Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Daft, Smeille, Cocks - UK names facing extinction

They feature throughout the history books and have been an important part of the country for hundreds of years, now a new study has suggested that some of the oldest British names are in danger of being forgotten.

These families names have not disappeared through emigration or death, nor have vanished because a social or demographic change; rather they face decline because of sheer embarrassment they give the people who have inherited them.

 Daft, Cock, Balls, Smeille, death and Shufflebottom, some of the most popular names 100 years ago are facing extinction due the their rude undertones. The study shows that people are changing there inherited family name in favour of a name that has less of a humourous inclination.

By comparing the population of 2008 with the first Census in Britain in 1881, these studies have shown a huge decline in names with suggestible meanings. The use of the name Cock has shrunk by almost 75 per cent and names such as Balls have fallen by almost 50 per cent.

 David Hey, the author of Family Names and Family History, and an authority on the subject, believes these names are disappearing because people simply do not understand their history.

 “‘Bottom’ names were from farms at the bottom of a valley. In the Middle Ages ‘daft’ meant meek. It was a perfectly acceptable name.”

 Now it seems that having an inconspicuous name has become preferential to the population. The study also showed that the more common British names have survived and in some cases increased. Smith, Jones, Williams, Brown and Taylor have all remained hugely popular names.

 Although some names are disappearing, others have increased in popularity in the last decade. The fastest growing name in Britain for example, is Zhang, growing from 123 in 1996 to 5804 in 2008. It is followed by a further four other Chinese names – Wang, Huang, Yang and Lin. The increase in popularity of such names correlates accurately with emigration figures from Asia to Britain in the last Decade.

 The study also showed that certain names have remained in the same areas of Britain for hundreds of years. Names derived from the Viking, Dane and Angle invasions are still largely concentrated on the east coast of Britain, where many of these invaders would have settled.

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