Category: British baby names
My previous post on Posh Name in Britain looked at the names most typically associated with the upper class. Uncommon they may be, but if you are to find them anywhere, it’s among England‘s elite. In this second part, I have been busily crunching data to find the names which as most popular among the upper class.
To try to ascertain which are the most popular names among the British upper classes (in England particularly), I have looked to birth announcements in The Times and The Telegraph – two newspapers which are favoured by the elite to announce family births.
Here is the first of two posts examining “posh names” in Britain. This first one looks at the names rarely used outside of the upper classes ; the second to follow will examine the most common names.
Posh. It’s a term I dread, and try to avoid whenever I can. You see, it’s a very tetchy and subjective word that brings up all sorts of connotations. To call something “posh” can equally be a compliment of elegance and refinement as much as it can be a derogatory slur of aloofness and pomposity.
But, if I avoid the word to avoid offence, I’m in the minority. “Posh” is so bandied around in Britain, it can mean anything from “pertaining exclusively to the aristocracy” to “a little bit fancy.” Though ironically, the aristocracy to which it usually refers don’t actually use the word.
The fact is, Britain has an upper class, a social elite, who have their own set of habits, preferences and even names. Some names are so indicative, that you may assume as person is aristocratic just from their names. I didn’t need to know anything about fashion editor Pandora Sykes, to guess that she was upper class (sure enough, she is the granddaughter of Lord Buxton of Alsa) because Pandora is one of those delightfully eccentric names from classical mythology that has been used by the aristocracy for centuries.
By Emma Jolly
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t obsessed with names.
Growing up in the English countryside, I entertained myself by making lists of names from all my favourite books. Each of my toys was named only after due consideration. I also used to write stories, usually spending more time on my characters’ names than on plots. Thinking ahead, I had full names planned for each of the nine children I intended to have. After having two real, noisy, hungry children, I decided that nine might be too many, and had to return to naming imaginary people in my fiction writing.
In my day job as a professional genealogist, I come across many interesting names. Some are useful in that they fit into a naming pattern or contain an ancestral surname that can provide clues to their family history. Others indicate a religious family, or perhaps one that is socially ambitious. Many parents in the 19th and early 20th centuries named children after family members or used fashionable options. In 1911, for example, parents opted for contemporary choices: the most popular girls names in England and Wales were Edith, Doris, Florence, Elsie and Gladys.
Those that most trigger my curiosity, however, are the names that suggest a passion of the parents for something literary, artistic, musical, or political.
Baby names are in general a lot more adventurous in the US than they are in the UK, with American parents using word names and place names and surname-names and gender-ambiguous names in far greater numbers than their British counterparts.
But British parents tend to be broader-minded when it comes to using vintage names with more history than gloss. Some of the names that might be considered dowdy and old-fashioned by Americans – Constance and Hubert, for example – are chic in London.
A recent review of birth announcements produced this list of names favored by contemporary parents in Britain. If you love vintage baby names that are also distinctive, you may find your perfect name here.
By Haley Sedgwick
The Edwardian era, though short, brought us many names that had hardly ever charted prior to the turn of the last century. Beginning in 1901 with the death of Queen Victoria, the end of this period is often disputed, but it’s assumed to have ended sometime around the First World War.
Namesake King Edward VII was known to be particularly stylish, influencing art and fashion across Europe, some of which can be seen in the first season of Downton Abbey, which depicts the tail end of the era.
With the high fashions of the period, names were changing, just as quickly as the times were. Unfortunately, name data from England and Wales before 1996 only exists in ten-year intervals; the following names were gaining popularity in 1904 and 1914 in England and Wales.