January 06, 2005

On the naming of Children

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4148335.stm

Today (Or rather, as I'm up quite late, yesterday) the list of the most popular names given to new-born babies was released. The big noise was that the UK has a Muslim population significant enough to get Mohammed into the top 20. But this is not what I want to talk about.

The top boys' name is Jack, as it has been for several years. Among the top 10 for girls is Katie.
I think names are very important. They give a first impression. There are certain names that might be considered "lower class", and thus if you heard that name you would expect the bearer to be from that stratum of society. Similarly, there are "upper class" or "posh" names.
Names can be more subtle, and some names have a variety of shortenings. Each of these, and their spellings give different effects. For example, a former girlfriend of mine was called Nicola. She went by the name Nicky, but not Nikki. It is therefore quite useful to have name which can be shortened, as you can then use your name in different ways to give a different impression. Many people know me as Andy, but if I generally call myself Andrew, and certainly would do for say, a job application.
However, the thousands of people called Jack and Katie don't have this option, and are stuck with one name. I reckon this is largely because people these days don't realise "Jack" is a diminutive of "John". I say give your children a full name. They can become a Jack later if they wish.
The BBC has a picture series of famous Jacks. The first, Jack Nicholson, was born John. Jack Charlton was originally Jackie. Jack Straw's first two names are Jack John, which is a little unusual, but he could get away with being John if he wanted. Jack Kerouac's real name was Jean-Louis. Jack Lemmon's given name was John. Jack White is really a John. Jack Black's real name is, apparently, Thomas. That's at least 7/10 (Not including Mr Straw, and I couldn't find out about Jack Dee) who aren't actually Jack. You see my point – all these new Jacks can never be John. The same goes for Katie – and Katherine is such a beautiful name, too.

Diminutives aside, counting Jack as John, 7 from the top 10 male names are biblical (If anyone knows a bibilical Oliver or William, let me know). That's pretty good going for traditional names. So if all these biblical names are good enough, what's wrong with John? And whatever happened to Andrew, anyway?

One last musing – Nathan has survived as a name, Solomon less so admittedly, but even so – where are all the Zadoks?!


- 9 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. I want to know when the name Zebedee went out of style???

    06 Jan 2005, 04:10

  2. Was it ever in style? I've certainly never met anyone named Zebedee!

    I use an online tool to remind me of friends' birthdays. The site has an interesting feature where you can check how popular different names were in different decades of the last century. The stats are probably for the US but it is still quite cool.

    06 Jan 2005, 12:46

  3. I agree, I suffer constant torment due to the fact that my birth certificate reads "Joe" and not "Joseph".

    It's worse now that I know I could have been a Zadok.

    06 Jan 2005, 13:36

  4. My brother is called Ben and not Benjamin because my parents liked Ben but didn't like Benjamin. Maybe people don't like the name John, but they like the name Jack. Nothing wrong with it, just peoples' preferences.

    06 Jan 2005, 16:12

  5. And that previous comment was by Caroline, not Andrew. Now you're all confused!

    06 Jan 2005, 16:12

  6. Ooh – how interesting…
    There hasn't been a post I felt I wanted to comment on for a while…

    My mother said if I was a boy, I would have been called Benjamin, which is interesting in itself, because she eventually chose Lorna because it's a name that CAN'T be shortened.

    On the class point, my mother decided calling me something like Catherine or Emily would result in being called Cat or Em etc, which she found highly common, and not something she wanted for her daughter.

    Then again, my mother is called Nonny, so strange names do run in the family…

    Very interesting indeed…

    08 Jan 2005, 10:44

  7. Ben

    I'm a Ben not a Benjamin too. My parents figured it would get shortened, so did it for me – which does deprive me of the choice, but I quite like it. Some people find it weird and/or assume I must be a Benjamin.

    I agree Katherine's a lovely name. I also like Elizabeth. You can do a lot with that (Liz, Beth, etc)

    Can you settle an argument: Is Harriet a posh name?

    21 Jan 2006, 20:08

  8. Harriet? God yes. In a "why don't I pick up an Enid Blyton book and pick a name from there" kind of posh, too. Not good.

    All my elderly relatives scorn their real names for better alternatives. My Gran is Anastasia by birth, and there's also a Margaret and a couple of others that I forget. The reason I forget is that they are called Nancy, Girlie, Ruby, Dolly, Vee, etc. Don't be constrained by your given name. A lesson for us all.

    In junior school people used to call me Pip. It never lasted.

    27 Apr 2006, 01:53

  9. LOIS

    HEMHEM!! my friend is called harriet (or carrot as i so amusingly call her) and she is most certainly not posh, and neither is her name =D im called lois, which is a groovy name cos its supermans girlfriend!! :P yay anyhoo, yes. farewell my friends and may pengwins RULE THE WORLD

    01 Dec 2006, 10:15


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