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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.


Parents find a way to unique baby names

Thousands of parents have solved the problem of choosing a baby name by making one up. While the lists of the most popular baby names in 2017 show familiar choices for most of the 679,106 newborns, a significant number of parents decided to go their own way and give their child a unique name. 

Latest figures for England and Wales show there were almost 43,000 babies registered with a name like none other. Some of these names are rarities from yesteryear or from other cultures but often they have been created to give a son or a daughter a distinctive name.

It would be nice to give you some examples but the Office for National Statistics withholds these names ‘to protect the confidentiality of the individuals’. The stats stop at names chosen three times where alphabetically Zymal clocks in last for girls and Zyren for boys.

Sarah goes but Hunter charges in

At the other end of the spectrum 2017 was a fairly standard year with Olivia and Amelia unchanged at the top while Isla and Ava moved a place. Emily dropped down to five. Below her, Poppy came in and Jessica dropped out. Among the boys, Oliver, Harry and George held their top three places with Leo the only new entry in the top ten as Thomas dropped down.

Elsewhere the lists show some interesting trends. Parents of girls who had been taking inspiration from nature – flowers and seasons for example – are looking to the sky. Aurora came shining into the top 100 for the first time and Luna moved up 30 places to 48.

Alas poor Sarah, we must bid her farewell from the top 100 for the first time in more than 110 years. On the brighter side, the alternative spelling Sara continues to make her way up the chart and now sits at 82. Penelope is back in favour with a rise of 460 places since 2007 that puts her just outside the top 50. Other improvers include Aria, Orla, Bonnie and Hallie.

Hunter was highest riser into the top 100 for baby boys, coming in at 78. Ralph at 98 is another new entrant. Arthur continued his rise to 19 while Arlo, who was nowhere ten years ago, is at 42.


Old favourites still first choice

Parents in Northern Ireland show no signs of breaking with current trends when it comes to choosing names for their babies.  For the fifth year running Emily tops the list of most popular girls’ names while James holds the top spot for boys that he first took in 2015 when he edged past Jack.

Logan, in at number ten, is the only newcomer in the boys’ top ten while for girls Isla at four and Charlotte at nine both make their top ten debut.

The details come from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency and will be followed later this month by the lists for England and Wales.

Scotland released its 2017 figures early – by not including December – and these showed that Jack held top spot for the tenth successive year followed by Oliver, James and Lewis. For girls, Olivia held on to first place with Emily second and then Isla and Sophie. Harris was the only new entry to the boys top ten and Aria the only newcomer among the girls.

Northern Ireland top ten

Girls: Emily, Grace, Olivia, Isla, Anna, Sophie, Ella, Amelia, Charlotte, Sophia

Boys: James, Jack, Noah, Charlie, Jacob, Harry, Thomas, Daniel, Oliver, Logan

Nameslink reveals its Top 20

You can’t keep a good name down – that seems to be the message from the Nameslink top 20 list of best selling cards. Our survey covers the five years since Nameslink was set up and it shows that some names are well represented, long after they slipped down the new babies popularity chart. Stalwarts like John, Peter, Helen and Andrew for example. Mary is another, she came in at 21.

Jack has just moved to the top of our chart and he figures in the top ten list of favourite baby names. Laura, by contrast, is our second best seller and that must reflect an earlier vogue as she is down at 150 in the new baby list.

The comparison for Kate is perhaps a little unfair as the name sits at 452 in the baby chart although many girls called one of the varieties of Catherine are shortened to Kate among family and friends.

So, here’s our top 20 that reflects an interesting mix of traditional and presently popular names. The figures in brackets show the position in the official chart of new baby names 2016.

The Nameslink Top 20

1 Jack (4)                                           11 Freddie (17)

2 Laura (150)                                    12 Helen (622)

3 George (3)                                      13 Harry (2)

4 Sam (24 Samuel)                          14 Michelle (352)

5 Kate (452)                                      15 Ben (32 Benjamin)

6 Oliver (1)                                        16 James (12)

7 Emma (53)                                     17 Olivia (1)

8 John (120)                                     18 Sophie (14)

9 Peter (188)                                     19 Andrew (209)

10 Tom (9 Thomas)                         20 Sarah (96)

Pictures: Laura Kenny, Olympic cycle champion and Jack Nicholson, Hollywood star – both feature in our cards for Laura and Jack. Kenny picture: Cycling Weekly

Do you have a Starbucks name?

Most people it seems grow up to appreciate an unusual first name – but not when it comes to ordering coffee at Starbucks or other outlets. As their turn comes at the counter something simple keeps the busy queue moving. A feature based on responses to a New York Times article showed that Fadi was often misunderstood as Fatty – so he calls himself John at coffee time. Shasta has settled for Ruby as her counter name while Vanessa Angelica goes by her grandmother’s name Stella. Seems that when time is pressing and the urge for a coffee is strong a lot of us choose to become Mary or Mike until that skinny flat white is safely in our hand.


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