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Family comes first in Japan

Traditionalists in Japan are supporting a move to change the order of people’s names so that the family name comes first followed by the given name. This has been the practice in Japan for centuries but as the country emerged as an international power western influence gradually turned the country round.

Now, with Japan preparing to host the 2020 Olympics, a proposal from the education minister has been accepted by the cabinet that when names are written in the Roman alphabet they should follow Japanese style. This means, for example, that prime minister Shinzo Abe, who is keen to revive aspects of Japan’s traditional culture ahead of the games, will in official documents be referred to as Abe Shinzo.

Chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said usage guidelines and other details need to be discussed further but he looked forward to going by Suga Yoshihide, as he is known in Japan.

‘It has become increasingly important for us to recognise the diversity of languages and cultures that humans possess as society becomes more globalised’ said education minister Masahiko Shibayama – or as he would prefer it, Shibayama Masahiko.

Reaction within government has been mixed with only the education ministry making the changes to staff names on its website.

China and Korea traditionally put surnames first both at home and internationally. But until now Japan has tended to follow the pattern of the west.


Who’s in front, Boris or Jeremy?

In these turbulent political times who’s more popular – Boris or Jeremy.

Whatever happens in parliament to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn in the coming days we can see what parents are thinking. According to the official list of names chosen for baby boys in 2018 in England and Wales Jeremy has a slight lead over Boris. But neither of them is attracting much support.

There were 50 baby boys named Jeremy which placed him well down the popularity chart at 690. With just three fewer boys named Boris, these 47 newborns made Boris the 721st most popular choice.

In terms of trends, Boris is showing a steady rise over the past 20 years from a very low base while Jeremy is down from a 1960s high when he briefly hit the top 50.

On that basis, it looks like Boris will have overtaken Jeremy by this time next year. Whether that will be reflected in an election result is another matter.

Olivia and Oliver hold firm at the top

Oliver and Olivia have held their places at the top of the list of popular names for new babies. In charts that showed little change from the last three years, Arthur moved up to number 7 as he continued a rapid rise that began in 2007. The figures from the Office for National Statistics show that Arthur is in the top ten for the first time since the 1920s.

With Ada moving steadily up the girls’ chart to number 65, the ONS has suggested that the television series Peaky Blinders may be an influence as two prominent characters are called Ada and Arthur.

As for royal influences, it’s too early for Meghan and Harry’s Archie to show any impact in the stats although at 16 he’s doing fine without royal help. The future king George moved up to 2, pushing Harry down a place. Kate and William’s choice of Louis for their second son may account for his rise of 11 places to 69 although his sister Charlotte’s name remained unchanged at 12.

Generally, 2018 threw up few surprises compared with the previous year although for girls Ivy moved up to 23 while there were strong showings for Mila, Aurora, Summer, Hallie, Bonnie, Delilah and Margot.

Trending names for boys include Hunter, up 34 places to 44, Ezra, Jesse, Finn and Grayson while Jasper and Dominic are making a modest comeback. Muhammad rose two places to number 8 and would be the most popular name in England and Wales if the various spellings of the name were added together.

Top ten names

1 Oliver                                               1 Olivia

2 George (+1)                                    2 Amelia

3 Harry (-1)                                       3 Ava (+1)

4 Noah                                               4 Isla (-1)

5 Jack                                                 5 Emily

6 Leo (+1)                                          6 Mia (+1)

7 Arthur (+12)                                   7 Isabella (-1)

8 Muhammad (+2)                           8 Sophia (+3)

9 Oscar (-1)                                         9 Ella

10 Charlie (-1)                                     10 Grace (+3)

Catcalls – or does your pet know its name?

We know that cats are cool customers, especially when compared with dogs. Cats just do their own thing, except perhaps when reacting to the sound and smell of food being put before them. Otherwise, they come and go, they sleep, they preen and clean but do they know who we think they are. Do they know their own name?

Well, it turns out that they do. They may very well choose to ignore their owner’s call because training and obedience are not natural feline characteristics. And while we don’t generally cater for cats at Nameslink we were intrigued by the thorough way in which a Japanese research team went to work to see whether Suki and Sammy could pick out their names from the general clamour of domestic life.

The conclusions from a series of carefully crafted experiments have been reported in the online journal Scientific Reports. These show that cats respond – by moving their heads or pricking up their ears – when they hear their name, including when a human who is unknown to them threads their name among a string of other names and words.

‘From the results of all experiments, it appears that at least cats living in ordinary households can distinguish their own names from general words and names of other cats,’ the researchers concluded.

Whether they know when it’s their birthday is another question – but if they do, we’ll be delighted to supply a card to celebrate.


Good times, bad times with an unusual name

Most of us get along pretty well with the names we were given but some people have to put up quite a fight if their parents choose something way outside the usual names chart.

Take Marijuana Pepsi (pictured). She’s just been awarded a PhD and she’s been talking in the US about living with the name of a recreational drug and a global soft drink brand.

American media and the BBC have reported that Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck refused to change her name despite being bullied a school. The 46-year-old has used her experience to research black names and how they affect the education of children in the United States.

Recalling a conversation as a child with her mum about why she had been named Marijauna Pepsi, she says: ‘My mother told me that your name will take you around the world.’

Marijuana was nine years old when she first realised she had an unconventional name. At school in Wisconsin she says it wasn’t just the other children who made fun of her but the teachers, too.

My mum hit the roof

‘They would ask to call me Mary, and at first that was fine until I won a school spelling bee. I came home with my certificate, and my mum hit the roof when she saw the name on it read Mary Jackson.

‘She told me never to let them call me Mary ever again and then she went up to the school and demanded they change it. She wasn’t playing.’

