What’s in a name?


Share coke with Sophie

Share coke with Sophie, photo by Sophie Young

My daughter Sophie got me thinking about popular names recently with this picture. With Coke’s current Share a Coke campaign it is possible to find a Coke with your name on the label if your name happens to be in the top popular names as decided by an ‘independent expert’.

Some of those names can be found in the lists compiled by the Office for National StatisticsThis pdf  details the key findings from the data and includes Excel files to download various tables. If you want to download the top 100 baby names for boys and the top 100 baby names for girls use this link. The Comparison Tool from ONS shows clearly how the popular names have changed in ranking. I like the use of Wordle by the ONS to illustrate popular names.

The ONS describe groups of users and uses of baby name statistics which includes those involved in the manufacture and sale of named items (like coke!). The list also includes researchers, who examine how names are changing over the years and possibly how this reflects changes in culture.

I think teachers and students can also be users of the baby name statistics because in my experience it goes down very well with students! After choosing a title for this post I recalled this suggested lesson with the same title from Census at school, a lesson suggested for Year 7 (age 11-12) where learners are asked to investigate popular first names and do a survey for their class on the image of first names and to report their results. This involves data collection, presenting data and designing a survey. Another suggested lesson which I have have successfully used myself is Baby Names from Stats4schools. The lesson involves students investigating the popularity of names and asks whether names get more or less popular over time. 

Students might be interested to see how their school compares to the ONS data.

Further websites offering Statistics on names:

Anna Powell-Smith’s website  England & Wales Baby Names has details of names chosen by parents in England & Wales each year from 1996 to 2010 (based on the ONS data discussed above), using this site makes it easy to see the popularity of a name over time, we could search on Colleen for example!

Entering a name into WolframAlpha shows US Statistics for that name and gives the etymology of the name and notable people with that name.

This Wikipedia entry has the top 10 names for various regions of the world.

And just what you always wanted to know – The Most Popular Dog Names in the English Speaking World!