When No One Likes Your Name

Illustration: Paola Delucca
The Office for National Statistics today revealed the most popular baby names in England and Wales from 2016, and with it came the breathless headlines about trends.
Harper saw the biggest growth for baby girls, no doubt driven by David and Victoria’s youngest. There were 42 girls called Harper in 2011, the year she was born, and 1256 by 2016, making it the 44th most popular girl’s name in the country. We all know that Brand Beckham can affect things like underpants sales, but convincing people to call their own offspring after yours is some serious pulling power.
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Elsewhere, Game of Thrones fans propelled Khaleesi to 615th place, with 69 girls destined to be subjected to a lifetime of dragon gags. Buckingham Palace can surely take credit for Charlotte moving up 13 places to 12. And in case you were wondering, Olivia replaced Amelia as the most popular girl’s name, with 5017 new entries.
While name trends have more or less ceased to surprise me (remember when everyone started calling their daughter Chardonnay after the character in Footballer’s Wives?), I have to admit I was somewhat shocked to discover there were only five baby girls given my name, Gillian, last year. Just five!
This makes me feel unique, special. An original. I feel happy for those little Gillians. Not for them a life of blending in and mistaken identity, not like that which awaits Emily (3rd) and Lily (7th).
I am thrilled until I realise, of course, that this really only means one thing: no one likes my name. I quickly start searching for all my friends’ names on the “How popular is my name?” app on the BBC. I have the most unpopular name in my entire friendship group. Wow, people really hate it.
I was well aware that my name was hardly the height of fashion; I think I’ve only ever met one or two Gillians of a similar age yet I know more than a dozen people whose mothers are called Gillian. I suppose this all makes sense considering I'm named after my grandmother.
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And the instances of Gillians in the public eye are few and far between. With The X-Files, Gillian Anderson really helped us through the ‘90s until Gillian McKeith did some serious damage when she insisted on checking out everyone’s excrement during the 2000s. Gillian Jacobs, who stars as Mickey in Love, is our only current beacon of hope (although she pronounces it with a hard ‘G’).
I ask a colleague what she thought of the name Gillian before she met me. “A mean, Malory Towers boarding school type,” was her reply. She says she no longer feels this way.
Now I suppose all I can do is hope that an international power couple names the latest member of their brood Gillian. Or that one of the five Gillians born last year goes on to do something wonderfully inventive and turns around the public perception of our name. No pressure, Gillians. We’re in this together.
Top 10 girls' names in England and Wales:
1. Olivia - 5,017
2. Amelia - 4,777
3. Emily - 3,551
4. Isla - 3,476
5. Ava - 3,285
6. Isabella - 2,729
7. Lily - 2,722
8. Jessica - 2,703
9. Ella - 2,702
10. Mia - 2,662
4096. Gillian - 5
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