We reached peak Charlie in 2012, when 5,571 baby boys were given the name. There were only 4,642 last year. Perhaps the Paris massacre early this year will leave more infants than ever lisping ‘Je suis Charlie’ when they learn to talk. Names go in waves. In the Office for National Statistics list of last year’s names in England and Wales, diminutives are noticeably popular. Charlie, not Charles, is at No. 5 for boys, with Harry, not Henry, at No. 3 and Jack, not John, at No. 2. The tendency is less pronounced among girls, with the tenth most popular name being Sophie, though Lily (ninth) and Poppy (fifth) sound like diminutives.
Of course we middle-class parents love to thrill with horror as mothers shout at toddlers in the supermarket: ‘Miley, shut it,’ or, ‘Don’t you start, Jayden.’ From last year there were an extra 176 Mileys and 1,334 Jaydens to be shouted at. Anyway, parents seek rarer names, and the top ten account for only 12 per cent of the 695,233 babies born last year.
Game of Thrones contributed Arya for 244 girls, with Theon (18) and Tyrion (17) fighting it out for boys’ names from the television fantasy. Of the flesh-and-blood Kardashian girls, also seen on TV, Khloe scored the highest number of babies to her name, with 106, well ahead of her sister Kourtney with only 35.
All top ten boys’ names derive from saints, except for the most popular, Oliver (most parents discounting St Oliver Plunkett). Among girls, few of the top ten are saints, though the most popular, Amelia, was a saintly nun whose arm Charlemagne broke attempting to take her by force. I doubt this motivated many parents to choose the name, any more than a love for Fielding’s novel.
Muhammad is the most popular name in London, and 14th in England and Wales with 3,588, though another 2,536 other boys are called Mohammed. In the past 20 years, Mohammed has become rarer as the stricter transliteration Muhammad grows more common. The five most popular spellings of Muhammad account for 8,131 boys, unrivalled by Jack (5,804) and John (only 601) together. It’s a stable counter-trend to the cult of the unusual.