Wednesday 27 October 2010

What's in a name?

Just like last year, the Mail is once again foaming at the mouth about baby names. Here's the ten most popular boys' names in 2009, as listed by the Mail:

Naturally, the headline the Mail then sticks on the story is:

Despite 'Mohammed' actually appearing at number 16 on the list (the same position as last year), the Mail has added up 12 variations of the name in order to claim it's now the most popular and create a bit of anti-Muslim scaremongering.

It's much the same article as they produced last year, so the points made about it by this blog last year still stand.

It's hard to take this game seriously. There are clear cultural reasons why Mohammed is so popular among Muslim families, but it's a relatively small number overall.

The Mail says that when you add 12 other recognised variations of Mohammed together, the number of boys given that name in 2009 was 7,549 (out of 362,135 boys born).

Yet the ONS figures show that the number of boys given those same 12 names in 2008 was 7,673.

Overall, this accounted for 2.09% of all boys born in 2008, a very slightly higher number than the 2.08% in 2009.

(Jonathan at No Sleep 'Til Brooklands has more)


  1. I'm more worried about all the bloody Olivers coming over here and stealing our jobs.

  2. Thankfully the Mail didn't think to add together all the variant forms of Oliver/Olly/Ollie etc., otherwise Mohammed might have been denied a headline.

  3. The Metro today carried the 'Mohammed' style headline, but they didn't alter thier chart like The Fail did, so if you glanced at the headline, and then the table without reading the story it looked like a right cock up.
    The web version is more accurate.

  4. I don't see the problem, to be honest. You don't dispute the figures. I think it's perfectly acceptable to include all spelling variations, and unless the figures given are inaccurate, I see no issue. The fact that Islamic families are clearly more predicated to use one name, for the aforementioned cultural reasons, is irrelevant

    The headline itself isn't anti-Muslim, nor is the piece written as such. As far as I can see, It's a factual statement, and it's true. Seems to me that Mohammed has been the most popular name in the UK for about three years on the trot.

    The Mail, of course, know that this'll have people jumping up and down, fearing, as always, that 'indigenous' people are drowening in a tide of Islamism, but given the truth of the statement, it's an easy kill I wouldn't expect them to pass up.

  5. I might change my name to Mohammed seeing as it so popular. Obviously you have to keep with the times right? (the times, as in the present, not the newspaper)

  6. Yes i have to agree with Anonymous, what is the problem with this story? Seems legit...

    How about a post regarding Polly Toynbee comparing the housing benefit cap at £400 with the holocaust?

    Or does that not quite fit the agenda?

  7. what way is the Mail foaming at the mouth?

    the story is on p21 -don't newspapers usually put the strongest/most important stories on the front page. The lead story on p21 is about people living on Mars by the year 2030. Do you think that maybe you're overstating the importance of the story just a tiny wee bit? (anti-Mail scaremongering perhaps)

    And um...doesn't it make sense to add together different spellings of the same name? (the Mail hasn't added shorted versions such as Hamid to reach the total).

  8. Sadly, I have an ISP account with AOL whose editorial policies for the 'news' they run on the front pages of the service are pretty much on a par with the Star and The Mail. The ONS names story is up there and the comments just run and run with BNP supporting, racist and simply vile and poisonous nonsense including links to all kinds of anti-Muslim Youtube clips and Flickr photostreams. It's just depressing really. The worst can be reported because they are simply so offensive but like so many other online message and comment systems AOL has been pretty much colonised by anti-everything bigots.

  9. Anonymous (13:54) - When all the variations of Mohammed were added up last year it came 3rd, not first. No, I don't dispute the figures - if you accept the method - but as mentioned, by their measure of the 12 variations, there are less 'Mohammeds' this year compared to last. They don't mention that. And it's still a tiny amount overall.

    Anonymous (19:19) - There's no post on Toynbee because I hadn't seen the column in question until your comment. I understand (from Paul Waugh) that she has since said she regretted the 'final solution' line and has apologised. And rightly so.

    Anonymous (22:08) - It was near the top of their website for most of Wednesday so no, I don't believe I've overstated the importance of it. If adding together different spellings of the same name makes sense, why doesn't the Mail do it with other names (such as Isabel, Isobel and Isabelle)? Why only do it with Mohammed?

