Old-Fashioned Baby Names Are All The Rage. So Why Does No One Name Their Children Brenda Or Derek?

06/02/2015 10:49 | Updated 20 May 2015

Amazed baby

I love a good list. Words that go down the page, instead of across. The best lists of all are the baby name lists. These become something of an addiction once you become a parent, along with electronic thermometers and Dettol wipes.

It's always fun to guess the top 10 and then congratulate yourself on your good taste or blinding originality - depending on whether you want your child to be part of the in-crowd (and possibly known by their hyphenated first-name-surname) or to stand out from the masses (and be forever repeating/spelling/pronouncing the name you cleverly picked.)

Two of my children will probably never be in the top 100, the other is somewhere in the top 30. She's the only one that gets a torch with her name on it from Father Christmas. The other two just get their initial.

But the fascinating thing about names, is the way some go on forever, others get recycled, and the rest just seem destined for the dump. The first category includes the kind of classic, safe names that would ensure your child wouldn't receive automatic discrimination should they choose to marry into royalty. Catherine, Elizabeth, George and James would do nicely here.

Then there are the recycled names; the ones your grandparents might have been called, that might have been laughed at twenty-five years ago, but are suddenly hip again, like Freddie, Eric, Connie and Elsa (no explanation needed there.)

It's a common conception that all names are cyclical and will eventually return to vogue. And while that's certainly true for the present flurry of Archies, Alfies, Florences and Esmes, there are some names from the past that it's hard to imagine ever making a comeback.

I honestly can't imagine a class register that reads: Barbara, Wendy, Shirley and Janet. Followed by the boys: Derek, Rodney, Graham and Brian. No offence. Of course, this could just be my complete lack of vision and the playgrounds of the future could be filled with Sheilas and Trevors. But somehow, it still seems unlikely. Because even if we don't know why, there is a fine line between names that are hip-and-trendy and those that just don't quite work. Why is Alfie cool, but Colin just a bit off-key? Why is Nancy kind of quirky and cute, but Brenda just a bit naff? There can be nothing intrinsically horrible about a name (with the possible exception of Adolf) they are just words, a collection of letters and sounds. But it's a brave parent who christens their child Norman.

I'm from a generation of Amandas, Clares, Lauras, Pauls, Stevens, Philips and Neils. Thirty odd years ago they were the Olivers and Olivias of a generation. And while I know lots of lovely people with these names, I don't know many people who would short-list them for their own children. Perhaps it's simply a case of over-use that makes them just a bit underwhelming a few decades on, which can only mean the same fate for all those Jacks and Amelias.

And what about Sharon and Tracey - will they ever shake off the ridicule of a generation? And as for boys, when did you last meet a baby Wayne or Kevin? Are these monikers, too, destined for the scrapheap, or will they, along with Sheila and Derek, Brian and Joan, kick arse in 50 years time?

If I could see into the future, I wouldn't care if humans had landed on Mars, I'd just want to know what everyone was calling their kids; which names had made a comeback and which ones had been consigned to the scrapheap along with MSG and cigarette advertising.

Because whatever is said about history repeating itself and names being cyclical, it's still hard to imagine tomorrow's parents by the names of Rosie and Finn, yelling across the park at their little Joans and Dereks.

Although perhaps there's one name that may now rise from the ashes: I'm fully expecting Dierdre (RIP) to be in next year's list in honour of a 7.30pm icon. Well, if Frozen can do it for Elsa, just think what could be achieved by Coronation Street.

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