Jenson Button, from a photoshoot directed by Lewis Hamilton. This photo was also taken by Lewis. From the bbc.co.uk

Since I’ve spent all day up until this point panicking about my driving theory at half two – yes, I passed – this is likely to be the only post of today, but it’s a double-up post as it features two names, rather than just the usual one.

As we’re on the topic of driving, we’re going to look at two notable names from the world of F1. The first one is of Ayrton Senna, one of the most successful drivers in the sport as he won the World Championship no less than 3 times. He is also notable for being the last F1 driver to die behind the wheel, at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, aged 34.

His success also lead to a success for his own name; in 1996 the name Ayrton was in the Top 500 in England&Wales, which is the earliest year I have access to. I did, however, check with the US name charts and Ayrton has not ranked in the Top 1000 for the past 50 years, and I have yet to find reliable data about the top names in Brazil.

This does make a bit of sense, since Ayrton lived in England and got his first break in motorsport whilst over here, although as of 2010, Ayrton now hovers outside the Top 1000 by a single birth. This is how Ayrton has fared since 1996:

  1996 1997 1998 1999
Rank 489 505 761 869
Births 37 37 21 18
  2000 2001 2002 2003
Rank 710 728 993 865
Births 25 24 17 23
  2004 2005 2006 2007
Rank 938 1190 1224 1666
Births 22 17 17 12
  2008 2009 2010  
Rank 1343 1859 1029  
Births 17 11 27  

The recent peak in 2010 could be due to the movie about Senna, released a few months ago giving him some extra coverage, plus Top Gear also did a feature on him as well.

So what does the name Ayrton mean? Well that’s where things get tricky. There is a small town in Yorkshire named Airton, which was also known in the past as Ayrton. The village itself takes its name from the nearby River Aire, and generally speaking the meaning is taken as from the village of Aire/Ayr. It has stronger roots as a surname, for example a Margery Ayrton married at Cantebury Cathedral in 1602.

Ayrton Senna has also passed into Rhyming Slang, meaning £10 or tenner.
It’s also worth noting that there is a Brazilian footballer named Ayrton as well; Ayrton Ganino was born in 1985 and potentially named after the driver as Senna was competing in F1 at that stage.
So how did Senna get his name? There was Ayrton Fagundes, a Brazilian reporter born in 1937, who died the same year as Senna himself, albeit about 2 months earlier. In his prime, this Ayrton featured in prime time news reports, which means he could indeed have been a source of inspiration for Senna parents, Milton and Niede.

As for Senna, the maiden name of Ayrton’s mother, it was recently given to a young British royal. Lady Davina Lewis gave birth to her daughter Senna Kowhai on the 22nd June 2010. For other names of young royals, feel free to go here. Baby Senna currenty sits at #25 in the line of succession after her mother. Over the years, the name Senna has prevailed more as a female name. The first table is male usage, the second, female:

  1996 1997 1998 1999
Rank 2863 n/a 2901 n/a
Births 3 n/a 3 n/a
  2000 2001 2002 2003
Rank 2142 n/a n/a n/a
Births 5 n/a n/a n/a
  2004 2005 2006 2007
Rank n/a n/a n/a n/a
Births n/a n/a n/a n/a
  2008 2009 2010  
Rank 3687 3744 3865  
Births 4 4 4  
  1996 1997 1998 1999
Rank 3795 n/a n/a n/a
Births 3 n/a n/a n/a
  2000 2001 2002 2003
Rank 3247 3262 3409 n/a
Births 4 4 4 n/a
  2004 2005 2006 2007
Rank 4598 2682 2509 5201
Births 3 7 8 3
  2008 2009 2010  
Rank 3005 n/a 2848  
Births 7 n/a 8  

And then we have the latest name from F1, Jenson. This name is enjoying even more success than Ayrton as he’s just broken the Top 100. This is likely because, as an English driver, he gets far more coverage by the Beeb and general British press than, say, Rubens Barrichello or even Fernando Alonso.

Jenson Button entered Formula 1 in 2000, driving for the Williams team. His first win did not come until the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix whilst at Honda. It was his 113th start. Here’s how the name Jenson has fared since 1999, the year before Button entered F1:

  1999 2000 2001 2002
Rank 1664 273 285 296
Births 7 99 96 93
  2003 2004 2005 2006
Rank 249 165 175 172
Births 126 262 253 275
  2007 2008 2009 2010
Rank 195 232 143 96
Births 244 192 417 686

As you can see, the name shot up from #1664 to #273 in just one year. It’s worth noting that the F1 racing season begins around March. When Jenson became the F1 World Champion in 2009 the name again leaped up the rankings.

Jenson himself was named after a friend of his father, whose surname was Jensen. The name originally means son of Johannes, and Johannes is just another form of the name John, which means Yahweh is gracious. So, in a way, Jenson was also named after his father, who is called John.

Personally, I quite like the name Jenson, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a fan of F1. It’s quirky and recognisable. At the same time, I doubt he’d work just as well outside of Buttom home country, since Button is less well known in other places.

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Ayrton&Jenson

  1. Bourneville

    I adore Jenson! I really want to use him, but I have this gut feeling he’ll be Top 50 by the time I get around to naming a child it.


  2. Shilo

    Squee! I agree wholeheartedly with Bourneville, Jenson is a great name, so great infact he’s headed for the Top 50 fo’ sure.


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