The Prevalence of Jack

For the past decade and a half, the name Jack has sat firmly at the top of the Boys names list in the UK. Today I’m going to try to get to the bottom of why so many British Parents choose the name Jack for their baby boys.

First of all, there is my brother. Jack. Born in the late nineties, when Jack had been in the top spot for around 5 years. When my mother was pregnant with him, it was I who first suggested Jack, and insisted upon the use of that name for the rest of my mother’s pregnancy. I was younger than 10, but like most young children, I was opinionated. And I had decided that nothing but Jack would do for my new (and first/only) baby brother. Why? What was my reasoning?

It was because I decided that he’d then share his name with lots of toys. Oh how the child’s mind works. You have the Jack in a Box, The Jack Playing Card, the Jack in a game of Boules, the metal Jacks in the game Jacks. I also cited the dog breed Jack Russell and the rhyme Jack and Jill.

Yes, my over-exposure to the name Jack at a young age was probably an influence on my decision that my parents should name my unborn brother Jack. It is true that the more you hear a name, the more you become familiar with it, and come to recognise it’s potential. When you first hear a name, you either immediately fall in love with it, like it or outright hate it. Continually hearing the name will mean you become used to putting up with it, thus come to like it.

However, the flipside to this is that many parents are put off by names they see constantly, because they want to give their children more unique names.

In the UK, there are no naming laws, unlike many European countries. This leaves parents free to choose any name for their child, as mostly anything goes. There have been occasions when Registary Offices have refused to accept names, such as refusing a couple to name their daughter Princess, on the grounds that it is a title, not a name. The model Jordan did name her daughter Princess though, which shows this is not an enforced rule.

The reason why many parents do not take advantage of the relaxed law on naming offspring could be due to the conservative nature of naming in the UK. In times gone by, such as the Victorian times, parents sought to name their child after a better off friend or relative in the hope that the child would stand a better chance of ‘making it’ in life. Social standing used to be extremely important in the UK, and it is still present today, with many ‘middle-class’ families and ‘working class’ ones. Also, the UK has several parties, and they tend to represent a class. The Conservative Party is regarded as the party for the middle classes, whilst The Labour Party focuses more of the Working classes. People always seek to be promoted from Working to Middle, as it is a sign that they’ve ‘made it’ in life. This culture of classes could be at the root of the conservative naming.

There is an idea in the UK that a name still reflects the background of a child. A Haeley is more likely to be considered Working Class than a Hayley. This is because Hayley is the correct spelling, and the standard of adult literacy is generally better in the Middle Classes. Thus, you’re more likely to find misspelled names in the Working Classes. Therefore, generally speaking there is a conservative attitude to naming in the UK because it is the preferred method of naming amongst parents in the middle class, and that makes it attractive to parents in the working class.

Jack could owe it’s popularity down to the fact that it appeals to all parents. It is originally a nickname of John and has an informal feel to it, but also stands well as a formal name. It is no longer considered a nickname. It’s short and simple, but has a timeless/ traditional edge due to its long history. It’s an old name, but unlike Jim, it’s never really lost ‘touch’,

The fact that its been popular for so long could be down to the fact that in the UK, names do not come into fashion as rapidly as in the USA, and also do not garner as much following. The top boys names have always been a mix of traditional names, such as William and Thomas, with trendy names such as Jayden not making as big of an impact in the UK as it does in the USA. It is also worth noting that the trends in the UK tend to be a few years ahead of those in the USA. And nicknames are ‘in’ as first names at the moment.

* I’d like to quickly note that I personally do not support the class system in the UK, but it is evident in statistics that it DOES affect the daily lives of British people even today. Thus it is a factor in naming offspring.

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