Naomi climbs up from the floor as Gazza takes a tumble

EVERY year I like to tabulate the popularity of boys' and girls' names during the previous 12 months - based not upon their occurrence in the births columns, but on the frequency with which they appear in newspaper headlines, surely a truer guide to their popularity. If we went through the births announcements of the Eighties, for example, we would never encounter some of the most popular names of the decade such as Sting and Madonna, or Prince and Fergie.

Here, without further ado, are the top 10 boys' names of 1993, with previous year's ratings in brackets.

1 Boris. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (6)

2 Nigel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (9)

3 Gerry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (-)

4 Garry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (7)

5 Paddy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (-)

Roddy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (-)

7 Yasser. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(-)

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

9 Ken 'n' Emma. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(-)

10 Jacko. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(1)

The first thing to be noticed is the continuing popularity of Russian names, with Boris as a clear number one and Garry (hitherto an English football name) lifted by Mr Kasparov's success into number four. Although Mikhail has fallen from grace as a boy's name, along with Gorby, another Russian name is knocking at the door of fame: Vladimir. (Usually shortened by the papers to 'Vlad the Bad' or 'Mad Vlad'.)

The success of Nigel at number two is odd, in that its common appearance in the press has been entirely due to the way various Nigels have contrived to lose games (Nigel Short), crash their cars (Mansell), peddle their memoirs (Lawson), or attempt to reclaim boxing titles (Benn).

But the appearance of Gerry in the list is even more unexpected, and due entirely to the re-emergence of Gerry Anderson. In television series such as Thunderbirds, Anderson popularised puppets whose movements seemed disconnected from their voices, and one of the great successes of 1993 was the Irish politician puppet Gerry Adams, who behaved in exactly the same way.

The names Paddy and Roddy came equal fifth as one is never mentioned without the other (as indeed is true of Yasser and Yitzhak), because nobody can remember if it is Roddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Paddy Doyle or the other way round. Ken and Emma are mentioned together so often that they have become one name.

Notable disappearances from this year's top 10 include Gazza, Nelson, FW and John Paul II. After England's exit from the World Cup, the name Graham did a nosedive. Close observers may wonder why the name John does not appear in the list, as so many top politicians are called John, but as I have stressed year after year, it is fatal for a politician to have a common name, as it is never used. Mr Major is never referred to in headlines as 'John', just as Mr Clinton is never called 'Bill'.

And so, without further ado, on to the top 10 girls' names of 1993.

1 Sad Di. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(1)

2 Maggie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(5)

3 Virginia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (10)

4 Stella. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (-)

5 Naomi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(-)

6 Kim. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(-)

7 Joanna. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (-)

Jennifer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (-)

9 Emma 'n' Ken. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (-)

10 Queenie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (-)

'Sad Di' is once again by far the most popular royal name. Only Queenie and Camilla come anywhere near it. Once upon a time, the name Maggie was also a royal name, derived from Princess Margaret, but for a long time now it has been requisitioned by our late Prime Minister, who made a blazing return this year to publicise her new book The Joy of Being Prime Minister.

Virginia and Stella are both good solid Tory names, one associated with health, the other with security. (Odd that one should be the name of a popular tobacco and the other a popular lager.) Joanna and Jennifer are both inextricably linked to the smash television comedy hit Absolutely Fabulous.

The name Naomi owes its place on the list to the model Naomi Campbell, who added to her fame by slipping in public and falling flat on her bottom. Strangely, Kim Campbell did exactly the same during the Canadian election, and became more famous as she left office than she had ever been in it.

Other girls' names knocking on the door of the top 10 were Hillary, Chelsea, Benazir and 'Benazir's Mum'. 'Benazir's Mum' may seem a strange name, but is easily explained by the fact that both Benazir Bhutto and her mother play key roles in Pakistani politics, and nobody can remember what the mother's name is. Female names that used to do well in the list, but which seem doomed to obscurity, include Beryl, Edwina, Raisa, Fergie and Winnie.

Names to watch in 1994? My hot tips are Mo, Harriet and - if Charles abdicates - Glad Di. Or, of course, Queen Mum Designate. Exciting times ahead]

Comments