Sep 14, 2009

The Latest Trends in Irish Baby Names

I was reading recent press releases from the Irish Central Statistics Office on Friday night, as you do when you don't have a life, and I came across some recent stats on naming trends in Ireland.

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The top five baby names for 2008 were Jack, Sean, Conor, Daniel, and James for boys, and Ava, Katie, Sarah, Emma, and Emily for girls.
I had at least expected some Hollywood influence; Gwyneth Paltrow's "Apple" would be "Úll" in Irish, Erykah Badu's "Seven" would be "Seacht," and Nicole Richie's "Sparrow" is "Gealbhan" as gaeilge.
Daniels, Emmas, and Jacks are a big fat YAWN for the people who publish or read those "Irish Baby Names" books (sold with pregnancy tests at Rite Aid), and big fat ZERO potential for creative name-calling/vocabulary development in the Irish school yard.


Luckily, there was some interest in the first time entries into the top 100 names lists. There were five first time entries to the top 100 for boys: Jakub, Kacper, Filip, Billy, and Patryk, and four first time entries to the top 100 for girls: Maja, Natalia, Zuzanna, and Meabh. I wondered what these names say about Ireland today, and indeed, Ireland tomorrow, so I did a little research...
A quick Googlyhoo showed that the name Jakub is of Czech origin, and means "the supplanter." Kacper is of Polish origin, and it's a variation of Casper which means "cute and friendly ghost"–okay, it doesn't, it's actually the Polish version of Jasper, which is Persian for "treasurer," and treasurers are generally neither cute nor friendly, though they can haunt you for fees due.
At first, the names Filip, Patryk, Maja, Natalia, and Zuzanna made me think there's a dire need for continuing education classes in Ireland, or that Birth Registrars should not be allowed to drink on the job, but then another spurt of search re the spelling of these names indicated that they are all of Polish/Latvian/Serbian origin, though Natalia could also be Italian or Spanish.
No surprise if you consider the 2006 Census findings that the Polish population in Ireland was the largest minority in the country (excluding those born in the UK) at that time.

That leaves me with Billy and Meabh.

Billy, of course, is of English origin, and we all know how William's son, Billy, ended up in all the Irish Baby Names books, but Meabh is a variant of Medb/Maeve, a traditional Irish name. It's old school cool–think Will Ferrell running in his birthday suit on his own, with no other Irish names around him. I guess if I could only have one Irish name representin' on the Irish Baby Names list, I'd want Meabh; In Irish legend, the warrior Queen Medb of Connacht fought against Ulster and the hero Cúchulainn for possession of the most famous bull in Ireland, as documented in the Irish epic, 'Táin Bó Cúalnge' (The Cattle Raid of Cooley).

The Future
Do these new stats on baby-naming trends predict a future showdown for possession of a studly Celtic bull between Jakub The Supplanter and Maeve The Brave? I don't know, but I do predict a new bestseller in the Irish Baby Names book-market; it's called What To Expect When You Were Expecting to Find Irish Names in This Irish Baby Names Book.

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