LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Oliver nudged Jack off a 14-year-old perch to reach the top of the 2009 league table for boys’ names in England and Wales, Britain’s Office for National Statistics reported this week.
The headline ONS report on baby names showed that Oliver ended Jack’s reign with 7,364 entries compared to 7,090 for Jack, while Olivia was the top name for girls, followed by Ruby.
However, more than 10 variations on the spelling of the name Mohammad in the statistics accompanying the league tables showed the name of the Islamic prophet was more prominent in England and Wales than its first ranking spelled as Mohammed at 16th place in the 2009 tables suggested.
ONS spokesman Heath Jeffries said on Thursday that the government’s statistics office always spelled names on their list as they have been spelled on official documents, so each different spelling for Mohammad and any other names were listed separately.
“If you think about the number of Olivers for instance, there is an Oliver, there are Ollies, there are Oliviers, there are Ollies with a Y and Ollis without an e,” he said.
Although Jack came second in the official list, which also included Harry, Alfie, Thomas and other traditional English names, the prominence of Mohammad could provide a field day for a small but vocal community of anti-Muslim propagandists.
Mohammed rose to 16th place from 29th when compared with the ONS league table for boys’ names in 1999, in which three variations on the name appear in the top 100 names. Three different spellings of Mohammad also appear in the 2009 top 100.
Jack ranked first in 1999 and Oliver was 19th.
In the 2009 table, Oliver was the top boys’ name in six of the English government regions. Jack was the most popular in the two northern regions (North East and North West), and Mohammed was the name most often given in the West Midlands of England, the ONS reported.
The popularity of the name Mohammed showed large regional variation: the name was within the top 10 in three English regions (number one in the West Midlands, number four in London and number five in Yorkshire and The Humber) but was number 145 in the South West, the ONS said.
Top 10 Names in England and Wales in 2009
Reporting by Paul Casciato; editing by Mark Heinrich