Category: Middle, Last and Nicknames
By Elisabeth Waugaman
The practice developed for a variety of reasons. As populations grew, names necessarily became more complex in order to distinguish individuals from each other. Physical descriptions, occupations and locations of specific individuals became last names, as in John by the tower (John Tower), John the short, (John Short), John the Baker (John Baker).
What names are quintessentially ‘British’?
I see this question a lot but it’s a hard one to pin down. Do we mean solely British in origin, or only British in use? When Prince George was born our media heralded it as a “quintessentially British” name — and why not? We’ve had numerous kings bear the name, and it’s even the name of the patron saint of England. But George was originally a Greek name, brought late into our Royalty by German Hanovarians. Ask many Americans and the first George they think of is Washington or Bush.
For me, the quintessentially British names are those which are very familiar to us as a nation, that have been or are currently popular, but are little used in America, Canada, Australia and other English-speaking countries. Names such as Nicola – our darling of the 70s – Darcy, Imogen, Poppy, Freya, Alfie, Jenson, Gareth, Alistair and Finlay.
Back in 2012, I heard about parents naming their babies Draper in honor of Mad Men. I remember thinking the idea was daring but a little silly. These people were taking the last-name-as-first-name trend to an absurd conclusion, I griped.
It had been a few years since occupational surnames like Cooper and Mason had become popular, and I worried that pretty soon every kid would be a Fletcher, Tanner or Jagger. Traditional names were a dying species.
Then I made a startling discovery.
Names most familiar as surnames are now prevalent in the Top 100; popular examples include Mason, Parker, Lincoln, and Madison. While the concept certainly isn’t new, surnames as first names are becoming increasingly fashionable, and parents are making more adventurous choices.
While digging through the family tree is one way to find a meaningful surname to use, culturally significant figures could serve as another source for namesakes. Here, I’ve sifted through the surnames names of some of the most famous and beloved writers to find those most wearable as first names. Though several of these names would make very unique choices, they still incorporate the popular sounds found in many other trending surnames. Choosing the surname of a favorite storyteller or poet also provides an opportunity to embed meaning and personal significance into a child’s name.
The major headline for British baby names in the last decade has undoubtedly been the rise of diminutives as given names. Alfie, Archie, Charlie, Tommy, Evie, Millie, Maisie and many others are boundless in our playgrounds as parents opt for cheerful and breezy short forms. But this phenomenon is certainly not confined to the English language — Wales has also been getting in on the act of reviving vintage pet forms and putting them ‘up front’ on birth certificates.