  10. If the Mail is going to add together names with different spellings etc, why are Sam and Samuel not combined or William and Billy? This is the Mail do what it does best pandering to the biggots.

  11. ewans_true_mental29 October 2010 at 13:06

    anonymous 22:08
    The problem isn't that the Mail have added together various spellings, it's that they've only done this for Islamic names in order to corrupt the data to fit their editorial stance.
    The linked post from no sleep til brooklands shows that if you apply this method to all names Mohammed still isn't the most popular name.

  12. um..what editorial stance is that?

    And how is using different spellings of the same name corrupting the data?

    I had a look at the Brooklands post which uses shortened versions of Oliver eg Ollie which probably means that for a true comparison you would need to add in shortened versions of Mohammed eg Ahmed, Ahmad and Hamid. um...which Brooklands doesn't seem to have done (and I'm not about to)

    The story is valid and factually correct though perhaps it has pandered to the anti-Mail bigotry at tabloid watch.

  13. Anonymous (22:31) - So why do it with Mohammed but not Isabel?

  14. um..I think we both know the answer to that question:-

    1)it's hellishly time-consuming to add up the different variations of a name so unless it says something of interest it's not worth doing. Totalling up the nubers of Isabels isn't really terribly interesting.

    2)Mohammed is a name only used by Muslims therefore its relative popularity points to demographic changes in the population ie there are more muslims that there used to be. An upsurge in the number of Oliwiers or Szimons would equally suggest there are more people of recent Polish origin around.

    3)I think it's a valid news story - it's interesting in a fairly meaningless way (which is why it was on p21 and not the front page).

    You see it as a dangerous piece of anti-muslim scaremongering but I think that says more about your prejudices than the Mail's.

  15. Anonymous (15:39) - I think we will agree to disagree.

    In total, there are 10,083 different names on the list (including boys and girls). I am surprised that you see absolutely no agenda behind the Mail only adding up variations of one of them.

    If you do it with one name, do it with them all. If not, leave them all alone and accept Mohammed is actually 16th - in exactly the same position as last year.

    And, indeed, accept that fewer boys have been given one of the 12 variations highlighted by the Mail than in 2008, but the Mail doesn't mention that. I think we both know why they haven't.

    As for the prominence, I repeat it was near the top of their homepage most of the day - more people see that than the print edition.

  16. One thing - "Hamid" and "Ahmed" aren't short for "Mohammed" at all. They both include the same sound - H-M-D, an Arabic word meaning praise - but they mean different things, and in fact, they're older than "Mohammed" itself. "Mohammed" means "the praised one", "Hamid" means "praiseworthy" or "praiser of God", and Ahmed means "highly praised".

    There are names that come from Christianity behave exactly the same. "Eli", "Elizabeth" and "Joel" all have roots in the Hebrew "El", meaning God, but that doesn't mean "Eli" is short for either of those ("Eli" means "my God", "Elizabeth" means "gift of God", "Joel" means "Yahweh is God").

    There's no logical reason to lump Ahmed and Hamid in with Mohammed, any more than there's a reason to lump Daniel, Samuel, Michael and Joel together.

  17. YES, the story is factually correct, but that is not the most relevant point for discussion. The story is designed to be alarmist, to present a picture of a Muslim demographic time-bomb, but it abysmally fails to carry the weight of that assertion. While nominally accurate, the fact that the story has been chosen as a prominent headline and story shows that the Mail considers the story to be a significant, important and newsworthy, which in itself betrays an agenda. Many things are true, but few of those things are shouted out from the rooftops; when things are, it's because there is some meaning and importance behind the fact, and there clearly isn't here, beyond the vaguely interesting fact that Muslims are less heterogenous in their choice of male names. A corresondingly popular female Muslim is conspicuous by its absence.

  18. I'm sure Atomic Spin is correct in saying that Hamid and Ahmed are not variations of Mohammed, However I took my information from a site called Names4Muslims which says that they are: -

    'Ahmad, Ahmed Male Most highly adored, or most praised; variation of the name "Muhammad '

    'Hamid Male The praised one; variation of the name "Muhammad" '


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Comments are moderated - generally to filter out spam and comments wishing death on people - but other messages will be approved as quickly as possible.