A good year for Slobodan, but Tony takes the biscuit

Last year the outright winner was Dodi. This year it does not even figure in the top 100

AT THE start of every year it is customary to bring you the most popular boy's and girl's names of the previous years. This is usually done by looking at the names of boys and girls in the "Births" columns, but as regular readers of this column will know, I prefer to consult the headlines to see which the really popular names are.

So whereas you may get the impression from other papers that the popular names are John and James, or Sophie and Lucy, a quick look at the papers will show you that such names are, in fact, extremely rare - among important people, at least. Indeed, some names that occur in headlines never occur in daily life at all - names like Sting and Madonna, and Scary and Boy. (These last are the first names of Ms Spice and Mr George respectively.)

One of the odd things about first names as found in the headlines is the speed with which they go in and out of fashion. One year the most common first name was Mr. It has never reoccurred. This was entirely due to the popularity that year of TV dramatisations of Jane Austen's novels, and all her heroes had the first name Mr (Mr Darcy etc). Last year the outright winner of boy's names was Dodi. This year it does not even figure in the top 100.

Another curiosity is the way in which politicians and leaders are rarely known by their first name. John Major was never called John by headline writers. Clinton is always Clinton, rarely Bill. That is why the name Bill does not figure in our top ten boy's names, even though the most important man in the world bears it. Even at the level of football management this is true. Glenn Hoddle would be recognisable if called Glenn, as there are very few Glenns in football, but he is always called Hoddle in print, never Glenn.

However, let us get straight to the main agenda of today's ceremony, and that is the grand announcement of the top 10 boy's names of 1998. Roll of drums. Fanfare. Thank you.

(Previous year's position in brackets, incidentally.)

1. Tony (11)

2. Charles (5)

3. Leonardo (-)

4. Saddam (-)

5. Zinedine (-)

6. Slobodan (-)

7. Peter (9)

8. Oskar (7)

9. Ken (6)

10. Helmut (-)

Tony's popularity is entirely due to Mr Blair's sudden rise to spring- heeled prominence. There are other Tonys around, such as Tony Banks, but they rarely feature.

Indeed, it would seem from a study of political first names that it is no help to ambition to have the same first name as a rival, or as your leader. Nobody called Margaret throve near Mrs Thatcher. John Redwood dwindled before John Major. And the only Edward near Edward Heath was Edward du Cann, and look what happened to him. No, we fear that Tony Banks's ambitions will have to be put on hold.

Leonardo has never featured in the list before, so well done, Mr di Caprio. Obviously the name Leonardo is a bit too Italian for the American audience, so already Mr di Caprio's first name is being shortened by the publicists to Lenny or even Leo, and we may never see Leonardo on the top 10 list again.

Most Americans, of course, think that di Caprio was named after a mutant turtle called Leonardo, as they have never heard of the artist Leonardo da Vinci.

(Incidentally, in the credits of an old Sergeant Bilko film the other day I spotted that the name of the director was a certain Al di Caprio. Any relation, I wonder?)

Zinedine is an even more unusual name than Slobodan, and would not figure here were it not for Mr Zidane's goal-scoring feats for France against Brazil in the World Cup final, in which he became the first person in history to become famous despite having both names beginning with Z.

Other names which flared into brief popularity were Salman and Yasser, Benjamin and Gerhard, Arsene and Menzies, and - very briefly - Enoch, after the publication of a life of the late Enoch Powell. Fergal was quite popular, as indeed was Fergie, which interestingly is a boy's name when used of football managers and a girl's name when used of duchesses. Ron was fleetingly fashionable for a week when a Welshman strayed on Clapham Common and George became fashionable when a pop star strayed in a Californian lavatory.

Tomorrow we come to the top 10 girl's names of 1998, the first year for many years in which Diana has not won outright. Or can she do it again posthumously? All will be revealed tomorrow!

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat