The Seven Simons

In my class at school I was one of seven Simons, hence the title of this post. The name Simon seems to have been particularly popular in the UK in the sixties and seventies – not sure why – any suggestions? I was born in 1970 and often meet other Simons, quite a few of whom are roughly the same age as me. In fact I know at least five other Simons in Brighton.

There are fashions in names, as there are in many things. Lists of the most popular names are published in newspapers annuallly and prospective parents peruse them with interest. You can see some examples here. In 2005, for example, many parents in the USA gave their sons biblical names, with Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Matthew, Daniel and Joseph were among the top ten.

Opinions about names seem to be based, at least to some extent, on the people you know with those names. If you like and respect the people you know with a particular name, then you may well think of it as a pleasant and respectable name. Although if you meet somebody you don’t like with that name, your opinion might change. When considering names for your offspring, you may be inclined towards names of people you respect and/or admire.

Which names are popular in your country or region at the moment?

I heard that in some countries (Spain and France I think) there are lists of approved names you can choose for your children. If you want to call them something else, the authorities will refuse to register them. Is this true?

This entry was posted in Identity.

16 Responses to The Seven Simons

  1. It is very interesting how we associate personalities with names. For example, you may know someone with a certain name, and later in your life you meet someone who also has that name, and you think “that name just doesn’t go with that person!”

    As for popular names, I’m not into much that goes on in that direction, but I do know of some families whose children have names all beginning with the same letter. Quite confusing, if you ask me!

  2. Weili says:

    One of the many culture shocks I faced when I first moved to the U.S. as a young child was that many Americans share the same first name.

    In Chinese societies, our given names are more often than not, unique, with clear meanings which usually reflect what our parents wish us to become. So to us, given names are more than just a label, as they have meanings. I know that many Western names also have meanings but to most people, the meanings are lost and often not important.

    But considering that there are few Chinese surnames, at least when compared to the West, it is a good thing that our given names are more unique and different. This becomes a problem for many Chinese-Americans who have adopted Western first names. For Asian-Americans, it’s not unusual to know more than a handful of “Jennifer Chen”s for example ;)

  3. Benjamin says:

    Actually the western first names have meanings too, you just don’t recognize them anymore, because the word’s orthography has changed drastically or just aren’t in use anymore. Very often they come from foreign words, mostly Greek or Latin or Germanic (for Germany that is).
    For example, the German name “Bernhard” (not the most frequent name, though) means “strong like a bear”, which descends from old high German. Knowing the result, I can see the German words “Bären” (Bern) and “hart” (hard). No-one would guess that though, without knowing the actually meaning.
    Other names just descend from Greek, like “Phil(l)ip(p)”, which means “horse’s friend” (“phil-” and “hippos”). Same here: You either have to look up the meaning or know (ancient) Greek. ;)

    You see, there actually IS a meaning behind the names, but no-one can see them anymore and the aren’t important to most people. They most likely have to fit the surname, thus sound good. And of course, as an atheist you wouldn’t call your son “Noah”, but I guess that’s about it. ^^

    On the other hand, I guess most people will search for their name’s meaning one time or another. It won’t change their lifes, but most people just want to know the meaning out of curiosity…

    Finally I have to admit, that I actually like the way Chinese first names work: You can easily create lots of names, which have a meaning that is still understandable and that cool somehow… as long as you aren’t called “dull idiot” by your parents. ^^
    In that case I’d prefer the western naming, where the meaning isn’t that obvious and open to everyone. ^^

  4. Tony says:

    You might be interested in this useful tool which tracks names’ popularity over the past century. For no other reason, it’s cool to waste time looking up your own and friends’ names just to see how they score.

  5. Weili–Do adults in China get the chance to change their names when they come of age, if they decide they want to be something other than what their parents named them for?

    Adding to those who say that Western names do have clear meanings, I would say that is true of the older ones…some of the new ones I’m not entirely sure about. Some of the African-American names I’m not sure of…I know some of them are of continental African derivation, or from Islamic culture–but others I don’t recognize, and I’m wondering if they’re chosen simply for the sounds of them.

    P.S.: My own given name, oddly as it is, turned out to describe one of my main talents–and probably my parents had no clue of the meaning (or didn’t remember it) as they brought me up!

