Nothing’s new in name game
BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENTS here at the JC have lately taken an interesting turn: there’s been a return to names that were popular in the early 1900s. Golda and Arthur are just two of the notso-modern names that have featured in recent birth announcements. National trends corroborate this trend. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) list of baby names given in the UK in 2018 reveals multiple old-fashioned names of Hebrew origin sitting comfortably within this year’s top 100 list. Joshua and Jacob, biblical names, rank highly — and are popular among JC readers too — but other biblical names aren’t faring quite as well: Adam, Abigail, Hannah, Leah, Rachel, Rebecca and Sarah have all seen a dip in popularity.
However, some historically popular Jewish boy’s names remain just as wellloved today as they were back when UK name records began in 1904: particularly highly ranked are the names Samuel, Joseph, Daniel, David and Michael.
Some names, popular in the early 1900s, fell out of fashion for decades and are only now seeing a resurgence in their popularity. The Ashkenazi name Golda might have come recently to our collective consciousness, owing to the recent West End revival of Fiddler on the Roof: Golde being the centralfamily’s strong-willed but fiercely loving matriarch.
And Ada, of Hebrew origin, is back in the top 100, having not appeared there since 1924. This increase in popularity could be because Ada is a central character in the popular TV programme, Peaky Blinders. Ada fits another trend, too — girl’s names starting and ending with a vowel are having a moment. The Latin, non-Jewish name Olivia has been the most popular girls’ name in the UK for a few years running, closely followed by the (also non-Jewish) names Amelia, Isla, Isabella and Elsie and the Hebrew origin name Evie. Evie, Evelyn and Eva are all chart toppers this year, just as they were over a century ago.
Oliver, Olivia’s male equivalent is the most popular boys name in the UK. And almost as popular are more old-fashioned names that were common in the early 1900s and are back in fashion again including Harry, Rose, Lily, Albert, Charles, George and, yes, Arthur. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Arthur is another lead character in Peaky Blinders. And, of course, the Royal Family’s influence on baby name trends is well known, so stand by for more boys called Archie.
Some speculate that the reason so many names from the turn of the century are back on trend is because of the recent trend for family tree websites —the JC’s online archive is a treasure chest for Jewish genealogists, although in the early years of the twentieth century it was rare to announce a baby’s name.
In the primary school where I work, I know of students named Lily, Arthur and Zelda — all of them under the age of six. As it happens, I have known a few other Lilys, one other Arthur, and even another Zelda — each of them now over the age of 80. The circularity of the Jewish (and nonJewish) name game makes me smile.
Adam, Leah, Sarah and Hannah have dipped in popularity Could Ada be popular because of Peaky Blinders?
Arthur or Archie?