Camilla, Mo and Tiggy, yes - Dipsy, Winky and Laa Laa, no. Women in the news in '97

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Yesterday I brought you the Top 10 boys' names of 1997, as featured in headlines and news stories, and today I bring you the top 10 girls' names tabulated from the same source.

The top boys' name being Dodi, you will be hardly surprised to learn that the outright winner in the girls' section was Diana. This was always popular in previous years but had its appeal diluted because the name came in various forms - sometimes as Princess Diana, sometimes Di, very often "poor Di". I was always struck, too, by learning that in France she was known as "Lady Di", pronounced "Lah Dee Dee". I hope this was true. But last year for some reason the name always appeared in the basic form, "Diana", and indeed it continued to appear so after her death.

Yes, after her death. It was always said that a magazine with the name Diana on the front would cause sales to jump, but I had not expected this to be posthumous as well. Yet I noticed that the big "story" on the front of the Yuletide edition of Hello! magazine was this: "Our first Christmas without Diana".

Never mind that none of us had ever spent Christmas with Diana, never mind that none of us had ever given her a moment's thought at Christmas, and that she had never gone on TV to give us a Christmas broadcast - here was a magazine that was prepared to bet that they could sell extra copies by bringing us news of someone no longer here. Brilliant. I wish I had thought of it.

Some girls' names which were very popular last year have gone right down the popularity ratings. Virginia, for instance, and Norma. There was a time when both of these were fluttering through the headlines almost daily, but now they have gone entirely, being replaced by a new set of political girls' names (see Mo and Harriet in the Top 10 list). Evita and Madonna both bobbed up and down in the lower twenties without making a comeback, though Winnie did well to climb back into the Top 10. Oddly enough, I think this is the first time we have had two girls' names in the Top 10 which belong to murderers, either alleged, as in Winnie's case, or actual, as with Myra. Three, if you count Louise.

The overall picture has been clouded by the arrival of the Spice Girls, a bunch of healthy-looking young persons whose personal talents were unclear, and the same might be said of the Teletubbies. No one individual stood out in either group, so their names must be judged as being equally popular, and I have treated their names as co-equal. What made it even more difficult was that the Spice Girls elected to have second names such as Sporting Spice and Rough Spice and Mince Spice, and heaven knows what else, so I have decided to ignore those altogether.

Here we go, then, with the Top 10 girls' names for 1997 as drawn from the headlines. Previous year's position given in brackets. A roll of drums, please. Thank you.

1. Diana......................... (1)

2. Louise........................ (-)

3. Camilla...................... (4)

4. Winnie....................... (-)

5. Harriet....................... (-)

6. Mo.............................. (-)

7. Tiggy.......................... (9)

8. Fergie......................... (3)

9. Myra.......................... (-)

10. Emma, Victoria, Mel B, Mel C, Geri, etc

The unusual presence in the list of the name Louise is almost entirely due to a famous murder trial in America, just as the name Rosemary had had such a high profile the year before for the same reason. It is interesting to note that everyone remembers the name of the (supposed) murderer but no one remembers the name of the victim. What was the name of the boy supposedly killed by Louise? Or the girl who was killed by OJ Simpson, or, according to another court, not killed by OJ Simpson? What, indeed? And that is why I advise everyone who intends to be involved in a murder to be the perpetrator rather than the victim.

Other girls' names which made a brave showing were Hilary, Chelsea, Paula, Bjork, Tamara, Anthea, Ulrika, Jennifer and Clarissa. Well done, whoever you are. Finally, I must record that I made a unilateral decision to exclude the Teletubbies' names from this poll, not because their names are so unusual (for the record, their names are Dipsy, Tinky Winky, Laa Laa and Po) but because I cannot make out which gender they are and therefore whether they are boys' or girls' names. My daughter informs me that one of them has a handbag and is referred to by the others as "him". If this is so, I feel justified in opening a third category called Sexless Names and they are welcome to win it any time they want.

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