Biblical Christian names still out-number Mohammed for Britain's boys

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 21 December 2007

The tabloids have been spluttering their outrage at the news that Mohammed is now the second most popular boys name in the UK.

Chart of popular boys names

Well, provided you massage the figures of course, I mean, why let facts get in the way of your editorial line that 'the fuzzy-wuzzies are taking over our country'.

To get that result, you have to add up all the variations on Muhammed, whilst steadfastly refusing to aggregate any other names - I noticed both Jake and Jacob made the top twenty for example. The Daily Mail added together 'Muhammad, Mohammad, Muhammed, Mohamed, Mohamad, Muhamed and Mohammod' to get their figures, whilst The Telegraph went further.

An analysis by the Daily Telegraph of the names, compiled each year by the Office for National Statistics, shows there were 3,009 babies called Mohammed, the most popular spelling; 1,595 Muhammads, 903 Mohammads, 429 Muhammeds, 349 Mohameds, 39 Mohamads, 12 Muhameds, 11 Mohammods, nine Mohmmeds, eight Mohamuds, seven Mahammeds, six Muhammeets, five Mohmmads and five Muhammods.

(Interestingly, The Sun had a similar report based on a different survey back in June 2007, adding together 14 variants.)

The Daily Express was even moved to say "And babies named after the Muslim prophet Mohammed could outnumber those given traditional English Christian names as early as next year". What, outnumber all of the babies given traditional English names?

Of course, it is statistics, so you can read into it what you will - I thought it was rather interesting to look at some of the other 19 names on the boys list:

  • Jack (nickname for John, Evangelist or Baptist)
  • Thomas (Apostle)
  • Joshua (Old Testament Israelite leader)
  • Daniel (Old Testament prophet)
  • James (Apostle, or, James the Just, brother of Jesus and author of New Testament Epistle)
  • Samuel (Old Testament prophet)
  • Benjamin (Old Testament founder of Israelite Tribe)
  • Joseph (Old Testament multi-coloured coat-owning son of Jacob)
  • Ethan (Author of Psalm 89)
  • Jake (Abbreviated form of either James, Apostle, or Jacob, Old Testament figure)
  • Jacob (Old Testament son of Isaac)

There you go, it looks to me that 11 of the top twenty boys names have got direct Biblical roots, so it seems that our Judaea-Christian heritage is safe in the hands of Britain's baby-namers after all.

It put me in mind of a Punt and Dennis skit on 'The Now Show' the other week, where they suggested that moaning that nobody does traditional Christmas things in Britain anymore has become a de facto Christmas tradition in itself. Their remedy was simple - if you are that upset that people don't do traditional Christmas things anymore, then just do some traditional Christmas things. Hang up a stocking full of walnuts, give the kids oranges for presents, and stick some coins in your pudding - nobody is stopping you in your own home.

I feel there is a lesson to be drawn there with the issue of the name of 'Muhammed'. Obviously, all the press need to do is campaign all next year for people to name their boys Jesus and their girls Mary. That way, when the figures are compiled in 2008, we'll be able to show those 'Johnny Foreigner fifth columnists' just who can name the most babies after their prophets and religious figures.

Or, I suppose, we could just carry on naming them after Biblical figures like Thomas, Joshua, Daniel, Samuel, Jacob, Benjamin etc etc...

1 Comment

Counting the spelling variations of Mohammed together sounds reasonable by me, especially as it's a name translated from another language (see Wikipedia)

Of course, you'd have to apply the same criteria to all names in order to get a fair result. If you decide to count homophones together, then the spellings of Muhammed might get aggregated, but Jake and Jacob are separate. However, Jack and Jacques might be grouped (even though they seem to have have different historical derivations).

Such an analysis may still put Mohammed pretty near the top, which doesn't sound all that unlikely to me (it IS a popular name after all).

However, this is still a poor indicator of the number of Islamic-derived vs 'western' names being given to newborn babies, as I suspect 'Muhammed' represents a far greater percentage of Islamic names than Jack does of non-Islamic names.

It's an entirely isalamophobic thing to express outrage over (if not outrightly racist) - as you alluded to, most traditional names have foreign origins anyway.

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