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Amy beats Ruby but Alfie holds own

PUBLISHED: 16:27 27 December 2007 | UPDATED: 10:14 03 July 2010

GODSEND: A Belgian coastguard is helped ashore by coastguards and volunteers after being rescued by breeches buoy from the grounded trawler St Peter Eglise on Waxham beach in 1955.

GODSEND: A Belgian coastguard is helped ashore by coastguards and volunteers after being rescued by breeches buoy from the grounded trawler St Peter Eglise on Waxham beach in 1955.

WHAT'S it all about, Alfie? That was the question I posed exactly a year ago when the name emerged as the most popular for new babies in the Mercury's births columns through 2006.

WHAT'S it all about, Alfie? That was the question I posed exactly a year ago when the name emerged as the most popular for new babies in the Mercury's births columns through 2006. That very same question appertains today, for Alfie\Alfy has again been chosen for new-born sons more than any other by 2007 parents.

The 2004 Jude Law remake of the Sixties Michael Caine film of that name has long passed into television schedules and DVD sales, and Alfie Moon would find it hard to find his way around Walford or recall his EastEnders days.

And I cannot think of another Alfie prominent in sport or popular culture who could have influenced its choice for the second consecutive year as the number one first name, the one by which the bearer will be known throughout his life.

It is only in recent years that Alfie, hitherto the diminutive of Alfred, has emerged as a full-blown “monicker” in its own right. As for Alfred itself, that was well favoured for many decades but fell from frequent use probably between the wars.

Jack, that shared top spot with Alfie last year, was demoted to third in 2007, with Harry splitting them as runner-up.

There was no clear-cut favourite among the baby girls, with no fewer than five receiving an equal number of inclusions in this newspaper's births section: they were Amy/Amie, Emily, Evie, Grace and Lily/Lillee. All but Evie had been among the top five spots in 2006, the year when Ruby beat off all opposition.

As I stress here annually, first names are used millions of times throughout one's life and are more important and influential than middle names. Following the usual trend, James and John outstripped the opposition as following names but not once were they picked as a first name, and they were similarly far ahead when all names - first and following - were amalgamated.

Similarly, May/Mai/Mae and Rose were extensively bestowed on baby girls as middle names, but never persuaded the babies' new parents to use them as first names.

Shortly before I drew up the 2007 league tables from the weekly records culled from the Mercury, I read in a national newspaper that Mohammed is set to overtake Jack as the most popular boys' name in Britain, the result of the high birth rate in Muslim families.

That prophecy came from an authoritative source, the Office of National Statistics, reporting that the highest birth rates in the country are in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, both predomimantly Muslim.

As the Great Yarmouth Mercury circulation area in east Norfolk is the home of very few Muslims, the chances are slender that even one Mohammed will be announced in our births column let alone enough to make an impact on my annual name game. Also, presumably the Office of National Statistics collates its lists from every birth officially registered, not those whose proud parents proclaim the event and the new offspring's name in a paid announcement in a newspaper.

By the same token, The Times births column reflects its readership, as does the Mercury's, and neither is necessarily in line with the comprehensive compilation of the national statistical bureau.

Last week another national report from parenting club Bounty said old-fashioned names were surging in popularity over short-lived trendy ones, based on 380,000 birth registrations in 2007. That survey put Grace as the favourite girls' name, followed by Ruby, with Jack keeping its top spot for the 13th year running, and Charlie, Thomas, Oliver and Harry occupying the next rungs on the league ladder.

Parents' tastes in names for their children change and evolve in the same way that other things do. Alfie, as I said, was the short form of Alfred and I am sure that even in the long decades when it was well used as a Christian name, it was seldom officially registered as Alfie.

Alfred is one of the host of near forgotten names as far as new births are concerned although they remain in dimishing use daily as age and death take their toll. Among them are Alan, Albert, Barbara, Beryl, Betty, Brian, Carol, Colin, Constance, Dawn, Derek, Doris, Dorothy, Eric, Ethel, Florence, Frank, Frederick, Georgina, Gerald, Gertrude, Heather, Herbert, Irene, Ivan, Ivy, Jacqueline, Jean, Jennifer, Joan, Jocelyn, Joseph, June, Kathleen, Keith, Kenneth, Kevin, Leonard, Mabel, Malcolm, Mary, Mavis, Neville, Norman, Olive, Owen, Percy, Philip, Queenie, Reginald, Russell, Sidney, Stanley, Victor, Violet, Walter, Wendy, Winifred...the list seems endless.

Another that deserves inclusion in that list is Shirley. In my teenage years I knew no fewer than nine Shirleys, but that was nearly six decades ago.

