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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 10:34 GMT
How about Ruby, after my gran?
By Keely Paice

Grandmother
Looking to the past for inspiration?
Cast an eye over the top 100 baby names of the year, and the trend for reviving grandparents' names is stronger than ever. With names, what goes around eventually comes around.

If you were born this year and your parents decided to call you Jane or Paul, chances are you'd never come across anyone in your entire school going by the same name.

But if they picked Martha or Oscar, Lily or Alfie, it will always be coupled with your last name (or initial) in order to identify you.

Because of the fickle nature of what we call our kids, the names of babies born today have more in common with our grandparents than they do with us.

When it comes to the fashion of names, 1906 is looking cool again. The Henrys and Graces may have started this trend when they re-entered the top 100 back in the early 1990s, but now it is diminutives that are in vogue. Alfie (up from 100 in 1997 to 16 this year), Archie (88 in 2000 to 40), Freddie (178 in 2001 to 65 now), Evie (up from 93 in 2001 to 21 this year) and Millie (91 in 1997 to 20) are resurgent.

Baby scan

While Lily/Lilly dropped off the radar for decades, it resurfaced in the top 100 in 1994 and is now at nine and 72 respectively. It's a similar story with Edith/Edie and Frank/Frankie.

For those facing the challenge of naming their offspring any time soon, it's best to think carefully before plundering your forebears for options. Because everyone's looking back decades for inspiration, you can easily come unstuck.

All too often we think we've come up with the perfect name, one that ticks all the boxes. It's classy, quite cool and unusual - but without sounding contrived. Then you start mixing in baby circles and slowly it becomes clear that you're not the only one who had that particular brainwave. It's one thing to ride the zeitgeist, it's another to get swept along with it.

It's a bit like turning up at a party and finding someone else wearing the same outfit - you don't know whether to be flattered or horrified. Oscar is a great name; on the other it's just entered the top 50. There's two others in his baby room at nursery and he's got neckache from startling in recognition twice as often as he needs to.

How about Kevin?

I have a friend on a mission, albeit a slightly tongue-in-cheek one, to change her daughter's name from Martha to Tina. Surely there can't be any of those around these days? With three Marthas on her street under the age of five, you can kind of understand her predicament.

Alfie Moon
What's it all about, Alfie?
Meanwhile, other friends pregnant for the first time unwittingly declare their undying love for the top 20 names without realising that Ruby and Max and Charlie and Lola are some of the most popular names in the UK today, at numbers four, 29, 10 and 51 respectively. That these are characters in successful pre-school shows might seem like a big clue - but if you haven't got children you won't know.

Another friend took advantage of the versatility of Alfred, and made a last-minute diversion from Alfie to Freddie after the EastEnders scriptwriters dreamt up Alfie Moon. Because while some look to their ancestors, others avidly read TV and movie credits for inspiration

The celebrity influence on how we name our children is much in evidence. Take Keira - her career trajectory could be plotted on the same graph as the popularity of her first name. It was 300th back in 2001, and is now in the top 30 (and that's excluding variations such as Kiera).

HAVE YOUR SAY
There is no such thing as a 'good' name or a 'bad' name
Widuran Bertram, UK

But there's also such a thing as negative celebrity impact. After Big Brother, Jade bombed from its privileged position in the top 20 - where it had been for a decade - and now it isn't even in the top 100. Jordan has suffered a similar fate since Katie Price took ownership: top 100 for four years, then it nose-dived to 600 and now doesn't even make the top 1,000.

But what of ultra-trendy names that seem to come from nowhere, like Freya or Tyler, Madison or Zak? Perhaps these are bestowed by the same parents whose Ugg boots now languish unworn at the back of the wardrobe. Trends are all very well in fashion, when nothing is for keeps. A name, on the other hand, isn't just for birthdays.

Keely Paice is the inventor of the Namebrain, an online tool used to plot the popularity of names over the past 100 years.


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