It is nice (I suppose?) to know that there is no field of living that is not cultivated by someone, no facets of life's varied jewels (to switch metaphors) that has not a polisher in tow. Should one suddenly have an urge to write a book , and seeking high and low for some original theme, decide to research into the history of drinking fountains in Peru, or analyze the works of some remote German miniaturist called Otto Funfblatter, it is only a matter of days before one learns it has been done before, at length, in depth, meticulously.
However, undeterred by the prospect of almost certain failure, I would, nevertheless, like to offer a challenge to the couple of researchers - perhaps they will dodge the issue by calling themselves chroniclers - who, year after year, note down the names of babies born to the readers of The Times of London, these fortunate literati who naturally, proudly, announce the event in the paper's columns.
For a very long time it seems that Sarah has been the most popular girl's name and James the most popular boy's. This year we learn that although James still holds the No. 1 position, hotly followed by Thomas and Alexander, Sarah has slipped and has had to yield place to Victoria. This is very interesting, no doubt, as is the news that Alice and Camilla are edging upwards and Oliver and Jonathan are out of the top ten. It is also fascinating to hear that parents are prepared to call their children Chelsea, or Gikles, or India, or even give a son the eleven names of a favourite football team.
But what I want to know is how it has come about that only a small selection of flower names is favoured, and next to no birds. In England, at any rate, we all know girls called Rosemary, Veronica, Pansy, Lily, May, Violet, Daisy, and Myrtle: but why has no one ever called their daughters Daffodil, Cyclamen, Columbine, Dahlia, Lobelia, Cineraria, or even Calendula? ''This is my youngest girl, Hydrangea'' flows prettily off the tongue, don't you think? As does ''I don't believe you've met Petunia, who's the sister of my old friend Verbena Vavasour.'' Why is it normal to christen your child Heather, and eccentric to call her Wisteria? Why is it that only cows are called Bluebell and Buttercup?
And is it not strange that you can call a boy Martin and a girl Mavis, but that no other birds are commemorated, not at the font at any rate, though there is probably a pseudonym or two, an Eagle and a Robin, around? What is the matter with Finch as a given name? Or Canary? Why did I not have a grandfather called Sir Gannet Graham? Or an Aunt Oriole? Why, pray, do you not christen that darling pink baby of yours Dove?
I realize that I am now to be bombarded with letters telling me that in the States everybody's uncle is called Hawk, and that Merlin is a well-known Celtic name, and that you once went out with a girl called Lark. And so on. Nevertheless I still maintain that the science of nomenclature has not been fully researched, and that the psychology of first names has not been sufficiently probed. Why no Forsythia Brown marrying Scoter Smith? I want an answer please. If possible by next Friday, in triplicate.