Names to remember... before they're forgotten
PUBLISHED: 09:22 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:54 02 October 2018
The name Lynne − will it ever be fashionable again asks Lynne Mortimer? But wait, maybe there is hope for those 50s baby names after all.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I realised my forename name was not going to survive past the 20th century.
By which I mean that baby girls just don’t get called Lynne (Lynn, Lyn, Lin) any more. As well as a stand-alone, it is also a diminutive of Lynda and you don’t get many of those either.
But wait, what is this? First, Victoria Coren Mitchell and her husband David Mitchell call their daughter Barbara and then, last week, Frank and Christine Lampard name their newborn daughter Patricia. Is there hope for Lynne, after all?
There were Barbaras and Patricias in my class at school and so I am eagerly awaiting a celebrity-led revival of more Fifties names. In the same year as me at my all-girls secondary school there was a Sherée, (which we considered very romantic), Julies, Susans, a Sally, a Tina, Wendys, Carolines, Sarahs and Dawns.
As for boys I was at junior school with Robin, Peter, Paul, David, Graham, Michael, John, Malcolm, Richard and Timothy.
In the 80s, my daughter was in school with a fair few Katies, Beckys and Lauras, while boys were Matthew, James, Joseph, Benjamin and Jacob.
Generations tend to revisit older generations when choosing names. This is often to honour a relative. My dad is Stanley... a deeply unfashionable name in the 60s. But the name has enjoyed a resurgence in the last two or three decades. My seven-month-old grandson has a middle name Stanley, in tribute to his great grandfather.
But there are still names that don’t get much modern attention.
There are not so many Kevins, Colins and Nigels around as there were in the 70s. Will they make comebacks? I would have said no but looking at the way some of the lesser chosen names have been brought out of retirement to feature, once more, on school attendance registers, I’m not so sure.
Will Robert make a return? It used to be very well-thought-of. In the 19th century, we had British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, writer Robert Louis Stevenson and the poet Robert Browning. Robert Burns lived in the 18th century. In the 16th century, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester was (until he wasn’t) a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.
More recently we have actors Robert Redford and Robert de Niro and we mustn’t forget the Bobs − Marley and Dylan to name but two. It was a name that endured through many centuries before its decline but, remarkably, it has reappeared in the last few years as “Bobby”. This is another trend that is gaining purchase, using the diminutive rather than the full, traditional moniker. Thus we have Betty (Elizabeth), Bertie (Albert), Ollie (Oliver), Harry (Harold/Henry), Alfie (Alfred), Millie (Mildred), and Ellie (Eleanor).
Looking at the 2017 statistics there are interesting regional variations in names too. While Oliver and Olivia again topped the national rankings, over in East Anglia we were more free-thinking. In Ipswich it was Leo for a boy and Amelia for a girl. In Norwich, it was Oscar and Olivia, Colchester was Harry and Olivia. In North Norfolk, we had Oscar and Phoebe; in Suffolk Coastal, Oliver and Daisy. Fads and fashions have long influenced names but when you have a dated name like, for example, Lynne (the heroine of a book my mum read), it means that whenever you fill in a form online or give your name to someone on the phone, you know they can immediately form an idea of how old you are. The most popular girl’s name in 1954, the year before I was born, was Susan and Lynne was 39th, its best-ever showing. A decade later it was down in the 70s and 10 years after that it had dropped out of the top 100, probably never to be seen there again; the name snuffed out after a brief appearance.
The safest names, if you don’t want to be labelled with your probable year of birth, are those that can be adjusted to suit such as William, which can be Will, Bill or Billy and stay current. Meanwhile, old retainer James has remained in the top 20 for at least 105 years.
There are also names at risk of extinction and these include Derek... could this in any way be connected to the Only Fools and Horses’ character Delboy (full name Derek)? Duncan and Elaine are also at risk as is Wendy, which in Britain was first used as a girl’s name by JM Barrie in his 1904 play, Peter Pan. Beverley, Tracy, and Neville are also on the endangered list, as is Ernest... it seems its importance has waned.