The end of Simon

What’s wrong with Simon, the name that is? It’s a good name. I’ve enjoyed having it. But it is seriously out of fashion and has been for a while. Prompted by the weird experience of finding myself sitting next to a much younger one at an event earlier this week, I was keen to see just how unpopular we have become. The answer is very unpopular. 

In 2017, 125 boys born in England and Wales were named Simon. That made it the 368th most popular name. In other words, it’s a pretty unpopular name. Some 6,200 were named Oliver, the most popular name in 2017. So that’s about 50 Olivers to every Simon. Or one Simon for every 2,600 boys born.

There were more boys called Archer, Beau, Bilal, Ayden, Troy, Junior, Nate, Preston, Sami, Harri and Rafe than there were Simon. 169 were named Buddy and 205 River. I don’t think I have met anyone with any of those names. I have over 20 Simons as linkedin connections, my children don’t have single Simon among their Facebook friends. “The Times They Are A Changin’” as someone sang when Simons were at their peak.

Thankfully the ONS has produced a little interactive graphic that lets you plot the rise and fall of names. Simon was one of a number that rose and fell in the baby boomer era, but the only to rise into the top 10 and then fall away as quickly as it arrived.

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While none of the other four names in the chart have hung onto anything like top 100 popularity, they all have more current usage than Simon. There were 344 babies named Christopher in 2017, moving it to rank 163. And Andrew (250), Paul (131) and Mark (216) all recorded more. They also had, to varying degrees, some following revealed in derivatives (including Paulo, Paulius and even Paul-Junior, and Marks, Marko, Markus and many others) which roughly doubled the numbers. Simon has few names listed that could be seen as derivatives – there were three named each of Simone, as boys, Simey and Si. I am happy not to have those names but each to their own and, as I say, times are changing and my “old road is rapidly aging”.

There were a few other names that were popular in the 50s and 60s that have also died away though they were never quite as mainstream as Simon or the others in the above chart.

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The ONS article that looks at names of the last century talks of “comeback names”. In a sense the rise and fall of Simon (and Timothy, Kevin, Mark and Neil) is flip side of the same story. The ONS said that six names that featured in the 1904 top 20 also made it to the top 20 in 2015. “One of these names – James – has never fallen out of the top 20, although it did dip in popularity in 1954 and 1964. Four of the six comeback names have royal links: William, George, Henry and Harry. The other comeback name is the biblical name Thomas.”

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There are also names that have returned in their shortened or nickname form – for example while Charles has fallen out of favour, Charlie came into the top 20 in 2004 and is now at number nine. Similarly, while Frederick and Alfred have gone, Freddie is at number 16 in 2017 and Alfie at number 12.

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The ONS publishes the list of names given to boys and girls each calendar year. There has been annual data for about 20 years and the records are bit more sketchy before that. The Urban Dictionary entry for Simon is more amusing.



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