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Whatever happened to Janet and John?

July 2011 

NamesIf you look fabulous and are super fit for your age, there is still one major aspect that will give your years away – your name!

Names are just as susceptible to fashion as clothes and music, and unless your parents were blessed with enormous foresight or living an unusual lifestyle, generally a name is a very clear indication of the era when you were born.

Throughout the ages, babies have been named after famous people, heroic figures, singers and politicians, and the choice of names such as the Victorias and the Alberts of the 19th century often give clear indication of the era and sometimes the ambitions of the parents as well (Horatio indeed!).

In the past names were also often dictated by class – Ellen was good for a maid but not for the daughter of a viscount. Some people actually had to change their names when they went into service with the aristocracy because their original names were deemed unsuitable for someone in their lowly position.

In the 1950s the two top names for boys and girls were James and Mary; but top favourites included Michael, Robert, John, David, Peter and Ian for boys and Linda, Elizabeth, Patricia, Janet, Susan, Frances and Pamela for girls.

By the 1960s, while the traditional Michael, David and John were still high on the list for boys, names such as Jeffrey and Nicholas were creeping up in popularity. For girls, there was a move away from the Janets and Susans and names such as Lisa and Rebecca were gaining ground.

For many of us, these names sound quite normal. For the younger generation, they can sound appallingly out dated. Today, as we become grandparents, we can often be horrified at the names chosen by our children for their offspring when really the only problem is that we are a bit behind the times on modern popular names.

Interestingly, most parents think they are selecting something slightly unusual and different for their babies, only to find when the children start school that they are one of many with the same name.

Today, if you are a grandparent, you may be surprised at the unusual names chosen by your offspring for their baby. The good news is that while we might have to take a deep breathe at some of the name choices, there is a resurgence of traditional old names which may sound old fashioned to us but are brilliantly new for the 21st century. Names such as Olivia, Ruby, Emily, Grace and Lily for girls and Jack, Harry, Alfie, Oliver and Samuel may be names from our parents or even grandparents era, but they are also the top recent favourites for new births in the UK.

Religion and celebrity still play a part – Mohammed scores heavily in top names in Britain today while some parents have fully embraced the celebrity era and selected for their little darlings names such as Bluebell (after Geri Halliwell’s daughter); Brooklyn and Romeo (from the Beckham’s); and Fifi and Pixie(Paula Yates and Bob Geldof). New tiny tots are now even been encumbered with names such as Petal Blossom (Jamie and Jools Oliver’s daughter).

There are lots of “new” names these days which are perfectly acceptable but can grate on the ear of people over 50 who are simply not used to them. Names are sometimes made up from a mix of older names, such as Jelissa from Jean and Lisa; or adaptations with new spelling of more traditional names such as Debara, Jeslyn and Kristof.

The good news is that names grow with a person and after a few weeks you won’t even notice that your grandchild has what you consider to be a slightly unusual name.

Far worse is the fact that, as your grandchildren grow up and learn your proper names, they will probably think, what old fashioned names granddad and grandma have! Unless, of course, you are old enough for your names to have come right back into fashion again!


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