A recent academic study has focussed upon the first names we saddle our children with. The names of 14,449 first year students attending the University of Oxford between 2008 and 2013 were compared with the frequency of given names in the population as a whole. The study concluded that people with rather traditional first names like Eleanor. Peter, Simon, Anna, Richard, Elizabeth and John are three times more likely to be accepted into Oxford University as people with what we might think of as more trendy, transient names like Stacey, Connor, Reece, Kayleigh, Jade, Bradley and Paige.
This doesn't surprise me. As a secondary school teacher, I was instinctively convinced that youngsters with solid old-fashioned or biblical names were more likely to succeed than the kids who arrived bearing fashionable names. There were many variations on the name Kayleigh - Kaylee, Keeley, Kealy, Kelly, K-Lee etc.. And it always seemed puzzling to me why families who demonstrably put little store in literacy were very defensive about their creative and often idiosyncratic spelling of their offspring's first names. Why, for example would anyone insist on spelling Mathew with a single "t" in the middle? Or Barny without the final "e"? Quite bizarre. And I recall a boy with the surname Allen whose first name was Alen and a girl called Neika whose name symbolised the love that her parents - Neil and Karen - felt for each other. Equally bizarre.
I am not entirely sure of the psychology behind choosing baby names but I think that some people want the safety and security of "respectable" names that won't rock the boat, others seem determined to embrace current naming habits while yet others deliberately seek the unusual. Whatever the psychology I am convinced that those choices say a lot about us - how we see life and the kind of aspirations we have for our children. What do you think?