Poor Di - vanquished again by a remorseless Camilla

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The Independent Culture
YESTERDAY I brought you the results of my research into the favourite boys' names of 1998 (based on the frequency of their appearance in the year's news headlines), and today we come to the most popular girls' names for the same period.

As I ponder 1997's winners, it strikes me that, apart from the predictable victory for Diana, there were several names which had never appeared on the list before - and probably never will again. One of these was Tiggy, and for a moment I couldn't even remember the derivation of this name. Then, suddenly, it all came back to me. This was, of course, the name popularised by someone known in full as Tiggy Legge-Bourke, and is the sort of name that it takes the upper classes several hundred years to develop, like a rare orchid. Or rare mushroom, perhaps.

Now, Tiggy was quite happy moseying along out of the limelight as a nanny - or something like that - to Prince Harry and Prince William, and she only ever became famous because those bounders in the press liked to suggest that there was a rivalry for the princes' affections between her and Diana. With Diana gone, of course, no more press interest in Tiggy Legge- Bourke. So, no more Tiggy in the top 10 names.

There is a similar pattern with Louise, a name that was in the news last year only because its owner, another nanny by the name of Louise Woodward, was on trial for murder in America. Louise, along with Myra, has again sunk way below the top 10 (except, oddly enough, when used in conjunction with Thelma...)

This has been the first year for a while that the competition has not been dominated by Diana, or Poor Di, as she was latterly known. The name Harriet was a front-runner for a while, but that too has ebbed away, as have all the Spice Girls...

However, that's enough bitchy back-biting, girls, and let's get on to the moment that you have all been waiting for: the top 10 girls' names of 1998 (with 1997's position in brackets).

1 Camilla (3)

2 Monica (-)

3 Ffion (-)

4 Kate (-)

5 Fergie (8)

6 Nicole (-)

7 Gaynor (-)

8 Oprah (-)

9 Cherie (-)

10 Madeleine (-)

The presence of Nicole in the top 10 is due entirely to the strange success of Nicole Kidman (aka Mrs Tom Cruise) in an adaptation of Schnitzler's La Ronde in the West End, where she vanquished all critical doubts, apparently, by taking her clothes off. We dwellers in the provinces were baffled by such unsophisticated behaviour, but if that's what gives the simple folk of London their kicks, they're welcome to it.

Incidentally, Nicole has only ever been in the top 10 once before, making an appearance thanks to a car commercial on television. I can't remember what the make of car was. A Renault Nicole, perhaps? Perhaps not...

Gaynor is an interesting case of a girl's name that sounds more like a boy's name or, perhaps, a surname that has been recycled, such as Meryl. Occasionally these names crop up on both sides of the sexual frontier. This year, for example, Fergie turned up on both sides of the divide, as in the Manchester United manager and the wife of Prince Andrew...

Kate owes its popularity not to any one person but to a whole plethora of Kates who have become big in showbiz, such as Kate Moss, Kate Winslet, Kate Bush... Indeed, I am convinced that Kate has replaced Emma as the all-purpose female showbusiness name.

On television there is a fashion for more exotic names when it comes to women presenting chat shows; the only one that has got into the top 10 is Oprah, but bubbling just below the surface there are other pseudo- exotic chat-show names, such as Vanessa and Melinda and Zoe and Ruby...

Looking a bit further down, we come to some odd names such as Gitta, which has won 35th position. This is the first name of Gitta Sereny, a person who writes books about murderers, and is, presumably, an abbreviation of Birgitta, a form of Bridget. Bridget itself did well, coming in at number 13 - an effort that was based entirely on the success of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, the revelations of a young woman famous for her inability to cope.

Finally, I think the two oddest girls' names of the year were Arundhati and Dava, both of which had their best year yet. Indeed, both had their first year yet. Good luck to them - and to everyone else - for the coming year.