Squidgy and Jacko pipped at the post

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The Independent Online
THIS year, as every year, I have tabulated a list of the top 10 boys' names of 1992 and the 10 most popular girls' names. This has not been done by reference to the births columns of the national papers, which is very unrepresentative even of top people, but by analysis of the headlines. After all, it is only in the headlines that the most important people, and therefore the most important names, are to be found, and the top 10 list is based entirely on the frequency of each name's mention.

The most curious thing about the boys' list is that you would expect the Prime Minister's name, John, to figure in it. Mr Major, however, is not known by his first name (unlike Maggie, Jim or Harold ). This is because, as with George Bush, his second name is short enough to fit into headlines, and therefore his first name is never needed. Indeed, if a headline were to proclaim that John had done or said something, nobody would know who was meant. Unless it were John Smith.

However, without further ado, here is this year's list of top 10 male names, with last year's positions in brackets.

1. Prince (-)

2. Jacko (-)

3. Saddam (10)

4. Gazza (7)

5. Ross (-)

6. Boutros (-)

7. Norman (-)

8. Bill'n'Al (-)

9. Nigel (-)

10. Matrix (-)

The winning position of Prince as the leading name is due entirely to the fact that it is shared by a famous American performer and a British royal who has scarcely been out of the news in 1992. Indeed, the sort of headlines attached to the British Prince have often been of the kind more often expected in relation to US showbiz stars. Jacko also owes its presence on the list to the fame of an American performer who does not actually bear that name at all, but is called Michael Jackson.

The rest of the names are fairly self-explanatory, except perhaps that of Boutros. This extraordinary newcomer to the top 10 list owes its popularity entirely to the new UN Secretary- General, who seems to rejoice under the name of Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Can I really have got it right? There have been odder names on the list (older readers will remember such weird entries as Koo and Sting), but not many.

Nigel owes its presence chiefly to the hard work of Kennedy and Mansell, especially to the inability of either to decide for whom he wanted to drive or play. There were narrow misses for one or two very exotic names such as Goran and Slobodan, Boris and Linford, but it was nice to see the newcomer Matrix make it to No 10 - Matrix Churchill is, of course, the now well-known arms-dealing member of the Churchill family.

It was also nice to welcome the name Ross for a season, though I do not expect to see it back next year - a pity, if only because Ross Perot briefly became the only known rhyme for Prospero. And there were one or two curious double names that nearly made it to the top 10, such as John Selwyn and Daniel arap and Right Said.

But now, straight on to the list of the top 10 girls' names of the year]

1. Madonna (5)

2. Squidgy (-)

3. Antonia (-)

4. Fergie (3)

5. Sad Di (4)

6. Happy Anne (-)

7. Mellor's Girl (-)

8. Camilla (-)

9. Queen (-)

10. Queen Mum (-)

A most unusual bunch, this year. Usually the bulk of the names come from the world of sport or politics, so that for years we used to get Maggie and Golda, Indira and Flo-Jo, Fatima and Tessa, but this year most of the high-flying names are either royal or royal-connected. The only political female name that came anywhere near the top 10 was Hillary at 13 and Virginia at 19. The once popular Edwina was way down at 34 and even Maggie could manage only a dowdy 15th place.

Incidentally, it may have been a bad year for the Royal Family, but it could have been worse - at least the name Liz or Lizzie did not appear in headlines.

There were inevitably some old favourites missing from both lists, such as Dan, Kylie, Jason and Steffi. But there were also some newcomers hovering around the entry zone, including, this year, three French men's names: Jacques, Gerard and Cyrano. Well done, everyone, and good luck next year]