Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Alfie and Poppy and Michael and Freya

I read a fascinating article yesterday about baby names in England. What do you think was the most popular name for baby boys born in London in 2012?

Not Michael. Not William or Charles or Philip or George.

No -- it was Muhammad. A total of 768 boys were given that name, 102 more than the second-most popular name, Daniel, with 666. And Mohammed, which is only marginally different, was the fourth most popular name, with 611.

That's just in London, but in some other parts of England, including Yorkshire and the West Midlands, Muhammad and Mohammed both rank in the top 10. In all of England and Wales, Muhammad is the 19th most popular boy's name, Mohammed is the 26th, and Mohammad is 60th. If we lumped them together as spelling variations of the same name, they would place higher -- but we would also have to combine other similar names listed separately, like Charlie and Charles, so the list would be rejiggered a bit.

Isn't that interesting? It certainly surprised me. The lists come from the UK Statistics Authority, which reports to Parliament; the data are available here in spreadsheet form.

Harry was the most popular boy's name in all of England and Wales -- there were 7,168 Harrys. The others in the top five were Oliver, Jack, Charlie and Jacob. We are apparently becoming not only a more diverse but also less formal society, because James, Henry and Charles are farther down on the list. David, Nathan, Michael, Matthew and Ryan are all sinking in popularity.

Among girl's names, there is no obvious parallel to Muhammad. When I lived in Morocco I knew lots of girls named Aisha and Khadija, which are common Muslim names, but Aisha charted at number 87 and Khadija didn't make the list. The top girl's name by far in England and Wales, and in every region of the country including London, was Amelia -- with Amelie and Emilia also charting at lower positions. Olivia, Jessica, Emily and Lily round out the top five nationwide.

There are other surprises. I have never heard of naming girls Isla (8 on the list), Poppy (13) or Freya (19). Alfie is surprisingly popular for boys, at seventh place nationwide.

What's it all about, Alfie?

(Photo: Satellite dishes on the Grand Union Canal, last week.)


Elizabeth said...

I never knew you lived in Morocco.
I love studying names.
England is often ahead of the US in girls names.
I think Poppy will get popular here.
I always like Sayeed and Sayeeda --like Felix and Felicia

Ms. Moon said...

Alfie? Really? What IS that all about?

Reya Mellicker said...

Very cool. Though I would never hang a heavy name like Mohammed on a poor little baby.

Poppy and Freya are two of my magical names - did you know? Funny.

There's a big flap in the U.S. right now because a woman was not allowed to name her baby "Messiah."

I don't think it should be up to the courts to decide, but lordy lordy what a terrible name.

The Bug said...

Mohammed must be like Joe used to be - my mom's doctor was named Joseph & he told her NOT to name my brother Joe because there were too many. He got named Joe anyway, but there weren't that many in his generation.

I always hated that my name was so unique (at the time). Isn't that weird? Of course, part of that was because it was also a male name (Dana Andrews for example).

When I was in Zambia I knew a Typewriting Mwanza. I wish that name had taken off!

Vivian said...

i have an odd name and i really hate it...i like common names like "dave" "ann" "mary"
oh well it is their choice but really "Mohammed"~~~~ sigh. poor kids

Lynne said...

You might not believe this but I looked at everything *but* those satellite dishes in that photo. Didn't even see them and had to go back and look after ready the photo caption.

Elizabeth said...

666 Daniels? Sign of the Devil!

Nancy said...

My name hasn't been popular since the 50s. But I like my name. It's short and simple.

And at first glance, I thought the dishes were ghost orbs (yes, I watch way too much "My Ghost Story" on the Bio channel.

Linda Sue said...

Your photo! Grey bubbles, so surreal! Excellent shot of weirdness. Name trends- Everyone had my name growing up, no body ever answered to it because they were all sure it was some one else being called. There were a lot of boys named jesus in my town.

Steve Reed said...

Elizabeth: Yes, I lived there for two years in the early '90s as a Peace Corps volunteer. Aren't names fascinating? Said and Saida (sp?) ARE good names -- one of my best friends from Morocco is named Said.

Ms Moon: I know! Not a trend that has reached American shores, I trust.

Reya: It IS a heavy name, but I'd wager that most Muslim families name at least one son Mohammed. (Another reason it's so popular -- every family has one!) I read about that "Messiah" dispute. That IS a terrible name.

Bug: Mohammed is so common in Muslim countries that if you don't know a guy's name, it's acceptable to greet him as Mohammed -- chances are you're correct! Typewriting Mwanza is a FABULOUS name.

Vivian: I've always liked your name, though I must admit it reminds me of Vivian Vance. (Which is a good thing, in my book.)

Lynne: Isn't it funny what one person sees and another misses? I'm sure I miss things in your photos all the time!

Elizabeth: LOL, I thought that too!

Nancy: I like your name, too. What the heck is a Ghost Orb??

Linda Sue: Is that why you use both Linda and Sue, to distinguish yourself from all the other Lindas?