Some of those absentees occasionally are given to 21st century babies, but usually as a middle name perpetuating a long-standing family name.

The 2007 birth notices in the Mercury included the following, collected here because in my opinion, they were unusual, or varied the usual spelling.

Boys: Aiden, Alexander Monideth James, Alfy, Ashton, Benjamin, Billy, Blake, Blyth Vernon, Brandon and Dylan (twins), Breig Art, Cameron, Casey, Colby, Corey, Donovan Glen, Douglas, Drummond, Edwin, Francis, Frankie, Fraser, Gerrard, Graham, Guyus, Harrison, Harry Peter Frank, Harvey, Henry George, Jack Valentine, Jackson Paul, Jacob, Jake, Jason, Jasper, Jayden, Jenson Nathan, Joel, Joseph, Joshua, Keelan-Jai, Kenzie, Kian Jason Alix, Kieran, Lee, Leighton, Leo Daniel, Lincoln, Lucas, Mackenzie, Martyn, Max Anthony, Maxwell, Ned, Nicholas Claydon, Owen, Patrick, Phoenix, Reiss, Riley Scott, Robbie William, Rylan Danny, Shaw, Shea, Stuart, Theo, Warren, Xavier, Zane, Zaydn Bailey.

Girls: Aisha, Alexie, Amber, Amelia Ashleigh, Ava Georgina, Beatrice, Carla-Lei, Darcey Audrey, Eden, Ellice, Eloise, Enya, Erin, Evelyn, Faith, Fraia, Freya Eve, Harley, Imogen Samantha, Iris, Jasmine, Jodie, June, Kendall Cornelia Helen, Kelci Renee, Kumani Elena Preston, Lara, Leah, Libby Ellis, Lillie Helena-Mae, Lily Louisa, Lois, Lola, Maisie, Mariah, Martine, Morgan-Jai, Nicole, Phoebe, Rosie, Saskia Alexius, Savannah, Scarlett Anderson, Sophia, Takara, Tasmin Mary Alice, Tegan Skye, Thea, Tia, Yolanda.

2007

BOYS

First names

1 Alfie/Alfy (7 mentions)

2 Harry (6)

3 Jack (5)

4=Charlie, Dylan, Jamie, Max, Oliver (4)

5= Ethan, Jayden, Jenson, Oscar/Oskar (3)

Middle names

1 James (18)

2 John (10)

3 William (5)

4=David, George, Peter (4)

5=Lee, Michael, Paul, Reece/Reiss/Rhys, Robert, Stephen (3)

All names

1 James (18)

2 John (10)

3=Alfie/Alfy, Jack, William (7)

4=Dylan, Harry, Oliver (6)

5=David, George (5)

GIRLS

First names

1=Amy, Emily, Evie, Grace, Lily/Lillie (5)

2=Chloe, Ella, Freya/Fraia, Olivia, Ruby (4)

3=Brooke, Ellen, Ellie, Erin, Isobel/Isabel, Lucy, Scarlett (3)

Middle names

1 May/Mae/Mai (19)

2 Rose (14)

3 Louise (10)

4 Elizabeth (9)

5 Ann(e) (7)

All names

1 May/Mae/Mai (19)

2 Rose (14)

3 Grace (11)

4 Louise (10)

5 Elizabeth (9)

2006

BOYS

First names

1=Alfie, Jack (6)

2 Harry (5)

3=Harvey, William (4)

4=Benjamin, Callum, Charlie, Finlay/Finley, Harley/Harlee, James, Jayden, Joshua (3)

Middle names

1 James (9),

2 William (6)

3 David, John (5)

4=Paul, Thomas (4)

5=Jai/Jay, Lewis (3)

All names

1 James (12)

2 William (10)

3=Alfie, Harry, Jack, Thomas (6)

4=David, John, Lewis (5)

5=Benjamin, Finlay/Finley, George, Henry, Oliver, Paul, Peter (4)

GIRLS

First names

1 Ruby (7)

2=Charlotte, Ellie, Grace, Lily/Lillie, Lucy/Lucie, Madison (5)

3 Amelia (4)

4=Amy/Aimee, Amber, Darcy/Darcie, Hannah, Libby, Milly/Millie (3)

Middle names

1 May/Mae (15)

2 Rose (13)

3 Ja(y)ne (9)

4 Marie (7)

5=Ann(e), Grace(9)

All names

1 May/Mae (15)

2 Rose (13)

3 Grace (11)

4 Ja(y)ne (9)

5=Ann(e), Marie, Ruby (7)

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