Sometimes you’ll be walking down the street and you hear an “Over here Harry!” or “Look at that Sophie!” and you think to yourself, ah, there’s some normal children’s names, names I can actually pronounce. Then you turn around and you realise that the calls were for not for little children, but for pooches.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that dogs these days have more traditional and pronounceable names than humans. Case in point are the names for babies born in Malta in 2017, which brought out the matchmaker in me.
Dogs these days have more traditional names than humans
In a couple of decades’ time I want Apollo to start dating Divine, I want baby Rain to grow up and start going out with baby River. I decided that baby Vereniki (potato dumplings) will fall in love with baby Maksim (tal-pastizzi); and Lama will marry Hunter. I had some difficulty matching baby Zara (conceived in a changing room?) until I came across baby Zarlish. Baby Eyu (ey, you!) will be the perfect match for baby Bai (bye!); and the rhyming endings and the saintly vibes of baby Apostolos and baby Charalampos, surely, are a love arrow?
But. Maybe just maybe, things are changing. Sifting through the Maltese baby names registered in 2017, I could sense a… shift. Could it be that last year’s parents are slowly turning the tide? Is it possible that when it comes to names, we’re going back to basics?
Let’s take a quick look at the most popular names. In 2016, topping the tables were Jake, Liam and Ben for boys, Ella, Leah and Martina for girls, all very snazzy 21st century names. Last year among the top three winners for boys there were the biblical Noah, Alexander and Samuel; and the top names for girls were the very Victorian Emily, Emma and Sophia.
As I flicked through the pages, I could sense the transition. Many of the popular names were straight out of Dickens: Oliver, Edward, Charlie and Benjamin, Kate, Alice and Amelia.
Yes, of course there were the usual, erm, phonetically-challenging names, such as, say, Adyer, Aeson, Afaf, Anamika, Auos, Chazaleshia, Elkin, Lynix, Machteld, Shakexia, Shagun, Shayzden, Zayvion, Kasielle, Kellysanne, and Zelashian, but for each baby Kelsinith and baby Zylerck there was a baby Arthur and a baby Gregory.
Were my eyes deceiving me when I actually saw Agata? Agnes? Consiglia? Edith? No. Neither when I came across Beatrice, Emanuella, Florence, Georgiana, Henry, Hugh, Lucy, Molly, Philippa, Raphael, Scarlet, Winston, Victoria and Eve. It felt not unlike reading the cast list of a Jane Austen movie.
There is a fad backing this. In mid-2017, Vogue magazine solemnly declared that Victorian style was back. Fashion was going back to “the remote past” of 150 years ago “to indulge in the sophisticated romanticism of ruffles, bows, starched high collars, precious lace, fine velvets and smooth silks.
It seems that in Malta we took it one step further and applied it to the naming of our neonate cherubs. Which could also be the reason for the definite increase in popularity of garden flower names such as Daisy, Holly, Lily, Iris, Ivy and Rose.
The trend is also reflected in Italian names. Matteo and Daniela have made way for the more Risorgimento-sounding names: Alfredo, Carlota, Clara, Elizabetta, Filippa, Gianella, Immacolata, Leonardo, Maddalena, Regina, Rossella, Salvatore. There was also a slight increase in Maltese: Ġorġ, Ġanna, Ġanni, Ġużeppi, Ġuże, Marija, Teresa, Turu and Żeppi.
Did current affairs leave any influence on the name choosing? Claudia Faniello – the Malta Eurovision winner for 2017 – may have inspired the two baby Claudias. Baby Joseph and Baby Simone and Baby Beppe may have been the result of election fever.
The 2017 new blogger on the blog, Manuel Delia, could have inspired the two Manuels, a Manuele, a Manuela and Manwela. There was no baby Adrian named after the new Opposition Leader, although there was an Adriana. And could it be that the cannabis issue which surfaced last year was the inspiration for baby Kush (a strain of hashish) and baby Jow (a slang term for pot)?
World politics might also have nudged some parents in the direction of Baby Boris and Baby Ivanka. The 2017 Marvel movie Logan about an American superhero film could have been the reason for the spike in popularity of the name Logan for boys. And of course there’s a whole team of football out there: Cole, Cohen, Cristiano, Zidane, Neymar Nesta, Pepe, Moses, Kean, Lionel, and Musaa. Who knows, maybe in 20 years’ time they’ll win us to the World Cup – and that would be absolutely Divine.
■ Noah, Liam
■ Alexander, Logan, Jack
■ Runners up: Gabriel, Luca, Lucas, Michael, Nathan,
■ Runners-up: Ella, Julia, Aurora, Maria, Amelia, Elisa/Eliza, Valentina
Names becoming less popular
Names inspired by celebrities and, erm, clothing
A fictional character in the Hellboy comic book series
After Angelov Lazar the Bulgarian bodybuilder and gym instructor
After Chad Muska, an American professional skateboarder
The nickname of the Loch Ness monster in Scotland
British clothing brand
The three-lettered names
Aws, Axl, Aya, Ava, Bai, Bow, Eyu, Fae, Kyd, Lya, Mei.
The Sunday Times of Malta only had access to the list of first names of babies born in 2017. Due to the Data Protection Act, no other information, including surnames and addresses, was made available by Identity Malta.