  6. Weili says:

    Minstrel Ayreon:

    I am from Taiwan and LEGALLY, adults can change their name anytime they wish for whatever reason they wish. I’m ASSUMING it’s the same in mainland China as I don’t see why people would NOT be allowed to change names. However, it’s very rare that people will change their names when they reach adulthood as parents wouldn’t purposely give their children “bad names”. Although some celeberties do change their names for professional reasons, this is the same throughout the world though.

  7. TJ says:

    Here names are a complete novel if I can say. We have beliefs about names, and it is reported that prophet Mohammed once said: your son has right on you that to be given a good name, because the name will affect his mentality and the way that people look at him later.
    The bad thing is that some people that are originally bedouins and got mixed with the culture here give some weird names to their children and sometimes bad names even especially for females (and this is one of the reasons that people in the west think that females are neglected or humiliated around here) and I guess this is mainly that those people prefer their traditions upon what had been told and taught by religion in general. From religion’s point of view, as I said before, the son or daughter have the right to get a good name that wouldn’t make them ashamed to be called with, otherwise it would be harsh for their psychological status later on. In Kuwait there had been some movements to change names and I think it continues still til this very day, mainly by adults with bedouin origins who had really bad names, just because their parents didn’t expect such a child (expecting a male and having a female instead and so on).

    Moreoever, sometimes even though a name is normal and has a nice meaning people will still look at you asking themselves “is he a kuwaiti really?” or sometimes “is he an Arab at all???”
    My name for example, although it is completely arabic one and has a direct meaning as “the pure one” people still look at me and ask me: are you persian? This is mainly because the name is not so wide used here. This habit is almost every where all around the Arab world I guess. when we hear the name “Mamdooh” (which means “praised”) people will directly suggest this man is from Egypt because this name is never, ever, used by any kuwaiti family or so, but it is wide-spread in Egypt.
    Christian Arabs also have their names that sometimes we can directly guess that this person is a christian from Lebanon, or maybe from Jordan or even from Iraq (assyrian). Not all names used by Christian Arabs are biblical anyway, but biblical names like Daniel for example (who is not mention in Quran in direct) are not mainly used by Muslims, but I know one that actually named his kid as Daniel (or Danyaal in Arabic) although he’s a Muslim. There is no barrier mainly from naming such names by Muslims but some of them think it is better to get stuck with tradition and the names mentioned in Quran only or names that have linguistical meaning in Arabic instead of going to names not mentioned and not in Arabic at all!

    I’m thinking of naming my children (hehe if any!!) after my mother and after prophet Mohammed. These are my priorities. If more to come later, then I might choose Sarah and Jaafar! ……………. if any!

    I heard that in my culture there is a science called “science of names” but I didn’t ask much about it and I didn’t go deep in it. I think it is a science that would study the effect of the name on the person’s life.
    Yet names and calculating the numerical values for its letters are a main part in Arabic astrology and other spiritual or divinations’ tools!!

  8. Declan says:

    Until very lately, all people have been named after saints in Ireland. The main set for men was: Michael, John, Joseph and combinations, and alterations of them (Mick, Mickey, Johny, Joe, John-Joe, Michael-John). For women, there was Marys, and Anns, Mary-Anne, May (Mary), Noreen, Nora, Nuala etc. Nowadays, they are mostly gone, and Cathals, Tadghs, Declans (less common) and Seans rule the roost for men, and Sheila, Ann-marie, Niamh, Eimear are for women. But there are then names like Joy and Mia, which were unheard of twenty years ago, and are gaining members.

  9. TJ–That principle of giving children a name they can be proud of ought to be taken seriously in this country! I mean, I do not understand when I see names in the U.S. for kids like “Starchild” and “Dweezil” (wait…is that British? Well, they have the same problem!). ;-)

    A funny story you might appreciate, with all this talk of where different names come from and what they mean…I was writing a story of mine where the main character ended up serving in something of a ministerial role, specifically Christian. This character I’d named after St. Paul, but when it came time to get his last name, I was really stumped. Paul’s ancestry was supposed to be half American who-knows-what, and half from Arab countries. So I just went in the phone book to find something that sounded good, and prayed that the meaning wouldn’t turn out to be inappropriate. I ended up picking the name “El-Akouri.”

