I name this boy Newt. Or possibly Ratko

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The Independent Online
As regular readers will know, this is the time of year when I bring you the list of the top 10 boys' names of 1995 in order of popularity; based not on the births and christening lists, but on the newspaper headlines, where you get a very different kind of name. To take only two examples, Sting and Madonna are two of the most familiar first names from the past decade, yet they were only found in newspaper headlines, never in the registry office.

To take the boys' names first, I have to reiterate what I have often said before - that it is no short cut to fame to have an ordinary name. When you think of some of the names that have been in and out of the White House this century - Franklin, Dwight, Spiro, Lyndon - you realise that these are names we have never met in real life.

To take a modern example, none of us has ever met someone called Lech, and very few of us can even pronounce it, yet until recently Lech was a household name. Alas, since the recent Polish elections it has become more of a historical memory.

Conversely, common names such as John are a barrier to success. One might say: "Hold on a moment! Is not the Prime Minister of Britain named John?" but to that I would say, "No, he is not. He is called Major. That is all he is called. He is never called John in headlines because no one would know who was meant."

In fact, John has been quite a common name in the press this year, but only because of dead people called John, such as the late Sir John Betjeman, whose letters are still appearing, the late John Lennon, whose records are still appearing, and John Redwood, who may be alive physically but seems dead in all other respects.

One of the oddest things about 1995 has been the sudden popularity of boys' names deriving from the former Yugoslavia. Among others which were in or around the top 10 are Ratko, Slobodan and Radovan, none of which have measured on the scale before.

Another interesting development is the continuing emergence of South African boys' names. We have seen Nelson and FC De in the top10 before, but this time there are other names such as Chester and Joost to contend with, all drawn from the game of rugby. Indeed, I believe there is a South African rugby player called Hennie, a name not borne by any male or female in Britain.

But enough of this, and straight on to the 1995 top 10 boys' names, as computed from the news headlines. Last year's positions are in brackets.

l. OJ .................................... (-)

2. Ken .................................. (-)

3. Nick ................................. (-)

4. Nelson ............................. (5)

5. Mister (Darcy) .............. (-)

6. Boris ................................ (2)

7. Gerry ............................... (9)

8. Yitzhak ............................ (-)

9. Yasser ............................. (7)

10. Newt ................................ (-)

OJ is, obviously, drawn from the popular American sportsman who everyone thought had murdered his wife until an American court found he was not guilty, after which everyone still believed he had murdered his wife.

Ken is an unusually popular name this year, owing to the fame of the late Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa, but also owing to the presence of half of the variety act of Ken 'n' Emma (now alas disbanded), the first name of the Chancellor of he Exchequer, the male partner of Barbie, and so on.

The name Nick owes its high number 3 position to the fame of Nick Leeson, Nick Faldo and another variety team called Anne and Nick.

Mister (Darcy) is a new name on the scene, at least for 150 years, the point being that Darcy seemed to have no first name, so everyone called him Mister Darcy, which is as good a first name as any.

The other names are self-explanatory, except Newt, which is American and therefore probably not a real name at all (and the same goes for Gingrich).

Tomorrow we bring you the top 10 girls' names of 1995. Will Divine beat Diana? Will it be Paula or Camilla? Or will Pamelanderson sweep the board? Find out tomorrow!

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