Saturday, March 06, 2010

A Boy Named Hilary

I've just finished "A View From The Foothills", Chris Mullin's terrific diaries of his time as a junior minister. Hilary Benn is repeatedly flagged up as a potential party leader. I've met Benn a couple of times, late at night on radio stations where he was pursuing his role as Secretary of State for International Development. He struck me as too modest and self-effacing for the top job. Furthermore I can't help but wonder if the electorate would be happy voting for a man called Hilary. If Wikipedia's anything to go by Hilary Benn hasn't saddled his own children with a similar handicap. I don't know many baby boomers who named their children Michael, James, Jonathan and Caroline. His boys' names in particular remind me of those of my own classmates. Their fathers were Stanleys, Normans, Arthurs and Ernests who reacted against their own names by giving their own sons Famous Five names like Michael, James, Martin, Philip and Peter. In turn this generation reacted by giving their own children bolder, explorers' names like Oliver, Edward, Henry and Thomas. And so it seems that it goes on and on. Names are like tattoos, to misquote Joni Mitchell, and we can't help but wonder, from time to time, what was going on in the minds of those who decided on them.


  1. Given his date of birth I'd conclude that he is named after Sir Edmund Hilary; so not unlike the explorers' names you list.

    Makes you wonder how many Ernests were named after Shackleton and, in a world with few stones unturned, who are the "explorers" of today?

    From what I read, a certain Ashley's done a bit of exploring. I'm looking forward to the first influx of Ashleys, Cheryls and Gagas arriving in my wife's school in five or so years' time.

  2. You might be right but the mountaineer was Hillary with a double-L.

  3. A very good point. As my English teacher at school would have said, there's an L of a difference between the two.

    It may well be coincidental, or perhaps another example of the erstwhile Sir Anthony's non-conformity.

    Enjoy the match!

  4. It was for a long time a unisex name, like Ashley. (I was at school with both male and female Ashleys).

    And to be smart ass, it's from Latin roots, meaning cheerful or something similar, from the same source as the word Hilarity.

  5. There was a boy at my Primary School called Kim. I always liked that for a boy because of the Kipling connection, it's quite dashing I think. But we're expecting a boy soon and the wife gave me a firm "no" when I floated the idea so I guess it will be up to others to bring that one back into vogue.

  6. In Western Australia the head of the health service is called Kim Snowball. He looks like Chuck Norris.

  7. wandering round abney cemetary in sun this afternoon we wondered when "fanny" faded away surely it's euphemism (if that's what i mean) isn't new . Fashion in names is odd you still get Jacks but John which half the lads at school where called seems to have faded.

  8. they fuck you up, your mum and dad
    they may not mean to but they do
    they give you a name thats different from theirs
    but nonetheless doesn't suit you