    Well, later on I went poking around on a name-origin site and the results just blew my mind. It turned out (if their information was correct) that “El-Akouri” derived from “Kouri”…which it said meant “priest”–as in, a Christian priest! I’m inclined to believe it because it sounds SO close to the Spanish word “cura”. But if that really is true, that’s got to be one of the most startling coincidences I’ve ever had while writing!

  10. TJ says:

    Well, concerning names of Christian Arabs I see here that there are lot of them taken from european languages, especially french and sometimes spanish (or maybe other latin languages). Sometimes, they prefer using these european names even though they have an equivalent in Arabic. As an example, the name Michael (which is a biblical name) in Arabic as it is mentioned in the new testament is Mikha’eel (in Quran its mentioned as Mikaal). However, you see lot of lebanese people that are named “michele” (or mishaal as it is pronounced), like the famous lebanese psychic Mishal Haayik and such pronunciation is taken mainly from french I think.

    After all maybe indeed El-Akouri has some relation to “cura” in spanish! The only thing I can say about such name is that “EL” is the definitive article which comes usually in most of the surnames in Arabic. Interpreting the meaning of a name in Arabic is hard when it is told and written in latin letters because as you know not all sounds in Arabic have equivalents in european languages, so sometimes it is hard even to understand and imagine what the original name is!

  11. AR says:

    Here in the US, many people are named after their parents. Its not uncommon to see So-and-so, Jr. and Somebody III. In other parts of the world, to name somebody after someone else is odd and takes away the unique-ness of the name. If someone is named after someone else, it is usually a different name that means the same thing. I’m guessing it is because meanings of names are often lost in the west but not so elsewhere.

    Many east-Asian-Americans born here have an American name as well as a name in their own language. Why is this so?

  12. Benjamin says:

    Maybe they often have a mixed name, so people from both cultures (US and the ancestor’s country) can pronounce at least a single part of the name correctly. ;)

  13. Laci says:

    first I have to tell you that I love your site (sometimes it’s very handy). So here in Hungary indeed there is such a law, we can give only certain names to our children. There’s a book republished every year that containes all the approved names. the whole thing was mainly designed to prevent children from having unhungarian names but the book, due to public impact, includes more and more new, and I have to say sometimes strange, names. Well recently such names as Claudia/Klaudia, Fatima, Xenia. Ixion, Patrik etc. are fashionable among the less educated people, while educated people stick to old hungarian names such as Villő [villø] Virág[vira:g] meaning:flower, Alma meaning:apple, Csongor [tSongor] male character in literature etc. :)

  14. TJ–Thanks for the name information…knowing that my character’s first name wouldn’t come off as out-of-place (strictly Arabic would be “Boulos El-Akouri,” I think) is very cool. As for the last name, I’m not sure, but I think its country of origin may be Lebanon. Anyway, thanks for all the info! :-)

  15. Suze says:

    I have a totally messed-up name really. As an English-speaking Canadian with Polish roots, my first two names (Suzanne Claire) are both actually French – although both are common enough throughout the English speaking world, and both are easily translated into something that makes sense in Polish. My third given name is Marja, which was my Polish grandmother’s name. And my maiden surname was essentially the masculine form of a Polish name (i.e. ends in -i rather than the feminine -a), except that for some reason my father always spelled it -y rather than -i, and hence so did I; this seems to be quite common among Slavic North Americans.

    I can second what AR and Weili say about Chinese North Americans having both Chinese and Western names – in school I knew Jennifer Wong and, rather more bizarrely, Tiberius Chang.

  16. TJ says:

    AR>> Here, naming a child after his father can be a bad omen for the father (but I don’t know if the same thing goes for the mother) but anyway the child is named afte his father’s own name only if his father died. My sister however named her child after my father’s name and my father was alive at that time! I think the origin of such tradition comes from the story of Abel and Cain, because they say that when Cain killed Abel, Abel’s wife was pregnant and so when Abel died and she gave birth, the child’s grandfather, Adam, named him Abel again.

    Minstrel>> Boulos, is in fact the arabic version of Paul! :) and yet sometimes lebanese people name their children Paul (or Baul) rather than Boulos! :)
    Good luck with your story!