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Brits Take Bets on Baby Names

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When British Prime Minister David Cameron’s wife Samantha was due to deliver their baby recently, there was a flurry of publicity on both sides of the Atlantic concerning the odds being given by bookmakers on various name possibilities. Since this practice is unknown in the US, we put a shout out for a Britberry to explain it, and ‘Auburn’ answered the call.

On-track betting agencies, or “bookies”, have been around for decades, but it was with the legalisation of high street bookmakers that the industry boomed in the UK. Now, the main betting agencies – William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and the Irish Paddy Power -  not only take bets  on the outcome of sporting events, but also novelty bets on the winners of TV reality shows and, most recently, what name would be given to British PM David Cameron‘s new little girl.

It would take someone with only the most casual of name interests to see that Ladbrokes sorely needs a Nameberry intervention. Its favourites were Lucy, Daisy and Samantha. Lovely names, certainly, but the first two are clearly much too popular for the Camerons, with Lucy at #14 and Daisy at #25 in the UK. The name of their older daughter, Nancy, isn’t rare but is nowhere near that level of popularity. The names the couple chose for their sons Ivan, who died tragically at age six last year, and Arthur Elwen, who goes by his middle name, are downright obscure. As for Samantha, the likelihood of Sam Cam giving her second daughter her name in the first slot, when that passing down of names is fairly rare in Britain anyway, is … well, let’s just say I wouldn’t bet on it.

Certain other companies must have been consulting with Pam and Linda, because William Hill did much better – they gave Florence odds of 16/1: the baby was named Florence Rose Endellion, the last the Arthurian name of the patron saint of the Cornwall village where the child was born. Unfortunately, no bets were placed in her favour, but given their history of comparative accuracy you might want to put your money on Nick Clegg being Flo Cameron’s godfather (odds of 6/1).

Why has this trend of baby name betting sprung up? It’s all about what sells, and celebrity certainly does that. Novelty bets like these attract people who have no interest in more traditional wagers. It’s the same reason that newspapers report the odds so eagerly, too; celebrity babies make good news, but you can’t just publish an article speculating on names with no evidence. It’s beneficial to both parties for the media to quote the betting stores as though they were an authority on etymology. The pinch of salt these articles have to be taken with is indicated by the fact that one newspaper claimed Lucy was #12 on the top baby names of 2009 … even though statistics for the whole year of 2009 haven’t been released by the government yet.

It’s not just names that the bookies are taking an interest in, though – Paddy Powers has novelty bets on the first country to have their head of state confirm that they’ve been in contact with aliens, when the Hadron collider will reach full power and which will be the next volcano to erupt.

Making money aside, several things imply that the betting agencies just like a bit of a giggle over their novelty bets – odds of 500/1 that the panda born recently on a Chinese reserve will be named Paddy Power suggest they don’t take themselves too seriously. If you fancy a high risk flutter such as that, you could also bet on odds of 1000/1 that baby Florence will grow up to lead the Labour party (imagine those dinner table debates), and before the release of the iPad you might have considered the 100/1 possibility that it would be called ‘iCan’t believe it’s not a newspaper.’

Auburn‘ is a British teen who enjoys linguistics, and by extension is a devoted name lover. She is also passionate about film, theatre and literature, and finds all three to be worthy sources of name inspiration.

AND PLEASE NOTE THAT AS OF TODAY THERE IS A BRAND NEW FORUM ON THE MESSAGE BOARDS ESPECIALLY RESERVED FOR WRITERS WHO WANT TO TALK ABOUT NAMES!

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