Baby names, especially statistics thereof

Baby Daniel is born and will soon be out of intensive care, as will his mother; it looks like the parents made the right decision to, all things considered, choose a hospital whose ordinary maternity ward might not have been the best, but whose emergency intensive care ward certainly was. So hooray for modern technology, and the NHS; and hooray for a child born into this world to fantastic people, who shall hopefully become fantastic parents.

I needed to anonymise this post somewhat, as at least one of the parents works with rather unpleasant people, but it turns out that I don't need to. According to the Scottish stats, Daniel is the 7th most popular boy's name in 2007; in England and Wales, the name is regularly between 5th and 8th most popular.

Now, it's a good name; a child of that name can decide to be a Daniel, a Danny or a Dan later on, and say a great deal with that simple choice. So from this point of view, Daniel is a good name.

I wonder, though, whether "Daniel" rates highly in the popular names merely because there's only one way to spell it.

Consider "Ewan". There are two spellings in the top 100 Scottish list: Euan (160 babies) and Ewan (123 babies). My family would tell you that the correct spelling is that of my uncle Ewen (not in the list), and there could well be a Euen or two. At a minimum, the E[uw]an contingent is 283 babies in 2007, which moves that name from 46th and 61st to sole 20th, and possibly joint 19th with only 3 more Ewen variants.

Or, looking at girls' names, for instance, Niamh has 203 takers at rank 19; Neve has been used 69 times, at rank 67. But these are the same name. Combined, they count for 272 new babies, at an estimated rank of 14.

Bearing that in mind, is it possible that the stunning success of the names "Lewis" and "Jack", according to the official statistics, is not just due to popularity (Lewis is the current fashionable Scottish name, whereas Jack is popular in the entire UK), but because the names are so simple that there's only one spelling?