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The tabloids have been spluttering their outrage at the news that Mohammed is now the second most popular boys name in the UK. Well, provided you massage the figures of course, I mean, why let facts get in the way of your editorial line that 'the fuzzy-wuzzies are taking over our country'. To get that result, you have to add up all the variations on Muhammed, whilst steadfastly refusing to aggregate any other names - I noticed both Jake and Jacob made the top twenty for example. An analysis by the Daily Telegraph of the names, compiled each year by the Office for National Statistics, shows there were 3,009 babies called Mohammed, the most popular spelling; 1,595 Muhammads, 903 Mohammads, 429 Muhammeds, 349 Mohameds, 39 Mohamads, 12 Muhameds, 11 Mohammods, nine Mohmmeds, eight Mohamuds, seven Mahammeds, six Muhammeets, five Mohmmads and five Muhammods.
There you go, it looks to me that 11 of the top twenty boys names have got direct Biblical roots, so it seems that our Judaea-Christian heritage is safe in the hands of Britain's baby-namers after all.
It put me in mind of a Punt and Dennis skit on 'The Now Show' the other week, where they suggested that moaning that nobody does traditional Christmas things in Britain anymore has become a de facto Christmas tradition in itself.
Of course, you'd have to apply the same criteria to all names in order to get a fair result.
Such an analysis may still put Mohammed pretty near the top, which doesn't sound all that unlikely to me (it IS a popular name after all).
However, this is still a poor indicator of the number of Islamic-derived vs 'western' names being given to newborn babies, as I suspect 'Muhammed' represents a far greater percentage of Islamic names than Jack does of non-Islamic names. It's an entirely isalamophobic thing to express outrage over (if not outrightly racist) - as you alluded to, most traditional names have foreign origins anyway. The Daily Mail added together 'Muhammad, Mohammad, Muhammed, Mohamed, Mohamad, Muhamed and Mohammod' to get their figures, whilst The Telegraph went further. Their remedy was simple - if you are that upset that people don't do traditional Christmas things anymore, then just do some traditional Christmas things. Obviously, all the press need to do is campaign all next year for people to name their boys Jesus and their girls Mary. I’ve spent nearly twenty years building digital products for the likes of the BBC, Daily Mirror and Sony.
If you decide to count homophones together, then the spellings of Muhammed might get aggregated, but Jake and Jacob are separate. The views expressed are my own, and do not reflect the views of any current or former employers or clients.
Hang up a stocking full of walnuts, give the kids oranges for presents, and stick some coins in your pudding - nobody is stopping you in your own home. That way, when the figures are compiled in 2008, we'll be able to show those 'Johnny Foreigner fifth columnists' just who can name the most babies after their prophets and religious figures. However, Jack and Jacques might be grouped (even though they seem to have have different historical derivations).
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