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About A Week: By Any Other Name

Peter Hinchliffe regrets that his name is on the downward path.

We’re down there at the bottom of the league, deep in the mire of the relegation zone.

This by the way is about names, not football. It concerns the desperate and relentless decline of the name Peter.

I’ve always regarded Peter as a sound and steady name. Right up there alongside James and John, David and Ben.

But Peter is now seriously out of fashion. It ranks 91st in the 100 most popular boys’ names in Britain. If the slide continues we’ll soon be down there with the also-rans.

It ranks far behind Callum in 15th spot, Ethan 19, Jake 24 and Aaron 31.

The most popular boy’s name is Jack. Chloe heads the girls’ list. Jack has been top of the tree for eight years in a row, and Chloe for six.

The other top ten boys’ names in order are Joshua, Thomas, James, Daniel, Lewis, Matthew, Luke, Harry and Oliver.

The girls are Emily, Megan, Jessica, Ellie, Sophie, Charlotte, Lucy, Lauren and Hannah.

One of my neighbours, Dr George Redmonds, is the leading professional researcher into the derivation and geographic origins of British surnames. He discovered the first written references to the name Hinchliffe in Wakefield Manorial Rolls dating back to around 1300 AD.

There were, and still are, Hinchliffes aplenty in the Holme Valley in particular and Huddersfield in general.

George found that the Holmfirth Hinchliffes often chose to call their boys George or William.

My grandfather was a George William Hinchliffe. So too was my father.

William is 13th and George 21st in the current popularity list. In hindsight we should have handed down the traditional family first names to our two sons. But with Benjamin in 18th place and David in 44th at least they are not threatened with imminent relegation from the big league.

David by the way has a middle name which definitely does not figure in the popularity league. He was born in Hexham. We were living in Northumberland at the time.

When I arrived home after an evening in a hostelry called The Bacchus, during which a satisfying amount of a heavy local brew had been consumed, my wife said “We really should reach a decision on names.’’

I reached for a little book listing first names alphabetically. “Here’s one that will serve as a middle name,’’ said I. “Says here that it is a traditional English name dating back many centuries. Ulric.’’

“Ulric?’’ said my wife doubtfully. Then “All right,’’ she said. “David Ulric. That’s what we’ll call him.’’

You could say that our Dave was named after Newcastle Brown Ale.

Mind you it could have been worse. Other first names used by relatives include Ransome, Wilson and Gamaliel.

Old Testament names used to be popular in Huddersfield. Zechariah. Obadiah.

Old Obadiah
Sang in the choir
And what he sang was
Handel’s Messiah.

Gamalial Hinchliffe. Obadiah Hinchliffe.

They make Peter sound positively pleasant. Though I do regret being in that relegation zone.

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