmade Little Garments, or other Things Infants Need, you'll make a greater difference where it counts. And you may always send with your donation a Little Note indicating that your gift is made "in honor of the birth of the Prince of Cambridge." Search the Web or call your local hospital for specific organizations and guidelines.
You may then reward yourself with a glass of Champagne (use your nicest crystal) and a slice of white cake iced in white with the royal monogram.
Some expectant parents are a little too eager to suggest gifts for Baby, but Etiquetteer always believes that a copy of that essential volume Pat the Bunny is appropriate. (Come to think of it, Etiquetteer still has the two-volume Winnie-the-Pooh he received at birth from an uncle.) There are many novelty onesies in the shops; choose wisely and tastefully from among them. Pride in schools and sports teams rates high, and you would not, for instance, send a Yale onesie to a Harvard family, or Boston Red Sox booties to those who hold season tickets to Yankee Stadium. Godparents should give a piece of sterling silver engraved with Baby's initials. No, not an epergne or candelabra! (One Liberace was enough, thank you.) A sterling silver rattle or teething ring is most Perfectly Proper, and practical, too. When teething, chilled silver is soothing to Baby's hot gums.
Perhaps motivated by the birth of the Prince, GQ has joined the fun with this list of rules for how not to name a baby. Etiquetteer has deplored the vogue in recent years to alter the spelling of established names, which will only condemn the Poor Child to endless spellings and reminders of "No, it's with a Y" or something of that sort. The GQ rule #7 is well taken. It would be interesting to hear from the many men and women born in the mid-1970s named "Kunta Kinte" or "Kizzy" after Alex Haley's blockbuster Roots was published and televised. How have they used, adapted, or rejected their names that were fashionable when they were born but almost unfamiliar now?
And yet Fashion has affected the naming of babies as it affects everything, and the popularity of certain names comes and goes. In the 17th and 18th centuries Biblical and allegorical names were popular. Indeed, Etiquetteer can count four Obadiahs, three Shubaels, two Pentecosts, a Freedom, and a Desire in his own family tree. But the best advice is the simplest, and comes from the world of clothes shopping: you can never go wrong with a classic.