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  • Writer's pictureGlynis Woodhead

What's in a name?

Giving your child a name will be one of the most important decisions you ever make in your life and isn’t without its pitfalls, so think carefully about whether that trendy name you choose now will still be as fitting when your child is an adult – Michael Jackson naming his son Blanket is an obvious example, and the boy eventually changed his name when he was 15.

The newly published league table of names in Scotland shows Jack and Olivia as the two most popular for the second year in a row. But how do trends change over time?

At the turn of the 20th century, the majority of names were fairly traditional, historical ones: John, James, William and Robert remained the top four for almost 50 years, with David in the top 10; whilst Mary, Margaret and Elizabeth were top three, with Helen and Agnes closely behind.

As parents looked for more unique names for their children, trends began to fluctuate, more so for girls than boys. Helen and Agnes, once ever popular, aren’t even in the top 100 anymore. Boys’ names tend to be more timeless and, since 1975, only five have held the top spot, with the winner being David (for 19 years). Jack has held it for 15 years over that time, but don’t forget that Jack is a diminutive name for James, which has held a top 10 place for almost a century. Relative newcomers Ryan and Lewis have soared in popularity, as has Oliver, the masculine form of our most popular girl’s name, and currently in second place.

There are, of course, names which come and go, influenced mainly by music stars and Hollywood itself: Ariana, Madison and Quinn have all dropped out of the to 100, as have Callan, Calvin and Luca. Conversely, there are new trends as parents try to find that unique name, with Luna and Aurora (both Roman Goddesses) entering the top 100 for girls. For boys, there’s a distinct Scottish theme with Lewis and Harris now both in the top 10, although hopefully we won’t be seeing any Mulls or Barras anytime soon!

And when we begin to run out of individual names, there’s the trend for parents to give a little uniqueness to their child’s name by using an alternative spelling. Take Rebecca, for instance – and I just used the most traditional spelling there, in my time I’ve seen Rebeka, Rebekka, Rebekah and Rebeccah. Tread carefully here, because whilst individuality and uniquness are all very well, those alternative ways of crafting a name simply ensure that no-one will ever spell your child’s name correctly throughout the whole of their lives.

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