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Names

Names

Many middle-class parents would (it is said) prefer to hear their little children say fuck than toilet. A similar system of class shibboleths governs the choice of children’s name. The most popular in 2011, it turns out, was Harry. It is unexceptionable, being of ancient royal lineage (‘Cry God for Harry…’), and, like Jack, uniting rich and poor.

What is a tragic burden for the middle classes is to find a rarer name of classy pedigree suddenly become the name shouted in supermarkets at toddlers in tantrums: ‘Jason! Shut that row.’ I can’t find anyone called Jason in all 60 volumes of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and it must have been most unusual in 1928 when the future Bishop of Derby was born to Jason and Janet Dawes. Even in 1959, when Viscount Norwich’s heir, the Hon Jason Cooper, was born, it was still rare. It has made up for lost time.

In the top ten names for boys in 2011, number nine is Riley; for girls, Ruby. Obviously Riley is out of the question for the middle classes. Might as well call the poor mite Toilet and be done with it. Ruby is one of those old gem names like Emerald that has regained popularity. Unfortunately, since its first flush, it has entered the vocabulary of rhyming slang, thanks to Ruby Murray, with the meaning ‘curry’.

These rankings of names by popularity came from a sample of 434,756 babies born to members of something called the Bounty Parenting Club. If the press reports are right about that number, it represents more than half those born in the United Kingdom.

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