How unique are we?

When I was in my final year of school (proper (grammar) school – not university!) I, with a few other lads – one with the interesting name of Stretton Taborn (which sounds as though it could be the name of a lost English village) whose father was, if I recall, the minister of a local church – undertook a project to make a short film. We wrote the script and screen play, made the props and costumes (no doubt helped by our mothers), checked out likely locations, and finally filmed everything with an old video camera. I was the lead actor and though I can’t remember the whole story and plot now, I did have to fall over a cliff and my shattered body was discovered down below on the rocks. We’d made a mask of clay or plaster of paris which was put all over my face – and this ended up being smashed to smithereens as a result of my fall. I think the film title was “What’s in a name?” and that’s a nice lead-in to this blog entry!

I recently learned of a web site called How Many of Me and I thought I’d give it a try. The site is limited to the USA where, according to the US Census Bureau there are almost 310,600,000 people at the time of writing. The data is not fully complete, of course, and is mainly based on the 1990 census which gave complete names. Data from the 2000 census is also now given, though only last names were collected. So you have to take the results as a best guestimate.

Anyway, as I have noted in previous blogs, in the old days in Scotland everyone was called John or James or William or Alexander or some other name in vogue in those days. There was a strict (?) naming pattern with children often being called after their parents and grandparents as well as after a sibling who might have died. Name fads change all the time, of course, with certain names being popular at certain times and this is much in evidence these days!

So looking up myself I find that David is statistically the seventh most popular first name in the USA (amazing! - James is top, followed by John then William in sixth place), but the surname Raitt belongs to only 531 people there - and for a proportion of those it will be their married name. (There are also 210 people with the last name spelled Rait). There are six David Raitts in America (of course, I am not one of them and am probably unique in The Netherlands where I currently live!). Bonnie Raitt is the most famous Raitt apparently and there is only one person with that name. There are nine John Raitts and nine James Raitts, seven William Raitts and only one (or fewer) Alexander Raitt. There is also one or fewer Orville Raitts and Marcella Raitts. They say one or fewer to hedge their bets – but it probably means that there is no-one of those names now (Marcella Raitt married and thus had a name change) and both Orville Raitts are now no longer with us. This is not a hard and fast rule though as it also says there is one or fewer Gavin Raitts – and I know he is definitely alive and kicking. There are two Elizabeth Raitts, seven Mary Raitts - well you can check other names out for yourselves! But for our other families in the USA there are over 6000 Crabbs and 60.000 Monroes, but only 526 Dorwards and 115 Scorgies. So some of us at least are quite unique!

Friday, 29 October 2010