Divine, dear, let's hear it for Pamelanderson

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Yesterday I brought you an exclusive league table of the top 10 boys' names of 1995, based on newspaper headlines rather than births columns, and it will probably have come as no surprise to learn that the runaway winner in the Name of the Year stakes was OJ. It is most uncommon to find a set of initials outstripping all names, though it has happened in the past - I think it was last year that FC did well, due to the eminence at the time of FC de Klerk.

(Of course, initials do present problems, not least because it is always difficult to know what to call an initialled person when introduced. If someone says, "Oh, let me introduce you to AS Byatt", do you call her Antonia or AS? This is not a fanciful problem. PJ O'Rourke was once asked on radio what his name was, and he admitted it was Patrick. Yet when he appeared on Have I Got News For You? recently, Angus Deayton called him "Peter". Maybe, as befits a humorist, O'Rourke gives out a different first name to each programme chairman.

But enough of this and on to the top 10 girls' names of 1995. Some of the favourites of yesteryear have almost vanished, whether they were common names such as Joanna and Maggie or far-fetched names such as Madonna and Kiri. Some, of course, enjoy one season of popularity and then vanish again into the wardrobe never to reappear, like Zola, Pamella and Fatima.

But there are always others ready to take over, and it was nice to see a return to the top for Elizabeth. Indeed, it was hard to know how to tabulate Elizabeth, which appears in so many different forms. Sometimes it is Elizabeth (as in Queen Elizabeth II or Elizabeth Bennett), sometimes in diminutive form as in Liz Hurley, and sometimes even in nickname form as in Betty Boothroyd. Should one class them all as Elizabeth? In that case it certainly would have been this year's winner. We eventually decided to list them separately and give other names more of a chance.

Another problem came with Diana, commonly shortened to Di (except in France where Princess Diana is still, I believe, endearingly called Lah- dee Dee). Having shortened the name to Di, the papers now generally expand it again to "Poor Di' or "Brave Di". This is almost as maddening as the papers' insistence on calling Prince William "Wills". No one is called Wills unless he manufactures tobacco. Though perhaps he is so called to distinguish him from Will, as in Will Carling.

Enough of this and on to our list of the top 10 girls' names in 1996. Last year's positions are in brackets.

1. Diana.......................(3)

2. Divine......................(-)

3. Pamelanderson.......(-)

4. Camilla....................(7)

5. Elizabeth.................(9)

6. Janet........................(-)

7. Emma......................(-)

8. Betty........................(-)

9. Rosemary................(-)

10. Bjork........................(-)

No surprises in the first two, I think. Pamelanderson is an unusual name, but one never hears the two parts separated. (Perhaps this is an adhesive property of the name Anderson, as one also hears the composite male name Cliveanderson, who is never referred to just as Clive, presumably to avoid confusion with the more famous Clive James.) Elizabeth was made popular by the Queen and by Pride and Prejudice, while Camilla was made popular by the Prince of Wales. Incidentally, was it not Dillie Keene who renamed Camilla as "Camilla Park-and-Ride"? Nice one, Dillie (your name, by the way, is rather lower down the league at No 86).

Janet came from nowhere this year, thanks to the untiring media appearances of Janet Street-Porter, and so did Rosemary after the West trial. (Interestingly, the name Myra has come back up at about 15 or 16.) Betty did strongly throughout the year, thanks to the heroic work of Betty Boothroyd, who seems to be the only person in Parliament with any authority and who is actually thought by a very large foreign TV audience to be our Prime Minister.

Emma made a late appearance thanks to early going by Emma Thompson and a final sprint by Emma Nicholson, of whom no one had heard before and may never again. Bjork is a total and slightly baffling newcomer. I believe it is a pet Lapp name for a reindeer. Others which were there or thereabouts were Naomi, Monica, Steffi and Hillary. But well done to all the names involved and see you again (or some of you) this time next year.