This summer Marijuana received her PhD in higher education leadership from Cardinal Stritch University in Wisconsin following her dissertation, ‘Black names in white classrooms- teacher behaviours and student perceptions’.

‘Even though I had issues with my name I had never given much thought to how it might affect others’, she says.

‘We’re human and when we first hear a name, we form opinions, and make judgements. It’s the next thing that one does that makes a difference.’

Send your name on a mission to Mars

We can all be space travellers next year when Nasa sends a new explorer mission to Mars. The US agency is inviting people to submit their names for inclusion on a series of data chips that will be carried by the robot rover when it touches down on the planet.

The offer to send your name to Mars comes with a souvenir boarding pass and frequent flyer points – about 40 million miles worth. It is part of a public engagement campaign to highlight Nasa missions to Mars and the Moon.

The rover is a robotic scientific vehicle weighing more than 1000 kilograms. It will search for signs of past microbial life, characterize the planet’s climate and geology and collect samples for future return to Earth. The long term plan is to pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.

If you want your name to go along for the ride you have until September 30 to register. The mission is scheduled for take-off in the second half of 2020 with arrival expected in February 2021.

You won’t be alone. Already more than 5.5 million people have taken up Nasa’s invitation even though the etched names will be tiny – smaller than the width of a human hair.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk, CEO of Space X, is planning to establish a scientific colony on Mars. He and is forecasting his private enterprise rockets will be able to take passengers on a return trip to the planet sometime in the 2020s.

For more information about Nasa’s Mars 2020 and ticketing

Primrose sets a trend among flower girls

It’s primrose time and not just those pretty clusters of yellow in springtime hedgerows and gardens. Primrose is one of the fastest moving names for girls as parents continue to look to flowers and nature for names for their babies.

The rise of Primrose shows impressive momentum with a charge up the chart from number 975 five years ago to 220 in the latest new baby data from the Office for National Statistics. She’s catching up with Olive, a name that was popular a century or so ago and is clearly back in favour. Olive was at 623 a decade ago and is now at 151.

We’ve already noted the popularity of Poppy, with a place in the top ten, and Lily just a couple of places below and now Daisy has entered the top 20. Then come Ivy and Willow, two more flowering names that are new to the top 30.

Rose, Violet and Iris – names that were all popular in great grandmother’s day – are all rising within the top 100 where only Holly (56) and Jasmine (65) have recorded slight falls.

Classic names ride out trends and novelties

No matter how determined some parents are to give their children unfamiliar names that stand out from the mainstream, there are some that never to go out of fashion. These are the classics that often have a pedigree going back 100 years or more.

Interestingly, the most recent data from the US Social Security database illustrates the point. While the Kardashian family tree has sprouted a flowering of original names such as North, Saint, Chicago and Reign and while other celebs compose something entirely new, the great survivors survive.

Take Elizabeth at number 13 in the US and 44 in England/Wales or William in third place in the US and number 11 in England. Joseph is 19 and David 23 in the US compared with 28 and 44 in the UK.

According to the US figures Michael (currently 12) is the name that has held the top spot most often in the past 75 years. He comes in at a solid 68 in England. Mary was the most popular name for girls for 38 years from 1918 but, as in the UK, she has now slipped out of the top 100.

The biggest contrast with names on either side of the Atlantic is seen in John who’s still a top 30 choice in America while three years ago he left the England/Wales top 100 for the first time in a century.

Overall, name trends move more slowly across America where among the classics Anna, Robert, Charles, Sarah and Victoria all show higher ratings than they do in the UK. The once exception is Thomas who sits at 13 in England and 48 in America.

One of the biggest casualties of changing taste is Laura, hugely popular through the 1960s and 70s and now out of the US top 100 and down at 145 in England and Wales.

Coming soon, names from your greengrocer

The trend towards healthy eating and wellness in general is beginning to emerge in baby names. News comes from the US that parents are selecting names from fruit and even vegetables for their newborns. The powerful magazine Women’s Health and a range of mother and baby websites have identified a rise in nature names that they suggest will be significant in 2019 as parents keep up the search for unusual and original names.

Notable climbers up the US popularity league are Kale is up 35 percent, Kiwi up 40 percent and Saffron 31 percent. Women’s Health is predicting a surge in favour of Anjou (a type of pear), Plum, Apple, Crispin (an apple), Cherry and Clementine. Switch to veg and Aubergine is tipped to be up there along with Bean, Pea, Pepper and the aforementioned Kale.

In the UK we have noticed a trend in recent years for names from nature although these are more generally flowers than fruits. Poppy and Lily are in England’s top ten with Daisy, Ivy and Willow close behind. However, don’t expect the American examples to cross the Atlantic just yet. In 2017 there were no recorded examples in England or Wales of Aubergine or Kiwi. Kale did make an appearance with five boys while Saffron with 51 girls is a name in decline here.

Children push Mr and Mrs to the edge

The use of first names by children towards adults has become the norm according to a survey carried out among 30,000 people by the US television programme Good Morning America. Apart from school time when teachers might expect to be called Mrs Smith or Mr Jones kids have become used to calling their friends’ parents by their first name. The same goes for members of their own family where even the prefixes Uncle or Aunty seem to be less popular.

The survey found that generally adults liked to be called by their first names and found this natural. They were happy with the informality of first names and didn’t feel children were showing a lack of respect by avoiding the Mr, Mrs, Ms tag.

One respondent, described as an etiquette expert, said ‘defaulting to the formal is always appropriate until told otherwise’. So if Mrs Jones says ‘call me Cara’ that’s fine for everyone whatever their age.

At Nameslink we like first names and think they should be used most of the time to maintain comfortable relationships. We note that Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexiteer MP, steadfastly sticks to the formal use of Mrs May or Mr Johnson rather than Theresa or Boris. But then he makes a virtue of sounding old fashioned.



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